‘I love the sensitivity, honesty & humour of women’
Our fave fashion guru, Gok Wan, gives us an insight into his life and loves, and shares some failsafe style advice
TV presenter and stylist Gok Wan shares his passion for fashion
Stylist and TV presenter Gok, 42, is adding another string to his bow: this autumn, he’s on a nationwide theatre tour with his revealing and hilarious one-man show, Gok: Naked And Baring All. Raised in Leicester, he’s the son of an English mother and a Chinese father. He is single and lives in London.
My fashion career has revolved around women. I was always bored with the ‘shirt and trousers’ idea of styling men. But being able to get under the skin of a woman, to dress her and watch her change and feel fabulous, is an amazing gift and a real pleasure. I found it very hard to let go of the women after my TV series How
To Look Good Naked. By the end of it, it was as though I had a whole football team of women in my head and I was attached to every one of them. I think I’d make a good counsellor. I never judge anyone, I’m never shocked and I genuinely like people. I hope all of that will come across in my new stage show, too.
I was at the height of my eating problems during How To Look Good Naked. I was underweight and massively controlling what I ate, but I was too afraid to own up in case I lost my job. I now see so much of the empathy I had for my women came about precisely because I knew exactly what they were going through. If I’d been perfectly okay, we’d have had a very different show.
I much prefer female to male company. I love the sensitivity, honesty and humour of women. They’re more on my wavelength. It’s why I have so many more female friends than males.
I only found the confidence to do a live show quite recently. When I turned 40, something happened: I suddenly stopped caring about what everybody thought of me. Now my confidence is at an all-time high – I’m ready to go on stage and tell it exactly as it is without blushes, self-doubt or feeling the need to censor myself. I intend to talk about everything, from my work to my eating disorders, with relationship stuff and being a gay, single man thrown in.
The stage show won’t be dull. There’ll be lots of laughs, too, and stories about the wild and wonderful things that have happened in my life. I’m a magnet for colourful people and vivid experiences. I still run my life in a childlike way – if there’s anything going on that’s a little bit naughty and really shouldn’t be happening, you can probably find me at the centre of it all. I get it from my father, who’s a very naughty 76-year-old, going on 16.
My life has turned out in unexpected ways. I should have been delivering prawn crackers for my dad’s takeaway Chinese restaurant until I was 70. But, somehow, one day the planets aligned and I saw a little tiny window of escape in the form of applying to drama school, and later a career in fashion. I jumped not knowing what floor I was on or how far I might fall. My life would be completely different if I hadn’t.
There is love in abundance in my family. It means that, if necessary, I can pick up the phone, or visit, or, at times, scream for love and it’s always there. Mostly, that’s a wonderful thing, although it can be suffocating and it can also stop you working to resolve things. I think that sometimes it might be better not to have that safety blanket.
I grew up with an elder brother and sister in a bustling household. It was also full of ‘cousins’ – anyone in Leicester who looked a little bit Asian! They would flock to our house where my mum would give them cuddles and noodle soup, and my dad would tell them off. It was a wonderful, warm sort of upbringing.
I was seriously bullied as a child and as a teenager. I was targeted for being overweight, half Chinese and gay. It gave me greater empathy, not just for the bullied but, in time, for the bullies themselves. I had to get inside their heads, and I realised they’re not the happiest people. In some ways, I felt sorrier for them than I did for myself.
When I perform my show, I want my mum and dad to be in the audience. But maybe not at one of the first few shows. These will be raw, exciting and on the edge, and I’d rather they see it when I feel more in control of the material. In the end, I’ll be revealing things even they don’t know. It will be the most undressed I’ve been in front of them since I was a baby. It’s not called Naked And Baring All for nothing!
Gok’s tour kicks off in Norwich on 30 October. For tickets, visit gokwan.com
‘When I turned 40, I stopped caring what everybody thought about me’