Michelle Yeoh’s lead actress Oscar win Sunday for her performance in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” drew a burst of emotion and excitement among her family, fans and politicians at a watch party at a movie theater in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where Yeoh was born and raised.
“I so love my daughter, and she has made Malaysia proud,” mother Janet Yeoh, 84, said during a news conference after the viewing. “Malaysia boleh (Malaysia can)!”
Moments before Halle Berry, the first woman of color and only Black woman to win the award, and Jessica Chastain, who won last year, announced Michelle Yeoh as the first Asian performer to win in the lead actress category, Janet Yeoh and family members were already wiping tears away from their eyes, according to footage of the moment.
When Chastain read Michelle Yeoh’s name from the envelope, the crowd leaped to their feet and cheered, while Janet Yeoh joined with a scream from her seat. After taking in the moment for a few seconds, she stood to embrace the boisterous crowd around her, pumping her fist into the air.
In her acceptance speech, Michelle Yeoh dedicated the award to her mom, along with all mothers.
“I have to dedicate this to my mom, all the moms in the world, because they are really the superheroes, and without them, none of us would be here tonight,” Yeoh said on the Dolby Theatre stage in Los Angeles. “She’s 84, and I’m taking this home to her. She’s watching right now in Malaysia, KL, with my family and friends. I love you guys, I’m bringing this home to you.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim also congratulated Yeoh for her victory, tweeting, “In creating history by being not just the first Malaysian but the very first Asian actress to win in this category, we take enormous pride in her achievement, adding to a long list of successes and capping a critically acclaimed acting career spanning decades.”
In “Everything Everywhere,” Yeoh starred as the universe-jumping Evelyn Wang, a mother, Chinese immigrant and laundromat owner who struggles to keep her business afloat and her family together. A central conflict of the film is her difficulty as a mother in connecting with her queer, second-generation Asian American daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), who doubles as the movie’s villain, Jobu Tupaki.
Amid the celebration in Malaysia, Janet Yeoh said she was immensely proud of “my little princess,” who wanted to be a ballerina before entering the acting world. Yeoh said she pushed her daughter out of her cocoon despite protests from her late husband, a lawyer whom she described as “old-fashioned.”
Michelle Yeoh joined her family in Malaysia through FaceTime, calling them from backstage at the Dolby, according to video posted by Channel NewsAsia reporter Melissa Goh.
Someone held the iPhone in front of family members huddled around Janet Yeoh. Michelle Yeoh could be seen blowing kisses and holding her Oscar to the screen. Her mother started to chant, “Malaysia boleh (Malaysia can)!”
The actor’s niece, Vicki Yeoh, grabbed the phone and held it up to reveal to Michelle the crowd at the viewing party, which once again erupted into cheers.
“I was speechless, I cried,” Vicki Yeoh said after the party, according to NBC News. “The nominees are really strong, but we had no doubt. We keep telling her that you will win … you will stand on the stage with the golden man.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.