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Michelle Yeoh

Yeoh Choo-Kheng

6 August 1962 (age 56)

Residence Paris, France[1]
Nationality Malaysian
Other names Michelle Khan
Occupation Actress
Years active 1984–present
Dickson Poon
(m. 1988; div. 1992)
Partner(s) Jean Todt (2004–present)
Parent(s) Yeoh Kian Teik (father) 
Janet Yeoh (mother)
Awards Full list
United Nations Global Road Safety Ambassador
Assumed office 
12 April 2011
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 楊紫瓊
Simplified Chinese 杨紫琼

Michelle Yeoh

Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng (/ˈj/; born 6 August 1962)[2], better known by her stage name Michelle Yeoh, is a Malaysian actress, best known internationally for starring in popular 1990s Hong Kong action films, the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and the Chinese-language martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).

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 Cantonese, English and Mandarin-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.

The film critic website Rotten Tomatoes ranked her the greatest action heroine of all time in 2008.[3] 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 one of the “35 All-Time Screen Beauties”—the only Asian actress to make the list.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Yeoh is ethnic Malaysian Chinese. She was born in Ipoh, Malaysia, to a local Malaysian Chinese family of mixed Hokkien and Cantonese 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 BA degree in Creative Arts with a minor in Drama.


In 1983, at the age of 20, Yeoh won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant.[7] She represented Malaysia at the Queen of the Pacific 1983 beauty pageant which was held in Australia and won the crown. While in Melbourne, she also won the Miss Moomba title.[8] 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.[9] 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. Yeoh later preferred using her real name.[7]

The D&B Group in Hong Kong was run by the businessman Dickson Poon. Yeoh married Poon in 1987 and retired from acting.

Return to acting[edit]

In 1992, Yeoh and Dickson Poon divorced and Yeoh returned to acting.[7] Yeoh’s performance in Police Story 3: Super Cop (1992) marked her comeback to film. She acted in The Heroic Trio in 1993, and the Yuen Woo-ping films Tai Chi Master and Wing Chun in 1994.

She played 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”.[10] 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.[11][12]

Yeoh was then recruited by Ang Lee to star as Yu Shu Lien in the Chinese language martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. 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.[13] The film was an international success, and earn Yeoh a BAFTA 2000 nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

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).[14] 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]

Later career[edit]

In October 2011, she was chosen by Guerlain to be its skincare ambassador.[16] Yeoh will play a role in strengthening 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 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.[20] 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.[21]

In 2016, Yeoh was cast as Federation Captain Philippa Georgiou of the starship USS Shenzhou in the series Star Trek: Discovery.[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]

Personal life[edit]

Yeoh was married to Hong Kong entrepreneur Dickson Poon, owner of businesses such as Harvey Nichols and Charles Jourdan,[25] from 1988 to 1992. In 1998, Yeoh was engaged to Dr. Alan Heldman, an American cardiologist.[26] In 2004, she started dating Jean Todt, 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.

Yeoh is a Buddhist.[27][28] In March 2008, she visited Vietnam to film a documentary for the Asian Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF).[29] Yeoh is also a patron of the Save China’s Tigers project committed to protect the endangered South China tiger.[30]

Awards, honours and styles[edit]

In 1999, she was a member of the jury at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival.[31]

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.[32]

On 25 November 2002, she was honoured as The Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) (Cultural Achievement) by JCI (Junior Chamber International).[33]

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.[34] 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 Elysee Palace on that day.[35]

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

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.[36]

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.[37][38]

On 30 November 2013, she presided as the Chief Guest at the International Film Festival of India.[39]

Honours of Malaysia[edit]

International Honours[edit]



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 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 Mei
2016 Morgan Dr. Lui Cheng
2017 Nezha Yin Rong
2017 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Aleta Ogord Cameo
2018 Crazy Rich Asians Eleanor Young
2018 Mawas Chen Wen
2018 Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy Sis Ha
2019 Boss Level Post-production
2019 Last Christmas Filming
TBA Blazing Samurai Yuki


Year Title Role Notes
2015 Strike Back Mei Foster/Li-Na Recurring (7 episodes)
2016 Marco Polo Lotus 7 episodes
2017–present Star Trek: Discovery Captain Philippa Georgiou/Emperor Philippa Georgiou (mirror) Recurring (8 episodes)

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2008 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Zi Juan (voice)

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
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[46]

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