Michelle Yeoh Success Story: Crushing through Challenges
A spinal injury crushed her dreams of being a professional ballet dancer; she retired from acting when she got married to focus on her marriage and have kids; she encountered language and cultural barriers when she moved to Hollywood, even being told “you’re a minority,” and struggled to get projects or would only get offers for stereotyped roles.
These are probably a handful of the known challenges that Michelle Yeoh had to overcome in her career spanning 40 years before she reached her recent milestone of winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2023.
Born in the year 1962 in Malaysia, she grew up as an active child, loving several sports like swimming, diving, and squash. She dreamed of becoming a professional dancer and opening her own school. But even if she had had the means to train as a young child at the Royal Academy of Dance in London, she sustained an injury that wouldn’t allow her to bear the daily intensive ballet workout.
She debuted her acting career in Hong Kong in the mid-80s in high-action films and became known as the “queen of martial arts” alongside Jackie Chan and Jet Li.
But in 1995, while in the midst of filming a movie called The Stunt Woman, she made a wrong landing from an 18-foot fall and ended up with a fractured vertebra and several broken ribs. She spent three weeks in the hospital. She was depressed and felt extremely down because of what happened to her.
Then Quarantine Tarantino, a known film director, paid her a visit while she was recovering and helped her gain confidence that she should go back to the film industry.
Michelle Yeoh truly persisted and overcame the difficulties, finally making her Hollywood debut as Wai Lin, the Chinese secret agent in Tomorrow Never Dies. Her versatility as an actress was highlighted, and it gave her exposure to a larger audience. Yeoh's martial arts skills were also on full display in the film, and she performed many of her own stunts, including a thrilling motorcycle chase scene. She worked on her pronunciation and intonation by immersing herself in a new culture, so she could deliver her lines more effectively.
With the success of Tomorrow Never Dies, Yeoh was able to land more significant roles in Hollywood.
She realized she could add value to her work by avoiding those roles that only perpetuated harmful tropes about Asian women. It took three years before she did Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
She went on to star in several blockbuster films, including Memoirs of a Geisha and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. She continued to get better and better at her craft until she took on 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians as an intimidating mother in the main character’s relationship.
Yeoh's talent and hard work paid off, and she became one of the most sought-after actresses in the industry. She also became a role model for Asian women, proving that they, too, could achieve success in Hollywood.
Michelle Yeoh's journey in the film Everything, Everywhere, All At Once is a testament to her range and versatility as an actress. In the film, Yeoh plays Evelyn Quan Wang who discovers that she has the ability to travel through parallel universes.
Yeoh's performance was praised for its depth and nuance. She brought vulnerability and authenticity to the character, which helped ground the fantastical elements of the film. Yeoh's portrayal was also notable for its physical stunts. She performed many of her own stunts and fight scenes, showcasing her martial arts skills and athleticism.
Yeoh's journey in the film is a reminder that storytelling can be a powerful tool for personal growth and self-discovery and how speaking up matters in Hollywood.
Through her journey, she has inspired many people, both young and old. It gives a sense of representation among those who can see themselves in her.
She has also been hailed as TIME’s 2022 Icon of the Year. In her interview, she shares how, after all the hardships she’s been through, she has taught herself to enjoy the moment.
Michelle Yeoh has been patient and resilient throughout the years. She has been crushing not only physical boundaries but also stereotypes in the film industry. As the first Asian to win an Oscar, she has certainly been successful in giving a voice to people who relate to her.
Never stopping to pursue your dreams is crucial to your success. Just like Michelle Yeoh, breaks are key to self-reflection and realigning your plans with your goals. Finding a community that supports you through this journey can help you accelerate growth.
Are you a business owner or a content creator? Get access to a FREE masterclass to help you grow your business NOW.