First of all, thank you for having me on board for this historic issue. Yes, I’m the first Asian to appear on the cover of Men’s Health Australia, so I think it’s just a great moment.
But please just think of me as an Australian local. I spent more than a year shooting Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in Sydney at Fox Studios, which was a fantastic experience. Hopefully, God willing and fingers crossed, we’ll get to do another movie there soon. Even just hearing an Australian voice is so comforting. I really do miss the cadence of Australian speech and the fact you don’t refer to breakfast as breakfast – you just call it brekkie. It’s like nobody there takes themselves too seriously, right down to your endearing use of the c-word. In Australia, everyone’s a c-word – and that’s fine.
Heading to Australia, I was worried about the food because I love my Asian fare. You never know going into a new country whether the food is going to be an issue, but the Asian food in Australia is fan-freaking-tastic. I found myself in Chinatown literally every weekend at some sort of Korean barbecue joint or the like. Korean barbecue, hot pot, bubble tea, and then I eventually found my way to Chatswood, where there was even more amazing Asian food.
I will say the one thing that surprised me is that although there’s a ton of Asian people in Australia, I found the lack of diversity in the Australian media very similar to the situation in my home country of Canada. We’re both small markets and so we operate very much like a small market. Decision-making is often the preserve of the few people who have always done it, so it can be very difficult to change the culture. There are a limited number of networks and media outlets that continue to set the trends, making it very difficult for new voices to break through.
Look, no country’s perfect. And that’s certainly the case with where I’m from. But I do think there’s a lot of promise in Australia, just from the everyday interactions I had. A heap of Kim’s Convenience fans – white Australian families – came up to me and were like, “Hi, we love your show. We see you on Netflix all the time. When’s the new season going to come out?” They were so enthusiastic, so incredible and totally ethnicity agnostic.
What I personally want to achieve is to expand people’s preconceived notions
of what Asian men can do. I know so many people who are taller than me, who are
more ripped than me and have that iconic Marvel body, or are better martial artists
or more handsome. I just had so much uncertainty and insecurity going into the
I think the thing that clicked for me was the idea that cover men – our inspirations and our heroes – shouldn’t be chosen purely on the basis of how they look, but rather on what they do and the choices they make. I think a hero decides to do the thing that is right rather than the thing that is easy. Up until recently, MH cover men have been celebrated as these giant, broad-shouldered, ‘cape-wearing’, almost god-like figures. But really, they’re ordinary men who, finding themselves in extraordinary situations, have risen to the occasion time and again.
As members of the Men’s Health community, we need to stop thinking about masculinity as something fixed and instead start defining it for ourselves. For me, masculinity means listening. It means being emotionally open and aware. It means respecting women. Masculinity doesn’t have to be this toxic, rigid thing where everyone puffs out their chest and works out as though the body is all, while nobody talks about their feelings.
I would hope that by providing a platform from which a more diverse range of men can tell their stories, the gates to greater freedom and self-acceptance will be flung open to all. I hope that streamers and networks and magazines and websites will be more open to taking risks and making bold decisions and trying new ways of doing things that are fun and inventive. And hopefully that allows people who look like me, and others who don’t look like your average Joe, to have their moments as well, and to have their stories told.