Despite her demure manner and slight stature, Malaysia-born actress Michelle Yeoh is best known in the West for her roles in action movies including “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Tomorrow Never Dies.” An ambassador for Guerlain since late last year, Yeoh was in Paris during the couture shows with her husband, Jean Todt, president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body of Formula One. WWD caught up with Yeoh at a dinner hosted by Dom Pérignon for the 50th anniversary of the Ferrari 250 GTO.
WWD: What does fashion mean to you?
Michelle Yeoh: It must make you feel good. Whatever you wear, don’t let it wear you. Tonight I am wearing Armani Privé, which is a great pleasure. Right now, I want to be beautiful and glamorous, but it depends upon the occasion.
WWD: You’re an ambassador for Guerlain, for which you’ve been involved in social media videos about the brand’s creative process. How important is this to you?
Yeoh: I love the way they are telling a story. Most brands do a 30-second spot that doesn’t mean anything. I also love the philosophy that they are not just taking what’s beautiful from the environment to enhance the beauty of women; they are enhancing the environment at the same time [through the Guerlain Exploratory Reserve in China’s Yunnan jungle, where the company is working to preserve orchid biodiversity]. It’s important for the younger generation to understand that philosophy.
WWD: What was it like to play Aung San Suu Kyi in “The Lady?”
Yeoh: I’m very proud. It was a privilege. A lot of people see her as an incredible political icon, but I think we should see beyond that, to the incredible human being.
WWD: Have you actually met her? What did she think of your interpretation?
Yeoh: I just saw her in Dublin two weeks ago when she attended the Bono concert for Amnesty International. She hasn’t seen the movie, and honestly, I don’t know whether I want her to because it would revisit a lot of very sad moments. I don’t think she needs that. The past will always be there, and I want her to remember the good things about the past. I think the rest of the world needs to see it, because then they will see her for who she really is, not just this face, or this strong woman.
WWD: I heard you were refused entry into Burma last year after the film came out.
Yeoh: That’s true, but it was a year ago, and I think things have changed. Who would have thought back then that she would be able to travel out of the country today?
WWD: What are you working on right now?
Yeoh: I just finished a movie about cooking and family called “Cooktales,” which is going to come out some time next year. It’s written by American-Korean writer-director Gina Kim. I’m surrounded by such brilliant women these days!
WWD: Any time to relax?
Yeoh: A little holiday would be nice! My husband and I are doing a road trip to promote road safety in Central America. It will be really hard-core; we’re doing seven countries in a week, but after that we hope to have a few days off there.