For Asian Americans, Yeoh, Quan’s Oscar wins are hers too

LOS ANGELES — Edward Dion Farinas watches the Oscars every year, but the Filipino-American didn’t expect to have such a violent reaction when he heard the announcement of Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh’s awards.

“I had a squeak that I wasn’t expecting,” said Farinas, who watched Sunday from his home in Austin, Texas, complete with “everything at once” pastries from a local Asian-American bakery.

“I was surprised how much I was invested. It’s not even about the acting. It really makes us feel like we can achieve things that aren’t normally on our path.”

Quan’s win for Best Supporting Actor and his comeback story of the childhood star of ’80s movies, coupled with Yeoh’s historic win as the inaugural Best Asian Actress of All-Time winner, had Asian viewers weeping with joy — and grinning. The “Everything Everywhere All at Once” co-stars bring the total number of Asians who have received an acting Oscar in the award’s 95-year history to just six.

For many Asian Americans, the film’s seven Oscars, including best picture, feel like a turning point — that Hollywood is moving on from only seeing them in tropes. It is an opportunity for optimism after three years of hatred against Asia caused by the pandemic.

Written and directed by Oscar-winning best director and best original screenplay winners Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known as the Daniels), the story revolves around a downtrodden Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, a disheveled laundromat owner who turns to an IRS – Exam prepared. Meanwhile, she struggles with an unhappy husband (Quan), her critical father (James Hong), and an openly lesbian daughter (Stephanie Hsu).

When Yeoh, while accepting her Oscar, said the award was for kids who look like her, the message “got straight to the heart,” said Jasmine Cho, a Korean.

“Now I look like I’m in my 60s,” said the 39-year-old. “I want to be like Michelle. She is my eternally evil female role model.”

Pittsburgh native Cho is nationally known for her cookie portraits of forgotten and famous Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and has garnered social media attention for her tributes to Yeoh and Quan. She hopes to one day give them the cookies because she was so inspired by their performances and attitude.

“I feel like they’ve already made history by being like the most awarded movie and all the other awards that they’ve received,” Cho said of the possibility the two didn’t take home Oscars have. “Well yes, I would have been a bit disappointed” if they hadn’t won. “But in my eyes they have already won.”

Yer Vang, a Hmong-American living in Minneapolis, was moved to tears by Quan and Yeoh’s acceptance speeches. She remembers coming out of the theater hoping for this scenario. Actually seeing it was “phenomenal”.

Quan’s comments about coming to the United States as a Vietnamese refugee and living in a refugee camp resonated especially because her parents went through it.

“It’s crazy because… that’s my mom’s story,” Vang said.

But all of the film’s Oscars (it also won best supporting actress for Jamie Lee Curtis and film editing) mean a lot to Asian Americans, she said. “It shows the community that we’ve done enough … and we deserve to be celebrated, whether it’s in the highest courts or just at home.”

Norman Chen, CEO of the Asian American Foundation, let out a scream and a fist bump for every Oscar the film received. The Foundation’s initiatives include fellowship and fellowship programs with the Sundance Institute. He called the impact of the victories massive.

This will enhance the narrative … to create more future actors, directors and screenwriters of Asian descent, Chen said.

“The recognition is finally here. Across society, people will also appreciate more in education and be more interested in Asian and Asian American history. It will change the mindset of Asian Americans who are foreigners.”


For more information on this year’s Academy Awards, visit:

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