It’s safe to say 2023 has been a major year for Asian representation. With historic award show wins (namely, Everything Everywhere All At Once dominating the season) to firsts in fashion, politics, music and film, 2023 truly was a banner year for Asian representation.
So let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit 10 of the top Asian representation moments in 2023.
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once Dominating Awards Season with Historic Wins
While EEAAO technically came out in 2022, this past year saw the film—and its cast—be celebrated at virtually every awards show. At the Golden Globes, Michelle Yeoh won her first for Best Actress in the Musical or Comedy, kicking off a dominating awards season that saw actors like Yeoh finally get their flowers after decades in Hollywood.
Ke Huy Quan, Yeoh’s co-star in EEAAO, also rode the awards wave all the way to the Oscars, cementing his acting comeback after a twenty-year hiatus with a Best Supporting Actor win. His return to Hollywood was one of this year’s most delightfully heartwarming stories, as Quan’s infectious positivity and genuine gratitude made him someone that everyone cheered for.
The Oscars also saw Michelle Yeoh winning for Best Actress, the first Asian to do so. All in all, EEAAO went home with seven Oscars, the most of any film in 2023.
2. Tony Leung Awarded the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award
At this year’s Venice Film Festival, Hong Kong film mainstay Tony Leung was honoured with a Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the first actor of Chinese descent to receive the award. Having made his name through his frequent collaboration with iconic director Wong Kar Wai, Leung is also known for his roles in action films like Infernal Affairs and, most recently, Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings.
In his acceptance speech, Leung gave a big thanks to the Hong Kong film industry, acknowledging how it has shaped his career: “I also want to share this honor and give thanks to all the wonderful people who I have worked with over the past 41 years, because this is a tribute to them as well — and of course, to Hong Kong cinema.”
3. Diljit Dosanjh sings in Punjabi on the Coachella stage
Diljit Dosanjh rocked the stage at Coachella this year, making history as the first Punjabi singer to perform at the iconic music festival. Dosanjh’s performance was raucous, leading the performer to ask the audience “It is really hot in Coachella. Is it the heat or is it because of the Punjabis here?” to thunderous cheers. His performance has since gone viral for his infectious high energy.
4. SO MUCH Pinoy Pride
This past year saw Filipinos making their mark all around the world. There was Madison “Maddie” Mendoza, a Filipino American child who was named 2023’s Gerber Baby (and stealing hearts as an absolute cutie).
Then, Sesame Street introduced TJ, the first Filipino Muppet.
Bianca Bustamante became the first Filipino to win a Formula 1 Academy Race.
Ana Cruz Kayne, a Filipino actress, appeared in the hit movie Barbie as supreme court justice Barbie.
Philippines’ women’s soccer team made history at the FIFA World Cup, with Sarina Bolden scoring the country’s first-ever goal in the tournament’s history.
And, in Canada, Rechie Valdez became the first Filipino-Canadian woman to be a cabinet minister.
5. Everything About BEEF
The new Netflix mini-series Beef hit the streaming service this year to uproariously positive feedback.
Starring Ali Wong and Steven Yeun and directed by Lee Sung Jin, Beef also became one of this year’s most celebrated TV shows with a growing number of awards nominations and wins—including 7 Primetime Emmy nominations.
Among all the positive buzz surrounding Beef and its stars and creators, a video of actor David Choe boasting about sexually assaulting a masseuse resurfaced. As the controversy broke, fans of Beef and actor/producers Yeun and Wong took to Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) to ask for a statement. After a week, a joint statement was issued, saying that they do not “condone” Choe’s story but have also seen Choe “put in the work to get the mental health support he needed over the next decade to better himself and learn from his mistakes.”
For many, this put a damper on the celebrations surrounding Beef. Some believe that the problem is with Choe, not the show as a whole—others didn’t think that the statement was enough. The controversy led to larger and important conversations within the Asian community around rape culture, cancel culture and representation that have continued as Beef goes on a historic awards season run.
6. Naatu Naatu‘s Historic Wins
RRR, India’s entry into the Oscars race this year, featured a banger of a song in “Naatu Naatu.” The up-lifting song was nominated for a number of awards, from the Oscars to the Golden Globes, leading to a slew of foot-tapping “Naatu Naatu” performances that highlighted Bollywood movies and the music that features prominently. While the song made Oscars history as the first tune from an Indian movie to win “Best Song,” the performance at the Academy Awards left a sour note: the performance at the ceremony featured two non-South Asian lead dancers which critics say highlight the difficulties of making it in the industry as South Asian dancers.
7. Asian Barbies!
Greta Gerwig’s long-awaited Barbie movie finally hit theaters this summer and quickly became one of 2023’s most popular movies—with a few familiar faces. Among all the other Barbies and Kens in the film, Simu Liu’s Ken is a stand-out as Ryan Gosling’s Ken. And, in Barbieland, Ana Cruz Kayne portrayed supreme court judge Barbie while British Indian actress Ritu Arya portrayed a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Barbie.
8. Olivia Chow Elected as Toronto Mayor
Longtime Canadian politician Olivia Chow made history as Toronto’s first Asian Canadian, and person of colour, mayor. After a long career in all levels of government in Canada, including as a national member of parliament, the Hong Kong-born Chow is now the leader of Canada’s biggest city, and North America’s fourth largest city, making her one of the most powerful politicians in North America.
9. French-Tamil Baker Tharshan Selvarahaj Wins Prestigious ‘Best Baguette in Paris’ Competition
Tharshan Selvarajah, a Sri Lankan-origin baker, won the first-place title at the 30th annual ‘Grand Prix de la Baguette de Traditional Francaise de la Ville De Paris’ considered to be the most honourable baguette competition in Paris. Upon hearing the news, Selvarajah was overwhelmed with emotion. “I cried because we are foreigners and we came here to learn how to make traditional French bread.”
In addition to his 400 euro prize, Selvarajah will be the official baguette supplier for France’s presidential palace.
10. Greta Lee Finally Gets Her (Much-Deserved) Moment
Since Past Lives hit theatres earlier this year, star Greta Lee has been squarely in the spotlight, making appearances at fashion shows, talk shows and award shows. Previously best-known for her TV roles, Lee is now a verifiable star. From her amazing style to her character taking on anti-Asian hate in The Morning Show, it’s Greta Lee’s moment and we are so here for it.