Interview: Style guru Gok Wan talks about his latest work
Style guru Gok Wan has been a regular fixture on our screens for more than a decade, with hit programmes including ‘How to Look Good Naked’ and ‘Gok’s Clothes Roadshow’. Aside from being a fashion consultant he’s succeded as a TV presenter, author, cook, and DJ, and now he’s preparing to step onto the stage too.
Gok caught up with Your Move ahead of the ‘Naked and Baring All’ tour’s visit to Liverpool to reflect on his diverse career and offer some confidence boosting tips.
Interview by Natasha Young
What can fans expect from your ‘Naked and Baring All’ live show when it comes to Liverpool?
Lots of naked and lots of baring all – metaphorically and maybe even a little bit
It’s a really fun show and it’s a little bit of everything, so it’s autobiographical i.e. ‘where did I come from?’ and ‘how did this happen?’ possibly, but it’s more to do with looking at those really extreme moments.
There are things from the darkest moments, whether that’s being bullied for being gay or growing up mixed race on a council estate; and it’ll actually be about the lighter moments as well, like the ridiculousness of the fashion industry and the ridiculousness of television and all the stuff that happens behind the scenes.
It’s basically a 90-minute ‘in conversation with…’ where I will just reveal all. If you ever thought you know everything about me then I think you might be slightly surprised – there are lots of hidden secrets in there.
You seem to speak openly quite often and you’ve also written an autobiography, so what made you want to reveal even more and do so in front of a live audience?
It’s less about wanting to reveal more and more to do with it being the right time in my career.
I’ve been around for 22 years now and I’ve done a huge amount. I’ve had the most incredible, loyal following of people and also I’ve talked a lot about stuff, but I’ve been selective about what I’ve wanted to talk about or what I’ve felt comfortable talking about. I’ve been looking, I suppose, for a device like a oneman show where you can have a conversation and you can talk about all that stuff.
I shy away from doing it in situations like interviews because I think how do you possibly talk about something very passionately that has happened to you over a two-page spread? It’s impossible.
This is my way of doing it and, actually, if any journalists are going to come then they’re going to get a lot of material!
Also the stories are not skewed to be just my side of the story. They’re really honest, from the heart stories.
Liverpool is a city well known for its love of style. Have you spent a lot of time here whilst working in fashion?
A little bit, yeah. We filmed up there and did a live catwalk show in the first series of ‘Gok’s Clothes Roadshow’. We had a great catwalk show actually, and then we had a really, really big night out in a gay club which was lots of fun!
What would be your key tip for Your Move readers when it comes to looking and feeling great?
I think it’s about treating yourself, looking after yourself and making time for the things you need to have done, instead of stuff like new nails and having a wax being just a necessity. It’s about turning it into an event which always works. That’s the first thing – you get a better relationship with your body if you touch it.
The second thing is to trust your creativity, trust your opinion and if you like a certain style that season then, regardless of who is telling you to or not to wear it, you should wear it for yourself anyway.
All of your TV shows seem to have focused on people making the most of what they have and being themselves. When you started out with ‘How to Look Good Naked’ did you originally have a wider aim of bringing everyone around to that way of thinking?
No not at all, I had no idea at all what I was doing!
‘How to Look Good Naked’ kind of influenced me and my opinion on body image and body confidence before I even knew I thought any of that stuff, and so when we were making the show we were saying ‘well this is the right thing to believe isn’t it?’ and ‘shouldn’t everyone feel this way?’.
It became very clear that the world didn’t feel that way, which is the success of the show. We went on that journey as producers and a presenter, discovering that this is how we feel about stuff and that ethos.
The way we live our lives and how we construct our business came from that show.
As you’ve continued to work on more programmes with that approach, what impact do you think you’ve had?
I would hate to think I was the pioneer or the person at the frontline of all that stuff because it would be way too arrogant for me to believe that but I know how important ‘How to Look Good Naked’ was, not only to this country but 38 countries around the world.
It was a very, very important programme and I think ‘How to Look Good Naked’ was a
safe place and a forum.
We debated issues in a fun way but we put the questions out there, and so I think we were definitely part of the movement.
In a world where there’s still so much focus on the way people look, is there anything you’d like to see people doing to celebrate who we are more?
I think there’s a massive inequality going on and it is really tough.
Wouldn’t we all love to live in a world where everyone just accepted people for who they were and they didn’t have to justify their existence by designer handbags, shoes or their waistline? That would be the ideal and that would be the dream.
I feel very doubtful we’re ever going to get there because of the advertising industry and restrictions, and even the world has changed; we’ve gone backwards in the last 12 months with certain politicians getting in and misogyny, and inequality seems to be far more apparent than it’s ever been in my lifetime so I think we’ve got a long way to go.
You’ve become known as a fashion consultant, an author, a TV presenter, a cook, a DJ. Is there anything else you’re hoping to add to the list?
I don’t know at the moment, I think once I’m through this year I’ll have a better understanding of where I’m going to go.
We’ll see what happens next year. Hopefully this live show will be a success and if it is we want to tour it with lots more dates next year and maybe internationally, so let’s see.
Do you have anything exciting in the pipeline beyond your show that you can tell us about?
I’ve got three TV shows which we are working on and there’s a couple of other things but I can’t tell you!
‘Gok Wan – Naked and Baring All’ is coming to the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool on 15 November. For tickets and information visit www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk.