Truly Asian World-Class Talents from Malaysia

by SEA Wave
Truly Asian World-Class Talents from Malaysia
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By: Melany Mabagos

Diverse and authentic portrayals of cultural identities and groups are crucial in pop culture, especially since media not only reflects, but also shapes reality. Recently, many Southeast Asians have been garnering attention around the world. World-class talents have been conquering stereotypes and showcasing the richness of Southeast Asian culture, with Malaysian stars taking over the international stage.

Here are some Malaysian international stars  that have taken the world by storm with their unique approaches and amazing achievements in their respective fields.

Michelle Yeoh 

Michelle Yeoh wins Best Actress at the 95th Academy Awards

Photo from Getty Images

Most known for her contributions to Hong Kong action films and her recent Academy Award-winning performance, Michelle Yeoh has proven that talent is timeless. Before her acting career, Yeoh joined pageants and competitions, winning the 1983 Miss Malaysia World contest and representing the country at the 1984 Miss World in London where she placed 18th. She also won the 1984 Miss Moomba International pageant in Australia.

In the same year, Yeoh debuted as an actress in Hong Kong with a small role in the action-drama film, Mao Tou Ying Yu Xiao Fei Xiang (The Owl vs. Bumbo). Yeoh went on to gain recognition for starring in various action films and doing her own stunts, the most notable being Ging Chaat Goo Si III: Chiu kup ging chaat (Police Story 3: Supercop) with action star Jackie Chan. 

Yeoh continued her rise to fame when she stepped into Hollywood, working on various projects from period dramas like Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), to sci-fi like Sunshine (2007), and even animation like Kung-Fu Panda 2 (2011). Yeoh is now one of the most recognizable Malaysian faces in Hollywood, starring in the box office hit and critical darling, Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) and the global phenomenon, Crazy Rich Asians (2018), raising the bar on Asian female empowerment.

Henry Golding

Henry Golding as the eponymous Snake Eyes

Photo from Paramount Pictures

Another familiar face from Crazy Rich Asians, Henry Golding is a British-Malaysian host, actor, and model. Born in Malaysia, Golding moved to England at the age of 8, where he became a hairdresser in London at a young age.

Golding moved back to his home country at the age of 21 where he decided to pursue his passion for being an entertainer. He started his career as a travel show host, which resulted in him eventually becoming a presenter on BBC’s The Travel Show in 2014.

While he was previously known primarily as a TV presenter, Golding had his breakout role as the male lead in Crazy Rich Asians, leading to a budding acting career, and in 2021, he was recognized as Asia’s Most Influential Malaysian by Tatler Asia.

He continues to act as he strives to elevate Asian representation in the Global Film Industry, recently starring in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024) alongside Henry Cavill, Eiza Gonzalez and Alan Ritchson.

James Wan

James at the red carpet premiere of M3GAN

Photo from Getty Images

James Wan is a Malaysian-born filmmaker who made a name for himself directing, writing and producing the SAW franchise. Though he grew up in Australia and is now based in California, James is still influenced by Asian culture. According to him, hearing Asian ghost stories as a kid greatly affected his views and the way he executes films such as Insidious (2010), The Conjuring (2013), and Annabelle (2014). 

Although known primarily for his horror films, Wan has also directed blockbusters such as Furious 7 (2015), Aquaman (2018) and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023). He also established Atomic Monster in 2014, a production company responsible for producing The Conjuring franchise and M3GAN (2022).

Wan continues to show us the creative vision of Asians, whether through his work directing, producing or writing films for audiences to enjoy.

Nigel “Uncle Roger” Ng

Photo from Nigel Ng

Born Nigel Ng Kin-ju, this famous Malaysian comedian and content creator is more known for his character, Uncle Roger—a middle-aged uncle who critiques people’s attempts at cooking traditional Asian food.

Uncle Roger first went viral in 2020 for critiquing a BBC Food video about egg-fried rice, which now has over 38 million views on YouTube. Within a span of 4 years, he was able to gain more than 9 Million subscribers on the platform, having collaborated with celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver.

Nigel recently completed his standup tour called “The HAIYAA Tour,” where he performed over one hundred shows across the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and Asia to over a hundred thousand fans.

As a relatable Asian uncle on his platforms, Nigel’s content has become an eye-opener to his diverse audience about the richness of Asian cuisine and the many ways to prepare Asian dishes.

Jimmy Choo

Photo from Jimmy Choo

Yes, you read that right—the person behind the luxury fashion house is a Malaysian. Jimmy Choo started taking an interest in shoemaking at a young age, learning all he could from his father who was a shoe cobbler. This inspired him to pursue fashion and design, and at the age of 11 years old, Choo made his first pair of slippers in his hometown of Penang, Malaysia.

In the 1980s, Choo moved to London to study fashion, and after several years of working at a design firm, he started his own business, opening a shop at an old hospital building. As he continued designing shoes, handbags and other accessories, his works were eventually noticed at London Fashion Week and featured in an eight-page spread in Vogue magazine. Jimmy Choo and his famed works have become a household name ever since, being featured in sitcoms like Sex and the City and patronized by Princess Diana of Wales.

As Jimmy Choo continues to innovate in the world of fashion and design, he show us the strength of Asian aesthetics and our passion for our craft.

Southeast Asian representation across various industries have seen significant progress, showcasing the diverse talents of individuals from every region. Michelle, Nicholas, James, Nigel, and Jimmy are just some Malaysians who are leading the charge by breaking through stereotypes on the global stage. It is truly inspiring to see Southeast Asians shine in such a wide range of roles, showcasing their world-class talent!.

Are there any world-class talents from Malaysia that you would like to include in the list? Let us know in the comments!


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