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The Oscars were a milestone for Asian artists: ‘This is a beacon of hope’

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” star Michelle Yeoh is the first Asian woman to win the Oscar for best actress. Here's a look back at her most iconic roles. (Video: Julie Yoon/The Washington Post)
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Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian artist to win best actress at the 95th Academy Awards, leading a spate of milestone victories for Asians and Asian Americans at this year’s ceremonies.

“For all the little boys and girls who look like me, watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities,” the actress, who won the award for her role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” said during her acceptance speech Sunday night. Yeoh, a native of Malaysia, started her career in the Hong Kong film industry in the 1980s.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” won seven Oscars, including for best picture and best screenplay. Daniel Kwan, who is Chinese American, and Daniel Scheinert shared the prize for best director. The film is about an immigrant family in the United States.

“The world is opening up to the fact that genius does not stem from individuals like us onstage, but rather, genius emerges from the collective,” Kwan said during his acceptance speech. “We are all products of our context. We are all descendants of something and someone, and I want to acknowledge my context: my immigrant parents.”

The sci-fi spectacular "Everything Everywhere All at Once" scooped seven trophies at the 95th Academy Awards — including best picture and best film editing. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

Ke Huy Quan of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” also gave a teary speech as he accepted the award for best supporting actor, saying his journey “started on a boat” and with a year-long stay in a refugee camp. Quan, 51, fled his native Vietnam as a child and spent time in a camp in Hong Kong before settling in the United States.

“And somehow, I ended up here, on Hollywood’s biggest stage,” he said, to the sound of cheers from the audience. “They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This — this is the American Dream.”

The real winners of this year’s Oscars are Asian American weirdos

The evening marked a milestone in the entertainment industry for Asian artists, who have historically been underrepresented in American film and television. A 2021 analysis from the University of Southern California Annenberg found that only 5.9 percent of speaking roles in films between 2007 and 2019 involved Asian Pacific Islander (API) characters. About 44 of the 1,300 films examined had Asian Pacific Islander leads or co-leads.

None of the leading characters were women over the age of 40, either — a phenomenon that Yeoh, 60, appears to be aware of. “Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime,” she said during her acceptance speech.

Meet the Asian woman nominated before Michelle Yeoh for the best actress Oscar

Composer M.M. Keeravani and artist-lyricist Chandrabose, who are both from India, won the award for best original song, “Naatu Naatu,” which was performed onstage at the Oscars.

“The Elephant Whisperers” made history as the first Indian documentary short to win an Oscar.

A short documentary that uncovers the hidden dangers of movie and TV production. (Video: Lindsey Sitz, Ross Godwin/The Washington Post)