Michelle Yeoh

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Michelle Yeoh

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

(1962-08-06) 6 August 1962 (age 58)
EducationRoyal Academy of Dance (BA)
Years active1980–present
(m. 1988; div. 1992)
Partner(s)Jean Todt (2004–present)
AwardsFull list
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese楊紫瓊
Simplified Chinese杨紫琼

Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng, PSM (/ˈj/; born 6 August 1962)[1] is a Malaysian actress who rose to fame in 1990s Hong Kong action films and is best known internationally for her roles in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), along with recent international English films and series. She is credited as Michelle Khan in her early Hong Kong films.

Born in Ipoh, Malaysia, she won the Miss Malaysia pageant of 1983 at the age of 20. She later achieved fame in the early 1990s after starring in a series of Hong Kong action films in which she performed her own stunts, such as Yes, Madam (1985), Police Story 3: Supercop (1992) and Holy Weapon (1993). She was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress for her work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

She has appeared in many English, Mandarin and Cantonese language films. Her other works include Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Reign of Assassins (2010), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016), Star Trek: Discovery (2017) and The Lady (2011), in which she portrayed Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2018, she starred in the American romantic comedy-drama film, Crazy Rich Asians. She has also co-starred in the 2018 film Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy and the 2019 film Last Christmas.

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 the only Asian of the "35 All-Time Screen Beauties".[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Yeoh was born on 6 August 1962 in Ipoh, Malaysia,[4] to a local ethnic Malaysian Chinese family of Hokkien and Cantonese descent.[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.[citation needed] 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 beauty pageant.[8] Later that year, she traveled to Australia where she won another pair of beauty pageants; "Queen of the Pacific" and "Miss Moomba".[9][better source needed] She was also Malaysia's representative at the Miss World 1983 pageant in London. 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.[10] Already with her third credit, Yes, Madam (1985), she was given a main role. She was credited as Michelle Khan in these earlier films. This alias was chosen by D&B studio who thought it might be more marketable to international and western audiences. She reverted to Yeoh when she started her Hollywood career with Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997.[8] The D&B Group in Hong Kong was run by the businessman Dickson Poon. Yeoh married Poon in 1987 and retired from acting.

Yeoh returned to acting with Police Story 3: Super Cop (1992) after having divorced Poon.[8] 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.

In 1997 she was cast as Wai Lin in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). Brosnan was impressed, describing her as a "wonderful actress" who was "serious and committed about her work".[11] 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.[12][13] 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.[14] The film was an international success, and earned Yeoh a BAFTA 2000 nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

In 2002, she produced her first English film, The Touch, through her own production company, Mythical Films. In 2005, Yeoh starred as the graceful Mameha in the film adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha, and she continued her English-language work in 2007 with Sunshine. In 2008, Michelle Yeoh also starred in fantasy action film The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li.[15]

In October 2011, she was chosen by Guerlain to be its skincare ambassador.[16] Yeoh's role was to help strengthen the French cosmetics company's relationship with Asia.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19]

Yeoh did not branch out into television until 2015, with her first role playing Mei Foster, wife to the British Ambassador to Thailand, and who is secretly a North Korean spy named Li-Na,[20] on the fifth season of the Cinemax/Sky series Strike Back.[21] In 2016, Yeoh was cast as Federation 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.[22][23]

In 2018, she 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.[24] 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.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Yeoh was married to Hong Kong entrepreneur Dickson Poon, owner of businesses such as Harvey Nichols and Charles Jourdan,[26] from 1988 to 1992. In 1998, Yeoh was engaged to Alan Heldman, an American cardiologist.[27] In 2004, she started dating Jean Todt,[28] a leading figure in motor racing, and in July 2008 she confirmed her engagement to him during an interview with Craig Ferguson on CBS's The Late Late Show.[citation needed][29]

Yeoh is a Buddhist.[30][31] In March 2008, she visited Vietnam to film a documentary for the Asian Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF).[32] Yeoh is also a patron of the Save China's Tigers project committed to protect the endangered South China tiger.[33]

Awards, honors and styles[edit]

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.[34]

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.[35]

On 25 November 2002, she was honoured as The Outstanding Young People of the World (TOYP) (Cultural Achievement) by JCI (Junior Chamber International).[36]

On 23 April 2007, French President Jacques Chirac awarded Yeoh as 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.[37] 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.[38]

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

On 22 May 2012, she 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.[39]

Michelle Yeoh received the Excellence in Asian Cinema award during the 7th Asian Film Awards in March 2013 in Hong Kong.[40]

On 1 June 2013, she 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.[41][42]

On 30 November 2013, she presided as the Chief Guest at the International Film Festival of India.[43]

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

Honours of Malaysia[edit]

International Honours[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

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
1998 The Soong Sisters Hong Kong Film Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2000 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon TFCA Award for Best Performance, Female Nominated
2001 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Saturn Award for Best Actress Nominated
2001 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon BAFTA Film Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Nominated
2001 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Action Team Nominated
2001 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Golden Horse Award for Best Actress Nominated
2001 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress Nominated
2001 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon VFCC Award for Best Actress Nominated
2011 Reign of Assassins Asian Film Award for Best Actress Nominated
2011 Reign of Assassins People's Choice Award for Favorite Actress Nominated
2011 Reign of Assassins Huabiao Film Award for Outstanding Abroad Actress Nominated
2018 Star Trek: Discovery Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television Nominated[51][52]
2019 Crazy Rich Asians The Asian Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema Won[53]

Special Awards[edit]

Year Award Results
1998 Asian Media Award Won
2001 ShoWest Award for International Star of the Year Won
2013 Outstanding Contribution to Asian Cinema Won


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Almanac 2010, p. 75
  2. ^ "Total Recall: The 25 Best Action Heroines of All Time". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  3. ^ "35 All-Time Screen Beauties: Michelle Yeoh". People. 6 October 2009. ISSN 0093-7673. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  4. ^ Lhooq, Michelle (17 August 2018). "Michelle Yeoh Has Kicked Ass for Three Decades". GQ. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  5. ^ Chinatown
  6. ^ "Michelle Yeoh Biography (1962–)". film reference. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  7. ^ Chan Li Leen (5 November 2014). "Michelle Yeoh's father passes away". The Star (Malaysia).
  8. ^ a b c Kee Hua Chee (19 January 2004). "Her own person". The Star. Malaysia. Archived from the original on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2011. Interview.
  9. ^ Michelle Yeoh Biography, IMDb. Accessed 13 October 2018.
  10. ^ https://www.silverkris.com/interview-michelle-yeoh-celebrity/
  11. ^ Cohen, David (11 February 1997). "Bond girl Yeoh gets licence to thrill 007". South China Morning Post.
  12. ^ "Bond Leading Lady Won't Do Stunts". Associated Press. 21 May 1997.
  13. ^ Chung, Winnie (30 May 1997). "Much More Than Just A Bond Girl". South China Morning Post.
  14. ^ "Michelle Yeoh Web Theatre Q&A".
  15. ^ Chung, Philip W. (1 August 2008). "Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh: From 'Tai Chi Master' to 'The Mummy'". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 4 August 2008.
  16. ^ "Michelle Yeoh, The New Face of Guerlain". Butterboom. 24 October 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  17. ^ "Michelle Yeoh Named as Guerlain's New Celebrity Ambassador". Asia Pacific Arts. 13 October 2011. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  18. ^ Petty, Martin (29 March 2012). "Myanmar's Suu Kyi: from prisoner to would-be lawmaker". Reuters. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  19. ^ "Myanmar Deports Michelle Yeoh Over Suu Kyi Movie". Yahoo News. Associated Press. 27 June 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  20. ^ Ellwood, Greg. "Strike Back: Legacy episode 4 preview". Entertainment Focus. Entertainment Focus. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  21. ^ Frater, Patrick. "Michelle Yeoh and Will Yun Lee Join Final Season of 'Strike Back'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  22. ^ Hibbred, J (23 November 2016).'Star Trek Discovery: Michelle Yeoh In Captain Role', Deadline. Retrieved from http://deadline.com/2016/11/star-trek-discovery-michelle-yeoh-cast-captain-1201859554/, retrieved on 23 November 2016.
  23. ^ Holloway, Daniel (29 November 2016). "'Star Trek: Discovery': Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp Join Michelle Yeoh in Cast". Variety. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  24. ^ "'Crazy Rich Asians' Adds Michelle Yeoh (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  25. ^ "Last Christmas (2019) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  26. ^ Swain, Jon (25 March 2007). "No business like Yeoh business". The Times. London. Retrieved 8 April 2007. (subscription required).
  27. ^ "A night on the tiles in the capital of chic". South China Morning Post. 12 January 2019.
  28. ^ The New Paper (21 April 2013). "'Don't be a traitor, Michelle Yeoh'". www.asiaone.com. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  29. ^ "Michelle Yeoh: The lady strikes back". TODAYonline.
  30. ^ "Michelle Yeoh: I believe in afterlife". The Buddhist Channel. 29 July 2008. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  31. ^ "The Lady – Interview with Michelle Yeoh". AVIVA-Berlin. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  32. ^ "Bond girl Michelle Yeoh to visit Vietnam for road safety campaign". talkvietnam.com. 22 October 2008. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  33. ^ "Patrons and Supporters". Save China's Tigers. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  34. ^ "Berlinale: 1999 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  35. ^ "Just Call Me Datuk". Asiaweek. 27 (17). 4 May 2001. ISSN 1012-6244. Archived from the original on 9 May 2001. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  36. ^ "Awards & Recognitions / Achievements". jciklm.org. Archived from the original on 6 December 2011. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  37. ^ "Yeoh receives France's top honour". BBC News. 4 October 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  38. ^ "Michelle Yeoh receives Legion of Honour from France". Bernama via mysinchew.com. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  39. ^ "Datuk Michelle Yeoh now 'Datuk Seri'". Yahoo News. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  40. ^ Andrew Chan (25 March 2013). "7th Asian Film Awards 2013 – Media Coverage and Winners List". HK Neo Reviews.
  41. ^ "She's Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh now". Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 30 June 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  42. ^ "Semakan Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat".
  43. ^ "Actress Michelle Yeoh to be Chief Guest at IFFI Closing Ceremony". Biharprabha News. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  44. ^ a b c "SEMAKAN PENERIMA DARJAH KEBESARAN, BINTANG DAN PINGAT". Prime Minister's Department (Malaysia). Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  45. ^ "She's Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh now". Joseph Sipalan and Lee Yen Mun. The Star. 1 June 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  46. ^ "Michelle Yeoh set to receive honour". Desmond Yap. Yahoo! Newsroom. 30 May 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  47. ^ "Actress Michelle Yeoh gets top French award". Reuters. 3 October 2007. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  48. ^ "Michelle Yeoh Receives Legion of Honor from France". Bernama. Malaysian Digest. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  49. ^ "Michelle Yeoh now a Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres". The Star. 12 February 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  50. ^ "Michelle Yeoh now a Commander of the Legion of Honour". The Star. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  51. ^ "'Star Trek: Discovery' Nominated For 5 Saturn Awards". TrekMovie.com. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  52. ^ Hammond, Pete (27 June 2018). "'Black Panther' Tops 44th Saturn Awards With Five; 'Blade Runner 2049' , 'Shape Of Water', 'Get Out' Also Score". Deadline. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  53. ^ "Outstanding Achievement in Cinema – CRAZY RICH ASIANS". The Asian Awards. Retrieved 28 October 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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 links[edit]