Growing up as such a big person had a real bearing on how I looked and how I felt about the way I looked. I was never comfortable with my physicality [Gok was overweight as a child] but was always really confident about who I was. I've always been really close to my parents and my brother and sister, and they always supported me. My dad's from Hong Kong and has really strong genes, so we all look very Chinese, but my mum's English and though she never knew her father, we know that he was really tall hence my height. It's pretty bizarre for a Chinese guy to be 6ft 1in!
When I was a kid I basically wore whatever fitted, but as I became a teenager, I found fashion in a big way and got really into experimenting. Anything, from retro, Sixties stuff to nu rave. At about 16/17, I went off to college and just decided that enough was enough and committed to losing weight. I know that I'm slim now and fortunately I don't have to work at it, I'm just so bloody busy all the time that I get natural exercise.
Obviously I'm seriously into clothes, and I do have the most varied wardrobe. From skater-boy to rock star to mafia-style suited and booted, I'm just constantly shopping so I pretty much have it all. To be completely honest, I have more than once been out at a club with friends and decided I hate my outfit, so I've left, grabbed a taxi home to change, then gone back again. It's awful, but there you go.
I also suffer from a terrible case of wardrobe envy. I'll be out on the street and see some guy who looks particularly hot and I'll have to find a shop selling what he's got on. Fifty per cent of what I buy is a variation of something I've seen some cute guy in I'll run to the shop then find a toilet somewhere to put it on!
When it comes to the shops I like, it depends on what I've had for breakfast and the way the wind's blowing at that moment. One day I can spend five hours in Topshop and love everything, the next day I can't stand anything in there it's completely impulsive.
It's not about replacing who you are with what you wear; quite the opposite. It's about using what you wear to reflect and enhance who you are inside. I went through such terrible bullying as a child that I learnt to combat the bullies by focusing on my personality. I'm not about dressing bodies I'm about dressing personalities. I draw from my experiences when I'm choosing what to wear myself, it can totally depend on where I've been the day before or what I've seen earlier that morning.
There's no chance of being invisible when you're involved in something like How to Look Good Naked. I do get a huge amount of attention everywhere I go now; women come up to me and some want a chat and others just want to touch me. There's nothing I hate more than rudeness so I would never want to tell someone to fuck off. But it does mean it takes quite a while to get down Oxford Street!
People should be kind to each other and if you're comfortable with yourself, that comes naturally. All my life people have been making up their mind about who I am before ever finding out who I really am, but I don't need to worry about that now. The only person I really need to please is me.
A life in brief
Gok Wan was born in Leicester on 9 October 1974. A fashion stylist and TV presenter, he left school before his GCSEs and worked at his father's restaurant. He later took a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London but left after a year. With no training, he worked as a hair and make-up artist before moving into fashion styling. Following a stint as fashion consultant for shows including Big Brother's Little Brother and The Xtra Factor, he presents his own show, Channel 4's How to Look Good Naked, which is in its third series. He lives alone in London.
Interview by Charlotte Philby
Portrait by Graham JepsonReuse content