Well into the 1960s, Caucasian actors often snagged the roles of Asian characters; Shirley MacLaine famously played a geisha in 1962. But things started to change, in part due to Nancy Kwan's rise to stardom. Born in Hong Kong to a Chinese architect and English fashion model, she trained as a ballet dancer during her youth. While visiting Hong Kong in her late teens, she was scouted and eventually cast in the lead role in The World of Suzie Wong. The film was controversial, as many people believe that the "hooker with the heart of gold" character created and reinforced negative stereotypes about "exotic" Asian women. Still, Kwan's performance earned her a Golden Globe (for Most Promising Newcomer) and turned her into an international icon.
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