Gok Wan: 'Miserable youth fuelled my secret illness'

TV stylist says he spends Sundays planning his outfits for the week ahead
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Stylist Gok Wan reveals today how his unhappy childhood – when he was derided as a "fat, ugly, stupid, half-breed, queer" – still fuels an obsession with his own clothing that borders on mental illness.

"I suffer from really bad clothing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder," Wan, 35, who once weighed 21 stones, tells host Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs.

"So on a Sunday I work out all of my outfits for the whole week. That includes filming the show or going to a do in the evening."

He then notes what he has worn, and when, on his computer. "I [even] work out the outfit that looks best with the car. If I'm going shopping [I ask] 'What would I look like when I'm getting outside my car at Dover Street Market?'

"I log everything so I know where I wore it and the last time I wore it."

He says "social bullying" as he grew up in Leicester – the overweight, gay son of a Chinese father and English mother –made him by turns miserable and furious.

"I was deeply unhappy at school. I'd had a terrible time," he tells the programme's presenter. "I left school at 14 without any qualifications. I was getting myself into trouble. I was becoming quite aggressive. I was angry about being gay. I was angry about being fat."

The stylist, who chose Jonathan Harvey's Beautiful Thing as his book, says he still doesn't feel an "attractive, slim, stylish man" despite losing all of his excess weight in nine months when he was 20.

"In my head I told myself that I was going to discover who I was because everyone had told me for so many years that I'm fat, ugly, stupid, half-breed, queer, whatever it was. But I couldn't have been more wrong. It wasn't about my weight; it was a cry for help. You have got to embrace who you are as a person. If you don't understand that person you will constantly be looking for another way to change."

Wan, who chooses Muse's "Supermassive Black Hole", Eurythmics' "Thorn in My Side" and "Back to Life" by Soul II Soul, among his discs, worked with musical performers such as Bryan Ferry and Vanessa Mae before finding fame on television. He won praise for his show How to Look Good Naked in which he helped insecure women feel better about their bodies. But he was criticised for hosing down women to remove their make-up during his show Miss Naked Beauty.

Desert Island Discs is broadcast on Radio 4 today at 11.15am and repeated on Friday at 9am