Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng, PSM (/ˈj/ YOH; born 6 August 1962)[1] is a Malaysian Chinese actress. Yeoh is credited as Michelle Khan in her early Hong Kong films. She rose to fame in 1990s after starring in a series of Hong Kong action films where she performed her own stunts, such as Yes, Madam (1985), Police Story 3: Supercop (1992) and Holy Weapon (1993). She is best known internationally for her roles in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Ang Lee's martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). For her role in the latter, she was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress.

Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh Cannes 2017.jpg
Yeoh in 2017
Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng

(1962-08-06) 6 August 1962 (age 59)
Other namesMichelle Khan
EducationRoyal Academy of Dance (BA)
Years active1983–present
TitleMiss Malaysia (1983)
(m. 1988; div. 1992)
Partner(s)Jean Todt (2004–present)
AwardsFull list
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese杨紫琼
Traditional Chinese楊紫瓊

Her other works include Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Reign of Assassins (2010), Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016), and The Lady (2011), where she portrayed Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2018, she starred in the American romantic comedy-drama film Crazy Rich Asians, for which she received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination as part of its ensemble. She also co-starred in the 2018 film Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy and the 2019 film Last Christmas. She was cast as original character Ying Nan in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). In 2022, she starred in the science-fiction film Everything Everywhere All at Once.

On television, Yeoh is known for her role in the Star Trek franchise as Philippa Georgiou in the Paramount+ series Star Trek: Discovery from 2017 to 2020. An untitled spin-off series set to star Yeoh was announced in 2019.

The film review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes ranked her the greatest action heroine of all time in 2008.[2] In 1997, she was chosen by People as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World", and in 2009 the same magazine listed her as one of the "35 All-Time Screen Beauties".[3] In 2022, Time named her one of the world's 100 most influential people on its annual listicle.

Early life and educationEdit

Yeoh was born on 6 August 1962 in Ipoh, Perak,[4] to a local ethnic Malaysian Chinese family of Hokkien and Cantonese ancestry.[5] Her parents are Janet Yeoh and Yeoh Kian-teik (died on 5 November 2014), a lawyer and MCA politician,[6] as well as the man behind the popular express bus service, Sri Maju.[7]

Yeoh was keen on dance from an early age, beginning ballet at the age of four. She studied at Main Convent Ipoh, an all-girls secondary school in Ipoh, as a primary student. At the age of 15, she moved with her parents to the United Kingdom, where she was enrolled in a boarding school. Yeoh later studied at the UK's Royal Academy of Dance in London, majoring in ballet. However, a spinal injury prevented her from becoming a professional ballet dancer, and she transferred her attention to choreography and other arts.[8] She later received a BA degree in creative arts with a minor in drama.


In 1983, at the age of 20, Yeoh won the Miss Malaysia World contest.[9] She was Malaysia's representative at Miss World 1983 pageant in London. Later that year, she travelled to Australia where she won another pair of beauty pageants; "Queen of the Pacific" and "Miss Moomba".[10][11] From there, she appeared in a television commercial with Jackie Chan which caught the attention of a fledgling Hong Kong film production company, D&B Films.

Yeoh started her film career acting in action and martial arts films, where she did most of her own stunts.[12] Already with her third credit, Yes, Madam (1985), she was given a main role.[8] She was credited as Michelle Khan in these earlier films. This alias was chosen by D&B Films, who thought it might be more marketable to international and western audiences. Yeoh married Dickson Poon, who headed the D&B Group, in 1987 and retired from acting.

Yeoh returned to acting with Police Story 3: Super Cop (1992) after having divorced Poon.[9] She then appeared in The Heroic Trio (1993), and the Yuen Woo-ping films Tai Chi Master and Wing Chun in 1993 and 1994, respectively.

She changed her stage name back to Michelle Yeoh when she started her Hollywood career with Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997.[9] In the 1997 James Bond film, she played Wai Lin opposite star Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan was impressed, describing her as a "wonderful actress" who was "serious and committed about her work".[13] He referred to her as a "female James Bond" in reference to her combat abilities. She wanted to perform her own stunts but was prevented because director Roger Spottiswoode considered it too dangerous. Nevertheless, she performed all of her own fighting scenes.[14][15] Yeoh was then recruited by Ang Lee to star as Yu Shu Lien in the Chinese language martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). The film was shot in various provinces around China. Yeoh had grown up speaking English and Malay, before learning Cantonese. She spoke little Mandarin, and learned the Mandarin lines for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon phonetically.[16] The film was an international success, and earned Yeoh a BAFTA 2000 nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

In 2002, Yeoh produced her first English film, The Touch, through her own production company, Mythical Films. In 2005, Yeoh starred as Mameha in the film adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha, and she continued her English-language work in 2007 with Sunshine. In 2008, Yeoh also starred in the fantasy action film The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li.[17]

In October 2011, Yeoh was chosen by Guerlain to be its skincare ambassador.[18] Yeoh's role was to help strengthen the French cosmetics company's relationship with Asia.[19] Apart from action films, she is famous for playing nationalists in two biopics. In 1997, she played Soong Ai-ling in the award-winning The Soong Sisters. In 2011, she portrayed Aung San Suu Kyi in Luc Besson's The Lady.[20] Yeoh was blacklisted by the Burmese government allegedly because of her participation in The Lady; she was refused entry to Myanmar on 22 June 2011 and was deported on the same day.[21]

Yeoh did not branch out into television until 2015, with her first role playing Mei Foster, wife to the British Ambassador to Thailand, who is secretly a North Korean spy named Li-Na,[22] on the fifth season of the Cinemax/Sky series Strike Back.[23] In 2016, Yeoh was cast as Starfleet Captain Philippa Georgiou of the starship USS Shenzhou in the series Star Trek: Discovery, and recurs as Georgiou's "mirror" doppelganger later in the story.[24][25]

In 2018, Yeoh played family matriarch Eleanor Young in Jon M. Chu's Crazy Rich Asians, a film adaptation of Kevin Kwan's book of the same name, opposite Constance Wu and Henry Golding.[26] Carlos Aguilar of TheWrap described her performance as "convincingly subdued".[27] In 2019, she played Christmas themed-store owner "Santa" in Last Christmas, opposite Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke. The film was released on 8 November 2019, and was a box office success grossing over $121 million worldwide.[28]

Yeoh played Ying Nan in Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.[29] The movie was released in theaters on 3 September 2021. It was announced at The Game Awards 2020 that Yeoh would star in Ark: The Animated Series, a series based on the video game Ark: Survival Evolved by Studio Wildcard, in which she plays the role of Mei-Yin Li, the Beast Queen of the Jungle.

In 2022, Yeoh starred in the science fiction black comedy film Everything Everywhere All at Once from filmmaking duo the Daniels, released in March to near-universal acclaim.[30] In the film, she played struggling laundromat owner Evelyn Wang, a role that brought her widespread critical acclaim, with David Ehrlich of IndieWire claiming it the "greatest performance that Michelle Yeoh has ever given".[31][32][8]

Yeoh is set to appear in the upcoming Disney+ series American Born Chinese, based on the book of the same name by Gene Luen Yang.[33]

Personal lifeEdit

Yeoh was married to Hong Kong entrepreneur Dickson Poon, owner of businesses such as Harvey Nichols and Charles Jourdan,[34] from 1988 to 1992.[8] In 1998, Yeoh was engaged to Alan Heldman, an American cardiologist.[35] In 2004, she started dating Jean Todt,[36] then the General Manager and CEO of Scuderia Ferrari and later the president of the FIA.[37] In July 2008, she confirmed her engagement to him during an interview with Craig Ferguson on CBS's The Late Late Show.[citation needed][38]

Yeoh is a Buddhist.[39][40] In March 2008, she visited Vietnam to film a documentary for the Asian Injury Prevention Foundation.[41] Yeoh is also a patron of the Save China's Tigers project committed to protect the endangered South China tiger.[42]


Awards, honours and stylesEdit

Michelle Yeoh's handprints on the "Avenue of Stars" in Hong Kong

In 1999, she was a member of the jury at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival.[43]

On 19 April 2001, Yeoh was awarded the Darjah Datuk Paduka Mahkota Perak (DPMP), which carries the title Dato', by Sultan Azlan Shah, the Sultan of Perak, her home state, in recognition of the fame she brought to the state.[44]

On 25 November 2002, Yeoh was honoured as The Outstanding Young People of the World (TOYP) (Cultural Achievement) by JCI (Junior Chamber International).[45]

On 23 April 2007, French President Jacques Chirac conferred upon Yeoh the title of Knight of the Legion of Honour (Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur). The decoration was presented to her in a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on 3 October 2007.[46] She was promoted to Officer of the same French Order (Officier de la Légion d'honneur) by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 14 March 2012. The decoration was presented to her at a ceremony held at the president's official residence, the Élysée Palace on that day.[47]

In 2011, Yeoh received a special award for her contribution to Malaysian cinema at 24th Malaysian Film Festival.[citation needed]

On 22 May 2012, Yeoh was awarded the Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Perak (SPMP) which carries the title Dato' Seri during the investiture ceremony in conjunction with the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah's birthday.[48]

Yeoh received the Excellence in Asian Cinema award during the 7th Asian Film Awards in March 2013 in Hong Kong.[49]

On 1 June 2013, Yeoh was awarded the Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM) which carries the title Tan Sri during the investiture ceremony in conjunction with the birthday of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah.[50][51]

On 30 November 2013, Yeoh presided as the Chief Guest at the International Film Festival of India.[52]

On 12 February 2016 Yeoh was conferred France's Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award by the French government in Kuala Lumpur.[citation needed]

Yeoh was included in the BBC's 100 Women list of 2020.[53] She was placed on Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2022.[54]

Honours of MalaysiaEdit

International honoursEdit

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Nominated Work Award Results
1986 Yes, Madam Hong Kong Film Award for Best New Performer Nominated
1998 Tomorrow Never Dies MTV Movie Award for Best Fight Nominated
The Soong Sisters Hong Kong Film Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2001 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Saturn Award for Best Actress Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Action Team Nominated
Golden Horse Award for Best Actress Nominated
Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress Nominated
Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Fight Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress Runner-up
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress Nominated
2011 Reign of Assassins Asian Film Award for Best Actress Nominated
People's Choice Award for Favorite Actress Nominated
Huabiao Film Award for Outstanding Abroad Actress Nominated
2012 The Lady Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
2018 Star Trek: Discovery Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television Nominated[62][63]
Crazy Rich Asians National Board of Review Award for Best Cast Won
2019 The Asian Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema Won[64]
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
2022 Everything Everywhere All At Once Hollywood Critics Association Midseason Film Award for Best Actress Won[65]

Special awardsEdit

Year Award Results
1998 Asian Media Award (Asian American International Film Festival) Won
2001 ShoWest Award for International Star of the Year Won
2013 Asian Film Award for Outstanding Contribution to Asian Cinema Won
2015 Cinema Legend Award (Singapore International Film Festival) Won


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  14. ^ "Bond Leading Lady Won't Do Stunts". Associated Press. 21 May 1997.
  15. ^ Chung, Winnie (30 May 1997). "Much More Than Just A Bond Girl". South China Morning Post.
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Further readingEdit

  • Kho Tong Guan: Yeoh Chu Kheng, Michelle. In: Leo Suryadinata (ed.): Southeast Asian Personalities of Chinese Descent: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume I & II. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2012, ISBN 9789814345217, pp. 1347–1350
  • Ken E. Hall: Michelle Yeoh. In: Garry Bettinson: Directory of World Cinema: CHINA 2. Intellect Books, 2015 ISBN 9781783204007, pp. 71–73
  • Lisa Funnell: Warrior Women: Gender, Race, and the Transnational Chinese Action Star. Suny Press, 2014, ISBN 9781438452494, pp. 31–57 (chapter Transnational Chinese Mothers: The Heroic Identities of Michelle Yeoh and Pei Pei Cheng)
  • Rikke Schubart: Super Bitches and Action Babes: The Female Hero in Popular Cinema, 1970–2006. McFarland, 2012 ISBN 9780786482849, pp. 123–143 (chapter Beautiful Vase Made of Iron and Steel Michelle Yeoh)

External linksEdit