Who are the other Malaysian celebrities on the world's stage?

Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh is only one of the many Malaysian celebrities making waves abroad.

Michelle Yeoh arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party after the 95th Academy Awards, known as the Oscars,  in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., March 13, 2023. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Michelle Yeoh arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party after the 95th Academy Awards, known as the Oscars, in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., March 13, 2023. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

By Natasha Joibi

Malaysian star Michelle Yeoh "ninja-kicked" yet another glass ceiling with her Best Actress win at the 95th Academy Awards for her starring role in the box office hit Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Being the first Malaysian and also the first Asian woman to win an Oscar, this girl from Ipoh has made history for all Asians and Malaysians alike.

Yet while it's her portrayal of universe-jumping Chinese American immigrant Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once that's elicited much praise, the truth is that Yeoh has been an established name for decades; from making an indelible mark in Hong Kong films to breaking into Hollywood as a Bond girl and going on to score star turns in, among others, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, Crazy Rich Asians and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Malaysian celebrity Michelle Yeoh at the Screen Actors Guild Awards with her award trophies
Malaysian celebrity Michelle Yeoh has broken many glass ceilings thanks to the box office and critical success of Everything Everywhere All At Once. (Photo: Getty Images)

Importantly, too, Yeoh's isn’t the only Malaysian doing big things on the international stage.

Here's a look at a few others who have not just made impressive strides, but become household names.

Yuna — Singing Sensation

A photo of Malaysian celebrity Yuna, performing on stage.
Malaysian songstress Yuna was nominated for a Black Entertainment Television (BET) award for her breakout single with Usher, Crush. (Photo: Associated Press)

Yunalis Mat Zara'ai a.k.a. Yuna is a singer-songwriter like few others, with a musical style that cuts across genres and has earned her much praise and success both in Malaysia and the United States.

She has, to date, worked with Grammy-winning producer Pharrell Williams; performed at Lollapalooza, Coachella and South by Southwest (SXSW), and found herself in the company of pop luminaries like Beyoncé, Rihanna and John Legend when her album Chapters was included among Billboard's Best R&B Albums of 2016.

She’s even gone down in history as the first Malaysian to be nominated for a Black Entertainment Television (BET) award for her breakout single with Usher, Crush.

Incidentally, Yuna has openly spoken about maintaining her faith and hijab despite pressures for successful artistes to look a certain way.

Ronny Chieng — Jester Correspondent

Malaysian comedian Ronnie Chieng in an interview with The Late Show host, Stephen Colbert.
Ronny Chieng has gone from correspondent on The Daily Show to starring in Hollywood hits like Crazy Rich Asians. He's seen here with The Late Show host, Stephen Colbert. (Photo: Getty Images)

A stand-up comedian who’s best known for his work on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Johor Bahru, Malaysia-born Ronny Chieng has come a long way. And if the stars align, he could be set to go even further.

A third culture kid who grew up in Singapore, moved to Australia to attend university, and then headed on to the US, Chieng wasn't always sure comedy was for him. But he eventually found his calling during his student days in Australia. And then caught the eye of Trevor Noah, who invited him to perform at a comedy fest in 2013, and later enlisted him for The Daily Show.

Now, Chieng finds himself with starring roles in Hollywood movies (he was in Crazy Rich Asian and Shang-Chi with Michelle Yeoh) and two Netflix stand-up specials under his belt.

And who knows? He might even be up for the job of Daily Show host. Fingers crossed.

Henry Golding — Bornean Heartthrob

British-Malaysian Henry Golding posing for the camera at the Critics Choice Awards.
He’s not going to be the next James Bond, but Henry Golding has made a name for himself since Crazy Rich Asians. (Photo: Getty Images)

Yet another Crazy Rich Asians alumnus, British-Malaysian Henry Golding rose to prominence after starring as debonair Nick Young in that award-winning film. And he’s been on an upward trajectory ever since, smashing barriers left, right and centre.

For example, he stands as being the first Asian to be made a GQ "Men of the Year" cover star.

Did you know, though, that this hairstylist-turned-heartthrob was born into the Iban tribe of Sarawak; an ethnic group on the island of Borneo? In fact, Golding's journey of self-discovery in his Iban homeland was documented in the Discovery series Surviving Borneo.

These days, however, it’s all about interesting film roles. Hence a long list of hits, that includes A Simple Favor, Last Christmas and The Gentlemen, and the actor jumping at the chance to demonstrate his action-acting prowess when he played the titular character in the G.I. Joe spinoff Snake Eyes.

Yet while the world does indeed appear to be Golding's oyster right now, with acting offers aplenty, he has had to shut down one persistent rumour — that he won't be the next James Bond.

Nigel Ng — Everybody's Asian Uncle

Nigel Ng performing as Uncle Roger in an orange polo tee in one of his stand up performances.
Self-proclaimed fried rice enthusiast, "Uncle Roger", is Nigel's staple character in many of his acts. (Photo: Nigel Ng/Facebook)

Uncle Roger is his stage name, and slagging off Jamie Oliver is his game.

Nigel Ng, in case you didn't already know, is a stand-up comedian, actor and YouTube star. But the guy really shot to fame when, at the height of the pandemic, he posted a savage reaction video to British cooking show host Hersha Patel draining rice using a colander. That’s when the overly-critical rice connoisseur known as Uncle Roger was born.

But while it is Ng's parody of an orange polo tee-wearing, old-fashioned Asian uncle that has gained him a global following of millions, he is an excellent comedian in his own right.

He's performed at comedy clubs and festivals around the UK, US, Australia, Singapore and of course, Malaysia. He even has his own comedy podcast called HAIYAA, where he, surprisingly, talks a lot about interior design.

Incidentally, bet you didn't know that Ng is an engineering grad who worked as a data scientist for various tech startups before pursuing comedy full-time.

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