National Public Radio (NPR) referred to Malaysian-born actress Michelle Yeoh as a “person who identifies as Asian” last night following the 95th Academy Awards.
Yeoh won an Oscar for best actress in a leading role for her performance in 2022’s Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. NPR claimed Yeoh’s win marked the first time an Asian woman has won the Academy Award for best actress.
The outlet noted her win in a late-Sunday tweet.
“[BREAKING]: Michelle Yeoh wins the Oscar for best actress making history as the first person who identifies as Asian to win the award,” NPR wrote Sunday.
#BREAKING: Michelle Yeoh wins the Oscar for best actress making history as the first person who identifies as Asian to win the award.https://t.co/u3f8TpIZZl
— NPR (@NPR) March 13, 2023
Twitter users responded to NPR’s choice of language announcing Yeoh’s Academy Award win.
“She IS Asian because she was born Asian. It doesn’t matter how she ‘identifies,’ what does that even mean?” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ former press secretary Christina Pushaw.
“‘Identifies as’? What is that? We can all identify as anything we want now? But I thought that was cultural appropriation. I’m getting mental whiplash,” said another user.
Other users appeared to support NPR’s language, noting Merle Oberon was previously nominated for an Academy Award though kept her heritage a secret due to “racism.”
Twitter also placed a community note under the tweet noting NPR’s post was missing context.
“The tweet is factually correct, but missing context to explain wording,” the note states. “Merle Oberon was the first Asian woman nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1935. Oberon hid her heritage to avoid discrimination. Michelle Yeoh, however, is open about her Asian heritage.”
Backstage at the Oscars press room, Yeoh referred to her Oscar win as a “historical moment,” IndieWire reported.
“I really have to thank the Academy for acknowledging and embracing diversity and true representation,” she said. “I think this is something that we have been working so hard towards for a very long time, and tonight we freaking broke that glass ceiling. I kung fu’d it out and shattered it.”
“We need this, because there are so many who have felt unseen, unheard. It’s not just the Asian community — this is for everyone who has ever identified as a minority,” she continued. “We deserve to be heard, we deserve to be seen, we deserve to have equal opportunities so we can have a seat at the table. That’s all we are asking for. Give us that opportunity, let us prove we are worth it.”
Everything Everywhere All at Once features an absurdist multiverse in which Yeoh portrays Evelyn Wang, a Chinese first-generation immigrant who owns a laundromat.
Yeoh previously starred in 1995’s Tomorrow Never Dies, 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha, and 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians.