Born as Yang Zi Chong in the mining town of Ipoh in West Malaysia in the lunar year of the Tiger, she spoke English and Malay before Chinese. A ballet dancer since age 4, she moved to London, England to study at the Royal Academy as a teenager. After a brief dance career, she won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant title in her native country and the Miss Moomba beauty pageant title in Melbourne, Australia in the early 1980s. Her first on camera work was a 1984 commercial with martial arts star Jackie Chan. In 1985, she began making action movies with D&B Films of Hong Kong. She was first billed as Michelle Khan, then later, Michelle Yeoh. Never a trained martial artist, she relied on her dance discipline and her on-set trainers to prepare for her martial arts action scenes.
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