Michelle Yeoh didn’t understand how she “became a minority” when she went to Hollywood.
The ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ actress – who was born in Malaysia and moved to the UK when she was 15 – had a multicultural upbringing so was confused when she first headed to Los Angeles for her film career and faced questions about her heritage.
She told The Rake magazine “We have Chinese, Malays, Indians, English, expats, which is great. So we grew up not really understanding when people ask, ‘What race are you?’
“How one earth did I become a minority, what does that mean?
“How many billions of Chinese people are there in the world? How can we be a minority.”
Michelle is thankful for the improved efforts in recent years to tell diverse stories and increase representation on screen.
She said: “My African American friends, they are a minority but they have banded together to tell their stories.
“That is what we’re doing now in the Asian community.
“What if ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ didn’t work? Jon Chu was so brilliant at telling that story and saying, ‘Hey, it’s cool, Asian people are really good looking and fun and can play leads.’
“Yes there are stereotypes and we can laugh with them, but the reality is that these people have dreams and aspirations. They have stories to tell, so how do we tell them?”
But Michelle stressed the importance of representation that is more than just “ticking the box”.
She said: “Over the last few years you see true representation – but what is true representation?
“You have to talk about inclusivity in the proper way, you can’t just tick the box.
“Yes, you may have the Asian who does ‘Asian things’ but that isn’t right.
“I think because I was in the martial arts genre, where people wanted to see that, they weren’t afraid to write me in those roles, but I would like to be able to see a woman in that role, no matter what race she is, and having to explain that she learns martial arts. White people learn martial arts too, you know.”