Michelle Yeoh's win in the Best Actress category marked a first for Asian representation at the Academy Awards, held Sunday night in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Yeoh, who is of Chinese descent and was born in Malaysia, was honored for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once, a movie that has been described as science fiction, drama and even comedy. She was the first person of Asian descent to prevail in the category. More winners of Asian descent were the film's writer, director and producer Daniel Kwan, who received awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, as well as Ke Huy Quan, awarded as Best Supporting Actor.
Looking only at the so-called Big Five categories, which are those considered the most prestigious, Oscar winners of Asian or Pacific Islander descent are more numerous than those from other racial or ethnic backgrounds. Especially in the last couple of years, Asian wins were recorded in the categories Best Director, Best Picture or Best Screenplay. These included six wins total by Nomadland's and Parasite's directors and producers Chloé Zhao and Bong Joon-ho as well as Jojo Rabbit's writer, Taika Waititi.
Black actors, meanwhile, have been the most prolific. Will Smith, Forest Whitaker, Jaime Foxx, Denzel Washington and - as a first in 1964 - Sidney Poitier have all taken home the coveted trophy for Best Actor. Halle Berry remains the only Black women with a Best Actress award. In the screenplay categories, Black writers have been honored for the movies Precious (2009), 12 Years a Slave (2013), Moonlight (2016) and BlacKkKlansman (2018).
Latin American representation remains the most scare in the major acting categories. Spanish-language actors and actresses who managed to earn the respective nominations (even without wins yet) are more often from Spain itself - think Antonio Banderas, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz -, letting any wins for leading Latin Americans seem even further away. The only winner so far, Puerto Rican José Ferrer, won in 1951 for adventure comedy Cyrano de Bergerac. Again, more wins can be counted in the directing, producing and writing categories, where Mexicans Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro are notable examples.
When it comes to Middle Eastern and Arab representation, the group has seen the least wins but also the most equally spread across categories. The most recent honoree - in the Best Actor category - was Egyptian-American Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). But film professionals of Israeli, Lebanese, Syrian and Armenian descent, among them Natalie Portman and Cher, have been honored in the Oscar Big Five categories since the 1980s.