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Michelle Yeoh Receives an AFI Honorary Degree

On Aug. 13, Michelle Yeoh received an honorary degree from the American Film Institute (AFI) at the conservatory's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022. The ceremony, which took place in the Hollywood TCL Chinese Theater, awarded Yeoh a Doctorate of Fine Arts for her "contributions of distinction to the art of the moving image."

Yeoh, born in Ipoh, Malaysia, is of Chinese heritage. She has become one of the most prominent Asian stars in Hollywood after her debut appearance in "The Owl vs. Bombo" (1984). Her extensive filmography contains more than 70 screen credits and internationally recognizable roles, including Wai Lin in ""Tomorrow Never Dies"" (1997), Yu Shu Lien in ""Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"" (2000), and Eleanor Young in ""Crazy Rich Asians"" (2018).

Her initial claim to fame was occupying dual roles as being both an actress and her own stunt performer in Hong Kong martial arts films. She has continued to play an active role in movies, most recently filming fight scenes with martial art moves and rigged wires for "Everything Everywhere All at Once." The two hour film, released in March, stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American laundromat owner with financial and familial problems. Evelyn is deeply flawed, but she saves the world after encountering strange versions of herself from alternate universes. The movie is a combination of action, dark humor, science fiction, and absurd fantasy, which has struck a chord with global audiences due to its thematic explorations of Asian American identity, generational trauma, and love.

In the past, Yeoh has been vocal about the need for diversity and inclusion in the film industry, and she has paved a path for representation by bringing to life complex Asian characters on screen. Her role as Evelyn Wang is merely another demonstrative example. To this day , her flourishing career is one of the best examples of Asian excellence in Hollywood, and the doctorate is a deserved recognition of her talent.

Yeoh is being recognized by the AFI alongside Lawrence Herbert, the inventor of the Pantone color system, who received a Doctorate of Communication Arts. Both received their degrees in a live streamed ceremony on the AFI Conservatory website.

Editors: Chris F., Chelsea D., Leandra S., Lang D.


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