Gok Wan on rumours, pride and How To Look Good Naked’s impact
Welcome to Metro.co.uk‘s The Big Questions, where we ask, well, the big questions (and the smaller ones too), and this week, we’re in the company of the wonderful Gok Wan.
The presenter, stylist, DJ, and writer, 48, has many strings to his bow and has been on our television screens since 2006, when How To Look Good Naked was first aired.
On top of his very busy schedule, Gok has now joined forces with Bupa to create the ultimate feel-good playlist and is encouraging people to add their own inspiring tunes.
Here, Gok chats to us about learning how to be proud of all that he has achieved, How To Look Good Naked’s legacy, and a very strange rumour about a non-existent family member.
You’re part of a campaign that aims to bring people together through music, what intrigued you to be a part of it?
I’m really passionate about mental health and wellbeing, as well as music and the idea of community, people coming together to help each other, so I was thrilled to be a part of the #BupaHealthTracks health campaign
I love that people can come together and support each other and share the stuff they love and what that helps them; a piece of music they walk to or a piece of music they clean the house to, or a piece of music they get up and dance to.
I do think music is one of the greatest ways of sharing joy and it can bring people in, so for me it was the perfect fit really, and not too dissimilar with what I was doing with Isolation Nation, I guess, which I started in lockdown to keep everyone amused and let everybody know they weren’t on their own.
How do people get involved with #BupaHealthTracks?
It’s really simple. All you need to do is check out my #BupaHealthTracks playlist, which is on Spotify, and add your music to it. It’s as easy as that, there’s nothing more to it at all, you just get involved that way.
And when you share your music, you become part of the gang (not that we’re elitist at all) and then you get to share your greatest moments. And, if you care to share it on social media, you can use the hashtags #BupaHealthTracks.
It’s just about sharing, it’s a really nice thing to do and it doesn’t cost anything.
How on earth did you pick the tracks for the playlist?
Picking the songs was the hardest thing because we collect so much music over the course of our lives. Almost everything you listen to will have an impact on you or will tell part of your story and so that was very, very difficult. But I guess, you’ve got to think about how other people will relate to it as well. It was hard.
What kind of music do you love the most?
Dance music every single time. All the stuff that I’d play on Isolation Nation, the funky, dance, house, 90s club classics, all that kind of stuff. But having said that, I love ABBA and I love any of those kinds of remixes. I love dancing, so anything that will get me up.
You’re a jack of all trades – from TV presenting, fashion, DJ, cooking, author. How do you see yourself – does one role stand out over any other?
No, not really. I think maybe at some point I might have to decide what I prefer. But right now, I enjoy all of them which is why I do them. I like diversity, I like each day being slightly different, I like to challenge myself and so, none of them stand out more than the other.
In fact, when I do more of one thing and less of the other, I tend to miss the other quite a lot, which is a good sign because it makes me realise I should continue doing it. I’m quite good with my brain, I can sit down and work out what’s not good for me, but I guess I love doing all of it. I’m really, really lucky that I get to do so many things.
Growing up did you ever anticipate you’d end up in the entertainment industry?
I wanted to be an actor originally, and I trained to be an actor. I went to college and did performing arts and then I went to drama school, but I didn’t have a skill for it, I didn’t have a natural craft for it.
But I really enjoyed communicating with people. That’s kind of my job now, whether I’m cooking or DJing or presenting or talking about fashion. All of it is talking to people and teaching people. I’ve always enjoyed communicating with people, so I guess I knew from a young age it would have been something to do with that. It could have been teaching, it could have been a therapist, I didn’t know it was going to end up in showbiz, really.
At what point in your career did you begin considering yourself as a celebrity – and is that something you ever get used to?
I have never considered myself a celebrity. I spent 10 years behind the camera with the entourage, dressing people, and being the stylist. I was with the hair and make-up artists and the producers and the directors. I was very much part of that set. So, when my role was reversed and I was in front of the camera, it felt so natural to be there with all the other stuff.
I never ever claim to be a celebrity. I’m not stupid, I know that people know who I am, and I know that I’m a known face, but I don’t ever claim to be a celebrity. I think a celebrity, in some ways, is probably a job on its own. I’m very much a working stylist, working cook, working presenter, and working DJ. I consider myself a working, designing stylist, presenter, or whatever.
How To Look Good Naked was all about empowering people rather than changing their looks. Are you proud of its legacy?
I’m really proud of How To Look Good Naked. I think the show became an incredible voice for many people, particularly women. We were at the beginning of a movement, a revolution. I don’t think How To Look Good Naked was responsible for that movement but we were definitely a part of it.
We spoke to millions and millions of people around the world and I’m so proud to have been a part of it. I learned a lot about the human race and I learnt a lot about myself. Without How To Look Good Naked, I wouldn’t have an appreciation for the human race as much as I do now. It’s weird to think of. I’m so proud that we could make an impact, whether that was one person or millions. And that is just an incredible feeling.
I can’t take all the credit for it at all. I was very lucky to be in the line of glory because I was hosting it, but the incredible team that worked on it and the producers… I worked with some of the greatest people in television on that show and they deserve as much credit as I get.
Would you ever want to bring How To Look Good Naked back to television?
I don’t know the answer to that. I guess it’s by supply and demand really. If people were to need the show again, we could probably make it again. Obviously, we’d need to move with the times because we live in a different world now to 2006.
But I do think the show would be very different now and that would have to be looked at because we’d want to get it right. What comes with greatness is great responsibility and the show was so good and so great, I wouldn’t want to make a show that was only a percentage of that great. I want it to be just as good.
Is there any moment in your career that you’re particularly proud of?
I don’t think there’s one standout moment, but do you know what, I’ve had to learn how to be proud. As a child, I did find pride very difficult to deal with and I didn’t think I was going to amount to anything if I’m very honest. But as I got older, I learned how to deal with that.
To single out any one moment would be doing an injustice to myself really, the idea that I’ve got a job I’m proud of, the idea that I’ve got great friends and a great relationship with my family, I’m very proud of that. I’m very proud of the idea that I might have made a difference in people’s lives. and the idea I’ve been able to entertain people, whether that’s cooking on TV or writing a book, or whatever.
All of that I’m proud of and I think in order to have gratitude you have to be proud.
You’ve been in the spotlight for a few years now. What is the weirdest rumour you’ve heard about yourself?
That I have a younger brother who lives in Liverpool. It was quite upsetting because I really enjoy being the youngest, so I read that, and I did have to call my mum to find out whether something happened. So rogue.
What is the biggest misconception about you?
People think I’m this massive ball of confidence, that I don’t the same hang-ups and anxieties, and issues as every single other people out there. We’re all human. We’re all subjected to the same stuff. You find tools to deal with it and different ways to think about it.
Christmas and New Year’s is fast approaching… have you made any New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I’m quite strict on this. We have so much pressure put on ourselves every single day from our friends and our families and ourselves, to our jobs and society and whatever. Why do you want to start the New Year putting even more pressure on yourself?
Let’s just not do it. Let’s enjoy the New Year and get excited about what potentially could happen and let’s just celebrate what has just happened – and that’s all the resolution that I need.
Gok Wan’s weekend
What does your Saturday look like?
It depends if I’m working or not. More often than not, throughout the summer I’m DJing, so it will involve me travelling somewhere, usually in this country or abroad to get to a gig on time and DJing basically to thousands of people. If I’m not working, Saturdays are usually with the dog and friends, shopping, and quite a lot of pubbing.
What’s your brunch order?
It really depends on what mood I’m in and what the day looks like. If we’re going to be in the pub all afternoon, I’m going to need a large brunch to line my tummy. It will probably be bread-based with a Bloody Mary.
Have your weekends changed over the years? They haven’t really, I’m quite lucky! Sundays are usually a day of rest, even if I’m working on the Saturday. I’m quite protective over that. My weekend always involves friends and going out and doing stuff and it’s normally quite active. I can’t remember the last time I spent a weekend at home just pottering around.
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