Sunday, November 17, 2013

Michelle Yeoh, Malaysia’s Shining Star

Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng, is a stunning Malaysian actress who rose to fame while performing her own stunts in various action films produced by the Hong Kong film industry in the mid 1980’s.

The petite actress who stands 5 feet 4” tall was born Yeoh Chu-Kheng in the mining town of Ipoh in West Malaysia in 1962 and learned to speak Malay and English before she learned Chinese.  Yeoh began to study ballet when she was four years old and moved to London as a teenager to continue her instruction at the Royal Academy of Dance.

However, a dance career was not destined for Yeoh, as a spinal injury cut short her dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. Michelle Yeoh then went on to become a beauty pageant winner, winning the Miss Malaysia title in 1983 and the Miss Moomba title in Melbourne in the same year. She also represented her native country at the Miss World pageant held in London in 1983.

An appearance in a commercial with famed Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan in 1984 caught the attention of Hong Kong film production company D&B films. She soon began to appear in a spate of action movies like ‘Yes Madam’ where she did her own stunts. Yeoh was not a trained martial artist but relied on her dance training to prepare for her action scenes.

In 1988, Yeoh married D&B films executive Dickson Poon and retired from movies but the couple divorced in 1992. After her divorce, she returned to acting and made several Chinese movies and also went on to be star in Hollywood films like the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Ang Lee’s phenomenally successful Oscar winner, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Since then she has started in various other English-language films like Memoirs of a Geisha, Sunshine, the Reign of the Assassins and the controversial Luc Besson ouvre, the Lady where she portrayed Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.  A role, which actually resulted in her deportation from Burma in 2011.

Yeoh, during her long and illustrious career has won several accolades like the title of Dato conferred by the sultan of Perak in 1991, Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (2007), Officier de la Légion d'honneur(2012), Datuk Seri’(2012), Tan Shri(2013) amongst many others.

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