Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh

Background information
Chinese name 楊紫瓊 (traditional)
Chinese name 杨紫琼 (simplified)
Pinyin Yáng Zǐqióng (Mandarin)
Jyutping Joeng4 Zi2-king4 (Cantonese)
Birth name Yeoh Choo-Kheng
(Iûⁿ chú-khēng)
Born (1962-08-06) 6 August 1962
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Occupation Actress
Years active 1984–present
Spouse(s) Dickson Poon (1988–1992)
Partner(s) Jean Todt
Ancestry Fujian, China
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Yeoh.

Tan Sri Dato' Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng (born 6 August 1962)[1] is a Chinese-Malaysian actress, best known for performing her own stunts in the Hong Kong action films that brought her to fame in the early 1990s. Born in Ipoh, Malaysia, she was chosen by People as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" in 1997.

She is best known in the Western world for her roles in the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, playing Wai Lin, and the Chinese-language martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, for which she was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in 2000. In 2008, the film critic website Rotten Tomatoes ranked her the greatest action heroine of all time.[2] In 2009, she was listed by People  – as the only Asian actress – as one of the "35 All-Time Screen Beauties".[3]

She is credited as Michelle Khan in some of her earlier films. This alias was chosen by the D&B studio who thought it might be more marketable to international and western audiences. Yeoh later preferred using her real name.[4]

Early life and career

Yeoh was born in Ipoh, Malaysia, to an ethnic Chinese family of Hokkien descent.[5] Her parents are Janet Yeoh and Yeoh Kian Teik, a lawyer and MCA politician.[6]

She was keen on dance from an early age, beginning ballet at the age of four. 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 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. She later received a B.A. degree in Creative Arts with a minor in Drama.

In 1983, at the age of 20, Yeoh won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant.[4] She represented Malaysia at the Queen of the Pacific 1983 beauty pageant which was held in Australia and won the crown. 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 such as Yes, Madam in 1985, after which she did most of her own stunts.[7] The D&B Group in Hong Kong was run by Dickson Poon. Yeoh married Poon in 1987 and retired from acting. After the couple divorced in 1992, Yeoh returned to acting.[4]

Later career

Yeoh's performance in Police Story 3: Super Cop marked her comeback. She acted in The Heroic Trio in 1993, and the Yuen Woo-ping films Tai Chi Master and Wing Chun in 1994. Yeoh learned English and Malay before Cantonese. She learned the Mandarin lines for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon phonetically.[8]

She cast in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies as Wai Lin (1997). Natasha Henstridge was rumoured to be cast in the lead Bond girl role but eventually Yeoh was confirmed.[9] Brosnan was impressed, describing her as a "wonderful actress" who was "serious and committed about her work".[10] He referred to her as a "female James Bond" in reference to her combat abilities. She wanted again to perform her own stunts but was prevented because director Roger Spottiswoode considered it too dangerous. Still, she performed all of her own fighting scenes.[11][12] Thereafter, she was offered the role of Seraph in the two sequels to The Matrix, but she could not accept due to a scheduling conflict (the Matrix writers then changed Seraph into a male character and cast Collin Chou in the role).[13] 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.[14]

In October 2011, she was chosen by Guerlain to be its skincare ambassador.[15] Yeoh will play a role in strengthening the French cosmetics company's relationship with Asia.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

Yeoh has also recently branched out into television, as it was announced in September 2014 that she had accepted her first television role on the fifth and final season of Strike Back.[19] Yeoh plays the role of Mei Foster, wife to the British Ambassador to Thailand, and who is secretly a North Korean spy named Li-Na.[20]

In 2016, Yeoh was cast as Federation Captain Georgiou of the Shenzhou in the series Star Trek Discovery.[21][22]

Personal life

Yeoh was married to Hong Kong entrepreneur Dickson Poon, owner of businesses such as Harvey Nichols and Charles Jourdan,[23] from 1988 to 1992. In 2008 she confirmed a new engagement to Jean Todt, a leading figure in motor racing, during an interview with Craig Ferguson on CBS's The Late Late Show.

She is a Buddhist.[24][25]

In March 2008, she visited Vietnam to film a documentary for the Asian Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF).[26] Yeoh is also a patron of the Save China's Tigers project committed to protect the endangered South China tiger.[27]

Awards, honours and styles

Michelle Yeoh on the "Avenue of Stars" in Hong Kong

In 1999, she was a member of the jury at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival.[28]

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.[29]

On 25 November 2002, she was honoured as The Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) (Cultural Achievement) by JCI (Junior Chamber International).[30]

On 23 April 2007, the then French President Jacques Chirac awarded her Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. The decoration was presented to her in a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on 3 October 2007.[31]

In 2011, she received a special award for her contribution to Malaysian cinema at Malaysian Film Festival (FFM 24).

On 14 March 2012, the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy awarded her the Officier de la Légion d'honneur. The decoration was presented to her at a ceremony held at the president's official residence, the Elysee Palace on that day.[32]

On 22 May 2012, she was awarded the Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Perak (SPMP) which carries the title Datuk Seri' during the investiture ceremony in conjunction with the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah's birthday.[33]

Michelle Yeoh received the Excellence in Asian Cinema award during the seventh annual Asian Film Awards on March 2013 in Hong Kong.

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.[34]

On 30 November 2013, she presided as the Chief Guest at the International Film Festival of India.[35]


Year Title Role Notes
1984 The Owl vs Bombo Miss Yeung
1985 Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars Judo instructor
1985 Yes, Madam Inspector Ng Nominated—Hong Kong Film Award for Best New Performer
1986 Royal Warriors Michelle Yip a.k.a. Wong ga jin si
1987 Magnificent Warriors Fok Ming-Ming
1987 Easy Money Michelle Yeung a.k.a. Tong tian da dao
1992 Police Story 3: Super Cop Inspector Jessica Yang
1993 The Heroic Trio Ching / Invisible Woman / Number 3
1993 Butterfly and Sword Lady Ko
1993 Executioners Ching/San/Carol
1993 Holy Weapon Ching Sze / To Col Ching
1993 Once a Cop Jessica Yang
1993 Tai Chi Master Siu Lin
1994 Shaolin Popey 2 – Messy Temple Ah King a.k.a. Shao Lin xiao zi II: Xin wu long yuan
1994 Wonder Seven Ying a.k.a. 7 jin gong
1994 Wing Chun Yim Wing Chun
1996 The Stunt Woman Ah Kam a.k.a. A Jin de gu shi
1997 The Soong Sisters Soong Ai-ling/Madam Kung Nominated—Hong Kong Film Award for Best Supporting Actress
1997 Tomorrow Never Dies Wai Lin Nominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Fight
1999 Moonlight Express Sis a.k.a. Sing yuet tung wa
2000 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Yu Shu Lien Nominated—TFCA Award for Best Performance, Female
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
Nominated—BAFTA Film Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated—Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Action Team
Nominated—Golden Horse Award for Best Actress
Nominated—Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress
Nominated—VFCC Award for Best Actress
2002 The Touch Pak Yin Fay
2004 Silver Hawk Lulu Wong / The Silver Hawk Executive producer、producer
2005 Memoirs of a Geisha Mameha
2006 Fearless Ms. Yang Director's cut only
2007 Sunshine Corazon
2007 Far North Saiva
2008 The Children of Huang Shi Mrs. Wang
2008 Purple Mountain
2008 Babylon A.D. Sister Rebeka
2008 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Zi Juan (voice) Video game
2008 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Zi Yuan
2010 True Legend Sister Yu
2010 Reign of Assassins Zeng Jing Chinese title Jianyu a.k.a. Jianyu Jianghu
Nominated—Asian Film Award for Best Actress
Nominated—People's Choice Award for Favorite Actress
Nominated—Huabiao Film Award for Outstanding Abroad Actress
2011 Kung Fu Panda 2 Soothsayer Voice
2011 The Lady Aung San Suu Kyi biographical film about the Nobel laureate
2012 Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey Documentary,executive producer
2013 Final Recipe Julia
2014 Air Force Sarah
2016 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny Yu Shu Lien
2016 Mechanic: Resurrection Mae
2016 Morgan Dr. Lui Cheng
2017 Blazing Samurai Yuki Filming


Year Title Role Notes
2015 Strike Back Mei Foster/Li-Na Television series; recurring role
2016 Marco Polo Lotus Season 2
2017 Star Trek: Discovery Captain Georgiou of USS Shenzhou Production

Awards and nominations

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
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

Special Awards

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. Encyclopaedia 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. 1 2 3 Kee Hua Chee (19 January 2004). "Her own person". The Star. Malaysia. Retrieved 13 November 2011. Interview.
  5. Site
  6. "Michelle Yeoh Biography (1962–)". film reference. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  7. Tourtellotte, Bob (2 August 2008). "Michelle Yeoh brings kicks and poise to 'Mummy'". Reuters. Retrieved 15 May 2011. Yeoh said that as she grows older, she understands her body will not be able to do what it once did with kick boxing and stunts.
  8. "Michelle Yeoh Web Theatre Q&A".
  9. Ferguson, Amy. "Back in Action". Tribute. Archived from the original on 18 July 2006. Retrieved 5 January 2007.
  10. Cohen, David (11 February 1997). "Bond girl Yeoh gets licence to thrill 007". South China Morning Post.
  11. "Bond Leading Lady Won't Do Stunts". Associated Press. 21 May 1997.
  12. Chung, Winnie (30 May 1997). "Much More Than Just A Bond Girl". South China Morning Post.
  13. "Michelle Yeoh Biography". Scrup.au. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  14. Chung, Philip W. (1 August 2008). "Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh: From 'Tai Chi Master' to 'The Mummy'". AsianWeek. Retrieved 4 August 2008.
  15. [http://www.butterboom.com/2011/10/24/michelle-yeoh-is-the- new-face-of-guerlain/ "Michelle Yeoh, The New Face of Guerlain"] Check |url= value (help). Butterboom. 24 October 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011. line feed character in |url= at position 59 (help)
  16. "Michelle Yeoh Named as Guerlain's New Celebrity Ambassador". Asia Pacific Arts. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  17. Petty, Martin (29 March 2012). "Myanmar's Suu Kyi: from prisoner to would-be lawmaker". Reuters. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  18. "Myanmar Deports Michelle Yeoh Over Suu Kyi Movie". Yahoo News. Associated Press. 27 June 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  19. Frater, Patrick. "Michelle Yeoh and Will Yun Lee Join Final Season of 'Strike Back'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  20. Ellwood, Greg. "Strike Back: Legacy episode 4 preview". Entertainment Focus. Entertainment Focus. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  21. Hibbred, J (Nov 23, 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 Nov 23, 2016.
  22. Holloway, Daniel (2016-11-29). "'Star Trek: Discovery': Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp Join Michelle Yeoh in Cast". Variety. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  23. Swain, Jon (25 March 2007). "No business like Yeoh business". The Times. London. Retrieved 8 April 2007. (subscription required).
  24. "Michelle Yeoh: I believe in afterlife". The Buddhist Channel. 29 July 2008. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  25. "The Lady – Interview with Michelle Yeoh". AVIVA-Berlin. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  26. "Bond girl Michelle Yeoh to visit Vietnam for road safety campaign". talkvietnam.com. 22 October 2008. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  27. "Patrons and Supporters". Save China's Tigers. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  28. "Berlinale: 1999 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  29. "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.
  30. "Awards & Recognitions / Achievements". jciklm.org. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  31. "Yeoh receives France's top honour". BBC News. 4 October 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  32. "Michelle Yeoh receives Legion of Honour from France". Bernama via mysinchew.com. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  33. "Datuk Michelle Yeoh now 'Datuk Seri'". Yahoo News. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  34. "She's Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh now". Yahoo News. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  35. "Actress Michelle Yeoh to be Chief Guest at IFFI Closing Ceremony". Biharprabha News. Retrieved 1 December 2013.

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