Talk about the best Asian actors of the 21st century, and Michelle Yeoh will most likely come up in the conversation. The Malaysian actress from Ipoh, has become a stalwart in the industry not just for her good looks; the 60-year-old also has a legendary portfolio that includes movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. More recently, she blew minds in the surrealistic action-drama movie Everything Everywhere All at Once earlier this year. No surprise then, that she’s been named Time Magazine’s 2022 Icon Of The Year.
Now, let’s put the facts straight: Michelle Yeoh is the epitome of an icon. A luminary. For four decades, she’s had quite an impressive career. From Bond girlBond girl to poised geisha, we’ve seen her do everything. Here are some facts you may not know about the legendary star.
Michelle Yeoh: 10 facts about the legendary Asian star
1. Ballet was Michelle Yeoh’s first love
While Michelle Yeoh was an all-rounder in school and excelled in swimming and rugby, she wanted to become a ballet dancer. She began her ballet lessons when she was four and continued pursuing her dream after moving to London. She eventually enrolled herself in the prestigious Royal Academy of Dance.
2. Michelle won several beauty pageants
Did you know Michelle was crowned Miss Malaysia in 1983? But that was not the only title she bagged. She also travelled to Australia in 1983 and won several pageants, including Miss Moomba and Queen of the Pacific.
3. Her film career started by chance
Businessman Dickson Poon, the co-founder of D&B Films, was looking for an actress to appear with Jackie Chan in a commercial. When Poon happened to dine with a friend, he suggested Yeoh, who had won the Miss Malaysia beauty contest. She flew down to Hong Kong, cracked the job bagged a contract with D&B Films. The rest is history.
4. Michelle Yeoh had no formal martial arts training
Michelle Yeoh has no formal training in martial arts. And it is fair to question how someone can be so amazing at kung fu without proper training. But the dancer’s flexibility allowed her to play martial arts roles. She learned the moves in the set and trained herself in a gym alongside veteran action stars like Dick Wei.
5. Yeoh starred in a Marvel movie
While there is no debating that Yeoh has given some of her most impressive performances in the local 1980 movies, her roles in Hollywood gave her much-deserved fame. She made headlines with her role in the Marvel superhero blockbuster Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The movie introduces the first Asian hero to the MCU’s roster.
6. Michelle Yeoh is trilingual
Michelle Yeoh speaks English, Malay, and Cantonese. She learned English and Malay before learning Cantonese. Now a Hollywood star, and a very respected one, it is easy to forget that English is not her mother tongue.
7. The actress practices Buddhism
It’s important to centre yourself for martial art roles, any actor whose sport requires patience and aim can benefit from meditation and discipline. Born into a Buddhist family, Michelle practices Buddhism to this day. Spirituality and faith are at the centre point of her life.
8. She is an adventure enthusiast
The legendary Michelle Yeoh tries to fit in as much travel as she can while he works. So, as you can imagine, she’s a traveller who seeks the adventure of being on the road and the genuine connections she makes.
9. Michelle won a Lifetime Achievement Award
Yeoh rose to prominence in Hong Kong before her arrival in Hollywood with Tomorrow Never Dies. Widely considered a masterpiece, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon remains Yeoh’s highest-rated film. In addition, she is the proud achiever of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the ASEAN International Film Festival in 2013.
10. Michelle was ranked the greatest heroine of all time
In 2008, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes ranked Michelle Yeoh as the best action heroine. Michelle’s career is full of blockbusters, and her iconic resume is proof enough. From critically acclaimed classics like Memories of a Geisha and Crazy Rich Asians to roles with Jet Li and Jackie Chan, Yeoh is a star in every sense of the word.
Did you know Michelle has joined the cast of the Avatar sequels? We can’t wait to watch the star in Avatar: The Way of Water.
(Hero and featured image credits: Frazer Harrison / Staff/Getty Images)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Michelle Yeoh has no formal training in martial arts. And it is fair to question how someone can be so amazing at kung fu without proper training. But the dancer's flexibility allowed her to play martial arts roles. She learned the moves in the set and trained herself in a gym alongside veteran action stars like Dick Wei.