6 Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Michelle Yeoh That Make Her More Badass

The 60-year-old shows no signs of slowing down.

Cover image via Sony Pictures Classics/Let's Eat Cake & Jessica Chou/For The Times

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Earning herself an Oscar award is just one of Michelle Yeoh's many achievements — it was a historic win, not just for the actress, but a sign to all Asians that it's never too late

"Ladies, don't let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime. Never give up," she said during her acceptance speech at the 95th Academy Awards on 12 March.

That one line has become a reminder to not let anything dampen your ambitions — even if you think you've peaked in your career, even if you think you're "too old", and even if the world says you won't make it.

Michelle Yeoh has certainly come a long way, from one endeavour to the next.

Here are some fun facts you might not have known about the Ipoh-born actress:

1. She was a ballerina and didn't initially want to become an actress

Yeoh started learning ballet at four years old. After moving from Malaysia to the UK with her parents, she decided to enroll in the Royal Academy of Dance in London.

However, a spinal injury forced her to forsake her dreams of becoming a professional ballerina. She went on to pursue creative arts and drama instead, and well, the rest is history.

Image via Daily Mail

2. Her mum signed her up to become a pageant queen, leading to her eventually winning Miss Malaysia in 1983

Yeoh shared in a recent interview that her mum had registered her for the Miss Malaysia competition back then, without even asking her. Her mum even signed the form on her behalf.

"So technically, I'm not legit," Yeoh said, adding that she joined the competition anyway to "shut her [mum] up".

She eventually won and was crowned Miss Malaysia 1983 at 21 years old.

3. At 22, she was offered her first TV commercial with Jackie Chan in Hong Kong

Studio head Dickson Poon convinced 22-year-old Yeoh to sign an acting contract with his company, D&B Films.

Despite not being able to speak or read Cantonese very well, Yeoh told The Hollywood Reporter that she took it on as she's "a bit of an adventurer".

"The easiest thing is to say no. For sure, you won't fail, but you won't get anywhere either," she said.

Another interesting fact is that she used to be known as 'Michelle Khan'. D&B Films gave her the stage name after her ad with Jackie Chan. 

4. She has no formal martial arts training but trained herself for most of the stunts in her early films

Yeoh got her big break when she took on a leading role in the 1985 Hong Kong film, Yes, Madam.

According to Business Today, she is said to have had zero formal martial arts training, and did all of her own stunts in the film and following movies. She only trained in the gym alongside action stars such as Dick Wei and learned moves while on set.

For someone who has starred in many martial arts films, that's pretty impressive!

It could partly be due to her background in ballet. The Hollywood Reporter noted that she felt most comfortable in action films, as she viewed it "like a big dance piece".

"It's all choreography, and that I understood," she said.

5. She's the first Asian artist to be awarded an honourary Doctorate of Fine Arts by the American Film Institute (AFI)

Aside from being the first Asian to bring home an Oscar, Yeoh received the AFI honour for her contributions of distinction to the art of the moving image.

She's also the first Malaysian to win a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, as well as Best Actress at the 29th Screen Actors Guild Awards earlier this year.

Yeoh in 'Everything, Everywhere All at Once'.

Image via A24/Insider

6. There's no slowing down for Yeoh, who's set to star in Wicked (2024-2025), Avatar 3 (2024) and Avatar 4 (2026), and in the seventh sequel of Transformers (2023)

Yeoh will be a part of those movies, as well as American Born Chinese (2023), Ark: The Animated Series (2023), The Brothers Sun (2023), A Haunting in Venice (2023), and The Tiger's Apprentice (2024).

Yeoh will star in 'Wicked' as Madame Morrible.

Image via JoBlo

Here's to greater things ahead, Michelle!

Funnily enough, the role that won her the Oscar recently was revealed to have initially been for Jackie Chan:

Her co-actor, Ke Huy Quan, who also won an Oscar, has had a pretty inspiring journey:

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