Asians on both sides of the Pacific are having a moment. From the mesmeric power of K-pop to the touching tales of Asian immigrant communities brought into focus by Lulu Wang’s Farewell , there is renewed interest in Eastern cultures. This, in turn, has created a counterbalance to the deep-rooted, racist narrative that Asian men are unattractive – a stereotype perpetuated by Western colonialism and Hollywood. Remember Mickey Rooney's yellow-faced, bucktoothed portrayal of Mr Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany ’ s ? Today, we see a shift from zero to heartthrob as Asian men start to take leading roles. Think John Cho in Searching , a bulked-up Kumail Nanjiani of The Big Sick and six-pack flexing Simu Liu of Kim’s Convenience , who will appear as Marvel’s first Asian superhero in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings . Oscar snubs: 17 best-rated movies not nominated for best picture Attractive men exist in every race, ethnicity and nationality. But before this decade, popular Western culture seemed to emasculate Asian men, while on the other hand, exoticising and hypersexualising Asian women. In 2014, co-founder Christian Rudder of popular dating platform OkCupid released data showing that Asian men and black women were the least desirable on their site. The 20 worst-rated movies ever – how many have you seen? In came Godfrey Gao, a tall, bearded, bicultural Asian man with roots in Canada and Taiwan. He had that perfect look and background that transcended racial barriers, and Asians all around the world were eager to claim him as their own. He was approved and brought into the folds of high fashion and marketed as the first Asian male face to represent Louis Vuitton in 2011 at just 27 years old. After that, he graced the cover of hundreds of fashion magazines and starred in a handful of films. Then the media stories started flooding in about how Asian male beauty was being redefined. View this post on Instagram Had fun teaching @mrodofficial some mandarin for her speech last night. A post shared by Godfrey Gao (@godfreygao) on Nov 3, 2016 at 8:26pm PDT However, an issue remained. We were only propping up supermodel-looking Asian men while erasing the diversity and representation of the most populated race on the planet, comprising 48 different nationalities with thousands of varying cultures. While unquestionably beautiful, Gao only represented a type of Asian male beauty, the kind Western media uses to show how racially sensitive and inclusive they are. Gao was that one Asian friend at the party in the sea of white people. 3 ace movies from Parasite director Bong Joon-ho, Korea’s rising star Then tragedy struck on November 27, 2019, when Gao collapsed and died of sudden cardiac death while running on the Chinese variety show Chase Me , known for its physically demanding challenges and questionable safety standards. Chinese entertainment or the entertainment industry in Asia, in general, is known for unrelentingly pushing talent and subjecting them to harsh working conditions. It was 2am when Gao collapsed, and it was reported that he had been working 17 hours straight beforehand. Before Mulan: 3 more Gong Li movies you should see The problem with trying to define Asian male beauty – or beauty, in general – is there is no way in doing it without objectifying someone like Gao, and dehumanising those who do not fit the definition via stereotypical roles. View this post on Instagram Marvel "The Eternals" Official concept art poster, which features a first look at four of the Celestials that will be introduced in the upcoming film A post shared by Marvel Studio's Eternals Movie (@theeternalsmovieofficial) on Jul 27, 2019 at 9:04am PDT Over in the US, homophobic sentiment emerged when Marvel announced it would be casting an openly gay Asian actor in for a role in The Eternals . Some in the Asian-American community were upset. Instead of celebrating the inclusion, comments over Facebook read: “Why not a straight one? Is that how Hollywood/Western see us Asian males? As gay?” And: “Hollywood does not like Asian males unless they are losers or gay”. 7 actors who have played Bruce Lee in movies When it comes to the Asian male identity, there is still a long road ahead toward dismantling masculine clichés and recognising different forms of representation. Gao took the first step. Now it's time for the rest of us to get through the door. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .