With the exception of a few such as Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, etc, actors and actresses from the eastern part of the planet haven’t enjoyed the same degree of global fame as their western counterparts. When it comes to actors from the Asian film industry, mainstream popularity isn’t exactly something they enjoy which may be attributed to a mixture of factors such as language barrier and racial discrimination.
Michelle Yeoh and a few others, on the other hand, have broken these barriers and have built a level of relevance in Hollywood. She recently featured in the hit film, Crazy Rich Asians and currently stars on Star Trek: Discovery. Who is Michelle Yeoh? Learn more about the Malaysian-born actress by reading below.
Who is Michelle Yeoh?
Michelle Yeoh was born Yeoh Choo-Kheng on the 6th of August, 1962 to a Malaysian Chinese family in Ipoh, Malaysia. Her father, Yeoh Klan Teik is a politician for the MCA while her mother is a lawyer. As the daughter of a well-to-do family, she was privy to some experiences as a child, including moving with her parents to the United Kingdom at the age of 15. While in the UK, specifically, London, she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dance in further pursuit of a passion for dancing which she has had since the age of four.
She studied dancing, specifically ballet with the intention of becoming a ballet dancer. Unfortunately for Michelle, her dream was cut short due to a spinal injury and she was forced to pursue other interests. Her affection for the arts caused her to shift her attention towards choreography and drama, eventually graduating from the school with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Arts.
Michelle Yeoh began her career as a public figure at the age of 20 in 1983 when she contested in the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant. She won the competition and the others that followed like the Queen of the Pacific beauty pageant and Miss Moomba pageant. Her tenure as Miss Malaysia ended with representing Malaysia at the Miss World pageant in 1983 and appearing in a commercial with Hong Kong film icon, Jackie Chan. While that was the end of her career in pageantry, it was the beginning of her acting career as her performance in the television commercial exposed her to one of Hong Kong’s biggest production companies, D&B Films.
She was subsequently signed as an actress by D&B Films and began starring in films, specifically action and martial arts films. She starred in films like Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars, Yes, Madam and The Owl vs Bombo in the early days of her career. Her performance in Yes, Madam earned her a nomination for the Hong Kong Film Award for Best New Performer.
After starring in films between 1984 and 1987, she retired from acting, having married Dickson Poon, the owner of the company D&B Group which owned D&B Films. She was married to Poon for four years until their divorce in 1992 after which she returned to acting.
Her return to acting was with the film Police Story 3: Super Cop which was released in 1992. Since then, she has remained in the profession, starring in a total of 56 films and television shows. She made her first international film debut in 1997 as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies. In the film, Michelle Yeoh, who was known in the Hong Kong film industry as an action star performed all her fighting scenes on her own and was only unable to perform her own stunts because they were considered too dangerous.
Her film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress. Her reputation as an action star brought her further international opportunities like an offer to star in The Matrix, but she was unable to star in the cult film because of the scheduling conflict. She did, however, later star in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor alongside Brendan Fraser and Jet Li.
Michelle Yeoh has recently found her way back to mainstream conversation after she appeared in the 2018 hit film, Crazy Rich Asians. The film, which is based on a novel by Kevin Kwan, stars Michelle as Eleanor Sung-Young, the mother of one of the two leads in the film. The film was a box-office success, making over $200 million on a $30 million budget, and Michelle’s popularity and performance are widely praised as one of the factors of the film’s success.
She has received several recognitions for her career, both in acting and as a global personality. Yeoh was awarded the greatest action heroine of all time by the film critic aggregate website, Rotten Tomatoes and apart from acting, she has been an ambassador for a cosmetics company, Guerlain. She is currently a United Nations Global Road Safety Ambassador. She has been recognized with several national honors in Malaysia, France, and Perak, including the Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour in 2007.
The 5ft 4in Malaysian actress is a Buddhist and she is currently in a relationship with Jean Todt, whom she has been dating since 2004.
What is Michelle Yeoh’s Net Worth?
Michelle Yeoh may as well have been playing herself in Crazy Rich Asians. The Malaysian actress is one of the wealthiest actresses in the industry with over $40 million in total net worth. She can look towards appearances in films like Tomorrow Never Dies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as significant contributors to her wealth.