It was that 50 most beautiful people of Hollywood, and he was the token Asian on the list. Paramount felt that would look bad to fire him or that having him on was an asset. Digging around, it was People magazine. Influential? Not on regular people, but on Hollywood studios? Maybe. Looks like the issue came out around early May 1997. The Asian-American community really liked it because for them "finally" an Asian male made the list. Here's the list:
#1-10: Winona Ryder, Toni Braxton, Brad Pitt, Claire Danes, Michael Flatley, Roma Downey, Cuba Gooding Jr. The Spice Girls, Oscar de la Hoya, Marie-Chantal
#11-20: Tom Cruise, Mia Hamm, Jared Leto, Juliette Binoche, David Chokachi, Gwen Stefani, Garret Wang, Lauren Bacall, Tom Ford, Lisa Kudrow
#21-30: Oprah Winfrey (her influence probably got her on that list out of fear on the magazine's part), Rebecca Romjin, Matt Lauer, Leonardo diCaprio, Jennifer Lopez, Andre Braugher, David Baldacci, Kristin Scott Thomas, Harrison Ford, Gillian Anderson
#31-40: Paul Sereno, Jacinda Barrett, Derek Jeter, Michelle Yeoh, Deana Carter, Jeff Gordon, Liv Tyler, Kramer de los Reyes, Lucy Lawless, Jeanine Pirro
#41+: Drew Barrymore, Christopher Cuomo, Gavin Rossdale, Pattie Maes, Jim Carrey, Vivica Fox, where I copied the list from stops numbering and formatting goes wonky from there.
Wang was #17. Look who he was put above: Rebecca Romjin, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harrison Ford, Gillian Anderson, Lucy Lawless, Drew Barrymore, Jim Carrey. He wasn't just on the list, he was in the top 20. Obviously many would take exception to the list and that ordering of the list (I'd imagine many women in the '90s who read People were pissed Duchovny didn't make the list).