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Why Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan’s SAG Win Made “My Heart Explode”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USF chapter.

I have never really paid attention to award shows whether they are related to film, television, etc. The last time I remember even slightly paying attention to award shows was when I used to be a big One Direction fan, and would spam Twitter with various hashtags to cast votes but never really stuck around to hear if they won or not. With how revolutionary the film, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once was, I knew that both the cast and the movie itself have been nominated for awards left and right. But just like when I was younger, I never stuck around to hear if they won. However, when Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan made history becoming the first Asian female and male, to win SAG’s Female Actor in a Leading Role and Male Actor in a Supporting Role, respectively, I couldn’t ignore it.

Woman hugging her daughter at night time.

As an Asian-American, I grew up feeling as if I was just there. Growing up, I felt as if I was the only one. I went to an elementary school as the only Asian kid in my grade, possibly even the whole school. I remember my peers would make friends easily, having relatable experiences to their cultures while I wouldn’t be able to laugh along with them or relate to their memories. I would just sit next to them and listen. I thought at first, it was just me being shy, not wanting to speak or share my own cultural upbringing. Once I got past the shy phase, I would still be there, just listening. Of course we had our childhood games and our favorite shows that we could talk about, but we ate different foods, used different words, and navigated spaces differently, which there is nothing wrong about being different. Now that I am older, I figured it was a combination of me being shy but also not knowing how to navigate the spaces I never really knew or had. Asians are supposed to be quiet and accommodating but also really, really smart and that is how I always presented myself. No one really expected me to talk about my interests or add my opinion to the conversation but they did expect me to know the answers to whatever question was asked. One day, I realized that it was just not me.

I realized that we were presented that way and never given the space to go past that, to grow, to fill up our potentials. Now that I am in college, I have had the opportunity to meet other Asian Americans and found out that this is a common experience, especially if growing up in a place where there weren’t many Asians around. We just had to take what life gave us and say “Thank you.” Actor, James Hong even said that 70 years ago, “the producers said that Asians were not good enough and they are not box office.” He took that and was forced to keep it to himself. For the longest time, we yearned to be represented accurately in movies and television shows, not just the quiet, smart people that sit and listen or the funny side character, but as normal people who experience life like everyone else. When Michelle Yeoh said, “This is for every little girl who looks like me. Thank you for giving me a seat at the table, because so many of us need this. We want to be seen. We want to be heard.” She was speaking the truth. As Hollywood continues to open its doors to other people, allowing Asians and other minorities to share the space, I reveal more and more pride for my culture as well as motivation to keep going. To keep taking up space. To push past the stereotypes and expectations placed on me. As Ke Huy Quan said, “For all those at home who are watching, who are struggling and waiting to be seen. Please keep on going because the spotlight will one day find you.” 

Serena is an aspiring Medical student majoring in Biology with a concentration in Medical Biology. She has written for most of her life, earning a Silver Medal along with numerous Gold and Silver keys from the Scholastics Art and Writing Awards, publication for her poetry, as well as performed a spoken word piece at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami. Most of her work centers around her identity as a Filipino Mestizo. Usually, you'll find her sipping on an iced matcha latte, experimenting with different foods, and exploring the places around her. Check her out on Instagram: @SerenaLozandi