Michelle Yeoh Remembers Being Called a ‘Banana’ For Not Being ‘Chinese Enough’
“Crazy Rich Asians” star Michelle Yeoh revealed in a recent interview that she was called a “banana” to mock her for not acting “properly like a Chinese person.”
The Malaysian-born actress appeared alongside fellow CRA cast members Constance Wu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong and Henry Golding on the entertainment program BUILD Series. Yeoh described at the 18:05 mark the kind of discrimination she experienced.
“When I first went to Hong Kong, they didn’t see me as a pure Chinese because I grew up in Malaysia. I don’t know how to write Chinese and didn’t speak Chinese very well,” she was quoted as saying.
One incident she recalled was when she asked for an English menu at a restaurant in Chinatown in England.
“I didn’t know how to use chopsticks, too. With my limited Cantonese, I could hear people saying that I was neither human nor the foreign devil.”
“To them, I was a ‘banana’, I looked Chinese but I didn’t act properly like a Chinese person,” she shared.
“It’s very interesting how we Chinese, look at the American-born, the British-born, the Australian-born, or the Chinese outside who never lived in the traditional Chinese world, you are different. You are much more independent. Whereas back in Asia, we are very traditional, we have this very strong family ties. You would never imagine that your parents or your grandparents would live in an old-folks home and if you’re married you still lived at home.
“I think that’s a big contrast, and that’s part of the crux of the story that’s told here (in Crazy Rich Asians). the heritage you know of the Chinese cultures that are different even though we are the same in many ways.”
Born in Ipoh, Malaysia to an ethnic Chinese family of mixed Hokkien and Cantonese descent, the 56-year-old actress became internationally known after starring in the 1997 James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” and the Chinese-language martial arts film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
Her latest film “Crazy Rich Asians” has proven to be a box office hit, generating $44 million in the United States as of Aug. 21.