Tag Archives: Michelle Yeoh

Two Women, Two Countries, One Goal


By Mariam Mokhtar

Michelle Yeoh

Ipoh’s own Hollywood star, Bond-girl Michelle Yeoh, is tipped for an Oscar in the movie ‘The Lady’, about Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader, to be screened at the Venice Film Festival this August.

Suu Kyi, who heads her party, The National League for Democracy (NLD), is also a Nobel Peace laureate. At the 1990 general elections, the NLD scored an outright landslide victory.

It was Suu Kyi’s personal sacrifice and her defence of human rights that has made her an iconic symbol for the Burmese people in their struggle for freedom.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Her father was Burma’s independence hero, Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947, when Suu Kyi was just two years old. Suu Kyi spent her early years studying in Burma and India, and it was during her student years in Oxford University, that she met her husband, Michael Aris, the Tibet Scholar.

Struggle for Democracy

When she came home to Burma in 1988 to nurse her sick mother, she became involved in her nation’s struggle for democracy. She witnessed the military regime quell the famous 8-8-88 uprising, by the Burmese people, when 5,000 demonstrators were killed.

The NLD was formed after the military coup in September 1988 and Suu Kyi was appointed its General Secretary. She travelled the country giving numerous speeches demanding freedom and democracy but attracted the attention of the authorities and her freedom was curtailed.

She spent over 15 years being incarcerated, most of it under house arrest under laws which allow for detention without charge or trial.

The NLD was triumphant in the general election of 1990 but victory was brushed aside by the military junta. The junta is still in power.

Mass Appeal Unabated

Last November, Suu Kyi was released from house arrest. The government-owned newspaper ‘The New Light of Burma’, which is published by the Ministry of Information, has said that the government’s Ministry of Home Affairs warned Suu Kyi that her political activities were tantamount to breaking the law.

A report said, “If they really want to accept and practise democracy effectively, they are to stop such acts that can harm peace and stability and the rule of law as well as the unity among the people including monks and service personnel.”

The military junta is fearful of the 66-year-old’s influence and her ability to sway the crowds. Even after years of detention, Suu Kyi’s mass appeal has not abated and international support for her is equally strong and popular.

Equally popular

Michelle Yeoh, our local heroine is no less popular in both Malaysian and international circles. Her action-thrillers, her Bond-girl role and her ability to perform the stunts in her movies have all added to her super-star status.

Her movies, ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, the James Bond film ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ and ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, have achieved universal acclaim.

‘The Lady’

Michelle paid a visit to Suu Kyi last December for the film which is directed by Luc Besson. ‘The Lady’ is a portrayal of the romance between Michael Aris and Suu Kyi, which is also shaped by political turmoil, her personal sacrifice and the suffering of her people. Scenes were shot in UK and France with the main shoot conducted in Thailand. The movie is slated to be released in October 2011.

Touched by the tenderness in the film, Michelle added: “More important for me is that people should know her story because unfortunately I think a lot of people have forgotten or don’t really understand what was going on because it’s been 20 years”.

In the month of June, Malaysia saw turmoil: its own people have placed a demand for freedom of another kind; Freedom from dirty politics and dirty election practices.

Historic Irony

How ironic that Michelle Yeoh was banned from entering Burma and deported by the military junta. On her arrival in Burma on June 22, she was detained and despatched on the next flight out of Rangoon. A Burmese official was reported to have told Reuters that Michelle had been on the government blacklist.

Perhaps Malaysia and Burma have more in common than being ASEAN members; Two women, two countries, one type of struggle. One lives the life of hardship, the other portrays it. Make no mistake, there are other differences. It just depends how one looks at things.

Michelle Yeoh – Ballet World’s Loss is Moviedom’s Gain


By See Foon Chan-Koppen

With 36 movies to her credit, asking Ipoh’s own celebrity Superstar Michelle Yeoh which was her favourite role is like asking a mother which is her favourite child. “Each role is different, with its own set of challenges, its own unique set of circumstances, its own environment. It’s like our circle of friends, some are more cheerful, others passionate, some pessimistic and some melodramatic.  And yet we love them all don’t we?” she said recently at her home in Ipoh.

Michelle Yeoh did not grow up aspiring to become a martial arts master or a movie star. Instead, her dream was to become a part of the world of ballet.

I caught up with Michelle recently when she was home for the Chinese New Year celebrations. Warm, vivacious and without the slightest trace of haughtiness that one would expect of a celebrity of her fame and stature, we sat down to chat like childhood girlfriends.

Born to Dato’ Yeoh Kian Teik (IE100 Anak Perak) and Datin Janet Yeoh in Ipoh in 1962, Michelle’s childhood was spent swimming and diving with her friends at the Ipoh Swimming Club.

Michelle was a tomboy and loved many sports. As a teenager, she represented Malaysia at national level for swimming, diving, and squash. She was the Perak state representative for squash and once the Malaysian Junior Squash Champion.

However, her real passion was in dance, particularly – ballet. Her mother, Datin Janet, recalls that Michelle started to dance before she could even walk, and later from age 15, the London Royal Academy of Dance honed her talent.

Michelle’s dream of being a prima ballerina was abruptly cut short by a spinal injury which she suffered at her college and consequently she had to switch her focus away from dance to choreography and other arts. In 1982, Michelle received a B.A. degree in Creative Arts with a minor in Drama and continued her graduate study in England.

Miss Malaysia and Movie Debut

When Datin Janet secretly entered her for the Miss Malaysia competition in 1983, Michelle complied to please her mother and the then still self-confessed tomboy went ahead with the rest of the competition. She was subsequently crowned Miss Malaysia at the age of 21.

Modelling and commercial contracts in Hong Kong followed at the end of her term as Miss Malaysia and a film contract by Dickson Poon in his newly founded film production company, D&B Films launched her film career.

Michelle’s first movie role in Sammo Hung’s action comedy, The Owl vs Dumbo (1984) marked her movie debut.

Birth of Action Star

A brief marriage to billionaire Dickson Poon in 1988 saw Michelle take a respite from acting but in 1992, she was warmly greeted by the Hong Kong film industry in her comeback role in the third instalment of Jackie Chan’s Police Story series, Police Story III: Supercop, where Michelle stole every scene she was in and easily matched him fight by fight, stunt by stunt. The film broke the box record in Asia and a female Action Star was born.

The High Price

But Action has its downsides and Michelle had to pay a high price in blood, sweat, tears and pain for the accolades as one of the highest paid actresses in Asia where she is known for doing her own fights and stunts. A dislocated shoulder, burns, and a ruptured artery in her leg were some of the injuries she collected along the way.

It was while in recuperation that Michelle decided to turn her talents to other roles which resulted in her nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Hong Kong Film Award) for her remarkable performance in Mabel Cheung’s historic drama The Soong Sisters – her first non-action movie.

International Star

Of the handful of female action actresses who came to prominence in Hong Kong films, Michelle was the first to make significant inroads into the West. Her first American release was Supercop. Michelle’s Colonel Wai Lin role in the 18th James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) definitely put her in the global spotlight.

The rest as they say is history. She went on to win many awards including being named International Star of the Year at ShoWest, the world’s largest motion picture industry convention. She has since become a film producer with her own film production company “Mythical Films” (Hong Kong) and launched, together with producer Terence Chang and Taiwanese journalist David Tang, a talent management company, “Stellar Entertainment Ltd.”, in 2008.


At Datin Janet Yeoh’s 70th birthday bash in Ipoh last year, with friends and Datuk Jimmy Choo celebrity shoe designer

Celebrity Philanthropist

Between films, Michelle keeps very busy with many charity projects to which she devotes her time and energy. “It is amazing how much clout celebrity status lends to a project. I am happiest when I am working for a good cause and if my star status can help to push the envelope then I give it my best effort,” she says with enthusiasm.

Her devotion to innumerable causes is legendary as is her indefatigable energy. From Aids Research, to raising funds for Cancer, to helping kids in Inner Mongolia and the poor in India; from the plight of the orang-utans, to being Ambassador for Mercy Malaysia.

Since 2007, Michelle Yeoh has been the global ambassador for the Make Roads Safe campaign. Her eyes light up as she describes the role she plays in this campaign. She has travelled to different regions in Asia, Africa and Latin America to promote global road safety in developing countries. ‘Turning Point – A Journey on the World’s Killer Roads’, the documentary Michelle made for the campaign, premiered in Rome in May 2009, during the launch of the ‘Make Roads Safe: A decade of Action for Road Safety’. In June 2009, Michelle filmed a documentary on orang-utans rescue in Malaysia for the National Geographic Channel, ‘Among the Great Apes with Michelle Yeoh’. For all these projects, Michelle works for free, a reflection of the generous spirit she embodies. “I get such a sense of fulfilment and happiness working for causes,” she modestly declares.

Michelle as Aung San Suu Kyi in 'The Lady'

Weighty Question

Michelle’s latest movie is a biopic on the Burmese democracy icon and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. For this movie, ‘The Lady’, which will be released in the fall this year, Michelle had to get her weight down to 41kg from her usual 47kg. This meant cutting down on her meals from six to four. “Six meals a day?” I asked incredulous to which she replied, “Yes I have a very high metabolic rate plus I exercise every day. I love food especially the food here in Ipoh. So I am very diligent about my exercise. Even if I have to wake up at 4.30 to be ready for work at 6.30, I will factor in that minimum one hour for my workout.”

Coming Home to Ipoh

So what’s on the cards for Michelle? When I asked if marriage plans are imminent, Michelle who is engaged to Jean Todt, previous general manager and CEO of Ferrari and now president of the FIA, waved the question aside with a light-hearted, “Let’s keep my private life aside shall we?”

As for the question of where her main home is, she replied with alacrity, “Ipoh is my main home. This house is where I come home to.”

Come home often Michelle Yeoh – Ipoh is extremely proud of you!

Michelle Yeoh fans can get every bit of trivia, minutiae and details on her films, her life from any number of websites on the Internet. One of the most current and constantly updated is: http://michelleyeoh.info/.

Good News at CNY Open House


Perak Menteri Besar, Dato’ Seri Dr. Zambry Abdul Kadir is optimistic that more foreign investors will make Perak their base considering the number of inquiries he received to date. He said this to reporters at his Chinese New Year open house on Thursday, February 3. “I’ve received invitations from companies and individuals from Japan, Germany, USA and some European countries for discussions. They’re keen to know what kinds of investment opportunities are available in Perak,” he said.

Over 5,000 guests of all races gathered at the MB’s residence on Chinese New Year day, to usher in the golden Year of the Rabbit. Although the event was scheduled at 2.00 p.m., a large crowd had gathered at the gates well before opening time. Dato’ Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir and his wife, Datin Seri Saripah Zulkifli, mixed freely with the visitors and were seen entertaining the young and old. They gave away ang pows to orphans and senior citizens who were specially invited for the occasion.

Hollywood luminary and Ipoh’s icon, Dato’ Michelle Yeoh, was among the dignitaries who came a calling. “I am intrigued by the festivity and will not miss this opportunity to be with fellow Ipohites,” she told reporters.


Kinta Swimming Club Officially Opened


Kinta Swimming Club at Jalan Silibin, which boasted the country’s first Olympic freshwater swimming pool, was recently reopened after being closed for 18 years. It has been refurbished at a total cost of RM5 million.

It's official (l-r) Dato' Seri Ong, VP Hong Soon Kheong, President Hong Weng Kuen, Dato' Michelle and Dato' Yeoh Kian Teik

The MP for Tanjung Malim, Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Chuan, officiated at the opening ceremony. Also present were Ipoh’s favourite daughter and Bond girl Dato’ Michelle Yeoh and her father Dato’ Yeoh Kian Teik, a past President of the Club.

The current President of the club is Mr Hong Weng Kuen and the Vice President is Mr Hong Soon Kheong.

Dato’ Yeoh in his speech related how the club’s founder, the late Mr Foo Wha Cheong had approached his grandfather, the late Yeoh Khuan Joo, in the early 30s with the desire to set up a swimming club for non-Europeans. At that time there was only one swimming club available but was exclusive to Europeans.

The Kinta Swimming Club with a wooden clubhouse was officially launched in 1936 by the Sultan of Perak Sultan Iskandar Shah. In the mid fifties the club was renovated whereby the pool was tiled and a filtration plant built as well as a new clubhouse. It was officially opened by Ipoh Council Chairman Mr G.S. Walker in 1957.

Dato' Michell is made a Patron of the Club

Since its inception the Kinta Swimming Club, being a public pool with continuous supply of fresh water piped in from Kledang Hill by a tin mine belonging to Leong Sin Nam located in the vicinity, proved very popular. Various schools sent their students to learn how to swim and also used it for life-saving training.

The club also produced two outstanding swimmers, Cheah Tong Kim, who represented Malaysia in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and Ong Mei Lin who represented the country in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Cheah Tong Kim, an ACS schoolboy, recalls some good memories of the club which he referred to as a second home. “Its entrance fee was 50 sen and we would stay there the whole day swimming or playing water polo at the deep end,” he said. In the sixties Cheah had the reputation of being the fastest breaststroke swimmer in the country. He was also a finalist in the 100m breaststroke at the 1966 commonwealth games in Kingston.

In 1992 the lease for the premises expired and the club was closed.

According to President, Hong, “KSC is not an Elite Club. We cater for the ‘Family-in-the-Street’,” he said.

The club is currently recruiting Transferable Subscribing Members. For enquiries the club can be contacted at: 05-5278417 or 05-5260226.


Dato’ Yeoh Kian Teik – Legal Stalwart and Transport Mogul


By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

When one of your 18 children is an international superstar, you have every reason to rest on your laurels but not Dato’ Yeoh Kian Teik, father of Bond girl Datuk Michelle Yeoh and one of Ipoh’s most loyal residents. Where his six other siblings have flourished elsewhere, Kian Teik remained behind in Ipoh, carrying on his father’s transportation business and becoming a transportation mogul in his own right.

Kian Teik is a second-generation Yeoh to call St Michael’s Institution his alma mater, his whole family from his father to all his five brothers being alumni. From high school, Kian Teik went on to study law at Lincoln’s Inn in the UK, returning to Ipoh to start his legal practice and continue in the transport industry in which his father was a founding member in 1937 and responsible for setting up of the town bus. He remained as a Director on the three transport companies, the General Omnibus, Kinta Omnibus and Reliance Omnibus for many years. Kian Teik set up Sri Maju, an executive coach service, in 1975 with the Ipoh-Singapore routing. Today Sri Maju plies the highways from Haadyai, Thailand, in the north to Singapore in the south with many stops at major cities and towns in between.

Less Hectic Lifestyle

In a career that spans almost sixty years, Kian Teik who is now 84, can still be seen at his desk at the Sri Maju’s office in Jalan Bendahara taking care of business as his staff walk in and out demanding his attention on various matters. His law firm is now in the hands of one of his daughters and Kian Teik who was Chairman of the Perak Bar Association on and off for many years, says he doesn’t miss practicing law and now prefers a less hectic lifestyle, working mornings and spending his afternoons on leisure activities which may include playing mahjong and hobbies around fish, whether sea fishing or breeding and watching aquarium fish.

“The only thing I miss about my law practice is the legal fights I used to have with the Seenivasagam brothers, be it in court or in the political arena”, he admitted. “It was thoroughly enjoyable – total no-holds-barred-battles – and we would remain good friends in and out of the courts”, he added.

Computer Savvy

The day I visited Kian Teik in his office, he was sitting at his desk peering into his computer. “No fear of technology for this 84 year-old” I thought to myself, and went on to discover that this is his way of staying in touch with his pan-global family of 18 children and 39 grandchildren, the fruit of a colourful personal life. “I started using a computer when I bought a computer for one of my grandsons who was six years old at the time. He became my computer coach and today I communicate with my extended family, aside from family gatherings, through email and Skype.”

Significant Moments

When asked about significant moments in his long and illustrious career as one of the legal stalwarts of Ipoh, Kian Teik proudly pointed to a framed photograph on the wall beside him and said, “meeting with Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1970”, further identifying Tun Sambanthan and Tun Razak and Tun Ismail in the same picture.
He was active in the MCA for many years adding that “in those days, we had to take money out of our own pockets to support the party”. He was also a Member of the Senate from 1959 till 1969.  Kian Teik is particularly proud of his role in ensuring that nomination papers for both State and general elections were always properly filled out and no seats were ever lost in Perak, unlike what happened in some other states, owing to faulty nomination papers. This was a responsibility he fulfilled till 1995 and to date the untarnished record still exists as testimony to his meticulous stewardship.

Humble Homily

When questioned on the oft touted topic of his influence on the career of his celebrity daughter Michelle Yeoh, he modestly demurred and said, “Her talent speaks for itself. All I have ever emphasised to her is to be humble and friendly. That no matter how successful she becomes on the world stage, to remember that we’re all born equal and there is no need to be high and mighty. I teach all my children this same homily”. And judging by the few exchanges I’ve had with Michelle Yeoh, I can certainly vouch for the efficacy of Kian Teik’s teaching to his daughter for she is without doubt one of the most down-to-earth superstars one could ever have the pleasure of meeting. An abiding legacy from one of Ipoh’s living legends.

Empress Janet’s Royal Banquet


Seated: Michelle (l), father (middle) & mother Datin Janet Yeoh (r) with other family members
Caroline (right) with Datuk Jimmy Choo

It was a night of glamour and revelry as some of Ipoh’s glitterati dressed up to celebrate Datin Janet Yeoh’s 70th birthday at the Tower Regency Hotel. Themed ‘Empress Janet’s Royal Banquet’ guests were invited to come dressed as Princes and Princesses of the world. Datuk Michelle Yeoh graced the occasion to celebrate with her mother but her poor fiancé Datuk Jean Todt was grounded by the ash cloud in Europe. Datuk Jimmy Choo of designer shoe fame also came by, albeit for a brief appearance. Caroline Wong was selected best dressed Princess of the evening in her captivating red gown and Cheng Hao Nam the best dressed Prince. A live band entertained as guests danced and ‘karaoked’ through the evening.