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Dato’ Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng (traditional Chinese: ???; simplified Chinese: ???; pinyin: Yáng Ziqióng; Cantonese (Yale romanization): yèuhng jí kìhng; born 6 August 1962) is a BAFTA Award-nominated actress and dancer, well known for performing her own stunts in the action films that brought her to fame in the early 1990s.
Born in Ipoh, Malaysia, she is based in Hong Kong and was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World in 1997.
She is best known in the Western world for her roles in the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, playing Wai Lin, and the multiple Academy Award-winning Chinese action film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, for which she was nominated the BAFTA for “Best Actress”. In 2008, the film critic website Rotten Tomatoes ranked her the greatest action heroine of all time.
She is credited as Michelle King and Michelle Khan in some of her earlier films.
Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng was born to a prominent ethnic Chinese family in Ipoh, Malaysia on 6 August 1962. Her parents were Janet Yeoh and Dato’ Yeoh Kian Teik, a lawyer and MCA politician. She was very active when she was young and had a passion for dance. She started to study ballet at the age of four years old. At age 15, her parents accompanied her to England and enrolled her at a boarding school there. Yeoh later entered London Royal Academy of Dance, majoring in Ballet. However, a spinal injury ended her dream of being a prima ballerina, and she consequently had to switch her focus away from dance to choreography and other arts. She later received a B.A. degree in Creative Arts with a minor in Drama.
In 1983, at the age of 21, Yeoh won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant. She was also Malaysia’s representative at the 1983 Miss World pageant in London. From there, she appeared in a television commercial with Jackie Chan which caught the attention of a fledgling Hong Kong film production company, D&B Films.
Yeoh’s career in Hong Kong started with a few commercials for Charles Jourdan, opposite action movie heroes Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-Fat before being offered a film contract. The Charles Jourdan brand was handled by D&B Group in Hong Kong, run by Yeoh’s future husband, Dickson Poon. In 1988, she retired from acting after marrying Poon. Three years later, the couple divorced and Yeoh returned to acting in 1992. Her first movie after the comeback was Police Story 3, which was partly shot in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.