Best Actress Oscar: has award ever gone to a non-white winner - did Michelle Yeoh win at Oscars 2023 ceremony?

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Everything Everywhere All At Once star Michelle Yeoh made history at the 95th Oscars ceremony with her Best Actress win

Michelle Yeoh made history at the 95th Oscars awards ceremony after multiverse sci-fi epic Everything Everywhere All At Once won big.

Five of the nominees for Best Actress this year were white - with the exception of Michelle Yeoh, who was nominated for her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Yeoh had already received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for her performance in the quirky comedy drama, and as a result of bagging the Oscar, she became the first Asian-American to win the award.

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But when was the last time a non-white actress scooped the award, and how many people of colour have taken home a Best Actress trophy in the past? Here is everything you need to know.

Who was the last non-white woman to win Best Actress?

Prior to the 2023 Oscar awards ceremony, you would have to go back 21 years to find the last non-white woman to have won the Best Actress award.

That was Halle Berry at the 2002 Academy Awards, who won for her portrayal of Leticia Musgrove, the struggling widow at the centre of romantic drama Monster’s Ball.

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Halle Berry accepts her Oscar for Best Actress for Monster’s Ball during the 74th Academy Awards in 2002 (Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)Halle Berry accepts her Oscar for Best Actress for Monster’s Ball during the 74th Academy Awards in 2002 (Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Halle Berry accepts her Oscar for Best Actress for Monster’s Ball during the 74th Academy Awards in 2002 (Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images) | Getty Images

Not only is Berry the last woman of colour to have won the award before Yeoh. Before Yeoh’s win, Berry was the only person of colour with a Best Actress award under their belt.

Did Michelle Yeoh win?

Yeoh claimed the Oscar for Best Actress, fending off competition from two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett to become the first woman from an Asian background to win the prize.

Taking to the stage, she said: “For all the little boys and girls who look like me, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. Dream big, dreams do come true. Ladies, never let anyone tell you you are past your prime.”

She added: “This is history in the making.”

Speaking in the winners room later, she told reporters that she had “kung-fud” the “glass ceiling” with her win.

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“I think this is something that we have been working so hard towards for a very long time and tonight we frigging broke that glass ceiling,” she said.

“I kung-fud it out and shattered it, and we need this because there are so many who have felt unseen or unheard.”

Michelle Yeoh attends the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images )Michelle Yeoh attends the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images )
Michelle Yeoh attends the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images ) | Getty Images

Best Actress was arguably one of the closest awards to call this year, with Yeoh and Cate both flitting from bookies’ favourite to second-favourite to take home the famous statue. Both actresses had already picked up Best Actress awards at multiple other ceremonies this awards season for their performances in Everything Everywhere All At One and Tár respectively.

Other nominees in the category included Ana De Armas for Blonde, Michelle Williams for The Fabelmans and Andrea Riseborough for To Leslie.

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However, it was Yeoh who emerged victorious, with Everything Everywhere All At Once claiming seven prizes throughout the course of the awards ceremony. The film had enjoyed an incredibly strong award season run prior to the Oscars - it recently won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy as well as picking up awards at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards.

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