■ The TV makeover guru, 43, talks about his new UK tour and the highlights of playing the fairy godmother
What can people expect from your forthcoming tour?
Fashion, body confidence tips, secrets from the industry, brunch, lots of fizz, a retail experience — it’s the ultimate girls’ day out. We’re doing it in hotels all over the country. It’s a huge catwalk show with me on stage giving hints and tips, and I’ll also be teaching how to dress for your body shape.
The press release says you can’t wait to get your hands on the ‘bangers’. Do you have to be more careful about this in light of MeToo?
That’s metaphorical, it’s not a physical thing. I’m very lucky — over the years I’ve been able to build up the trust of people who have listened to what I’ve said. I will definitely not be getting physical. When I’ve done these stage shows before, some of the women get very tactile because of what we’ve done over the years on TV, but I shy away from that — you have to be very respectful because you’re in someone’s space. I will absolutely not be going out there and forcing myself physically on someone. I’ve never done that. It’s always been completely friendly and non-invasive.
How did you become a fashion expert?
I started as a hair and make-up artist. I wanted to work on a glam squad — it was never about the clothes until I started working more on set and saw what the stylist was doing and became fascinated by it. I tried my hand at it a couple of times, realised I had a skill for it and became a full-on stylist working across all genres from advertising to editorial to music videos. Then I auditioned for How To Look Good Naked and took what I was doing on to television.
It’s a competitive industry. Are young people expected to work for free?
When I started, the concept of working for free wasn’t around — we paid all of the assistants. But the landscape has changed and now that’s something that’s expected. Internships are great, you learn how things work and make contacts, but you still need to earn a living. When I started I worked in restaurants and bars to supplement my income so I could take styling jobs that weren’t massively well paid but I could still get that experience. The fashion industry is very contacts driven — don’t burn your bridges — you need to be punctual, as friendly as possible, work super hard, be obliging and don’t be afraid to do all the menial jobs as well as the jobs you do want to do.
Is it becoming a more elitist industry?
I don’t think so. I’m from a council estate up north. I’m evidence you can make it in the business and that it isn’t elitist — you just need to work really hard. It’s not about where you’re from, it’s about how much effort you put into your job.
How many times have you played the fairy godmother?
This will be my sixth year — I’m doing it in Bristol this year. I love the whole campery of panto — it’s cheeky, naughty, close to the bone at times. I love working in a company with dancers and singers and stage crew and people I don’t meet in my ordinary life. It’s very interesting to be surrounded by a different community. I love how hard it is — 12 shows a week, living in a rented flat in a city you wouldn’t usually spend that amount of time in. That appeals to my hard-working nature. You also get to show off on stage and it’s a sabbatical from running a business. There are loads of things about it that appeal to me. I always play the goodie. I don’t think I could play the baddie and I don’t think it would sit very well with the audiences either.
You’re good friends with Alan Carr. What do you have in common?
We have the same outlook on life — we’re quite hedonistic, we both like to laugh a lot, we’re very social, we’re very hard-working, we have a similar network of friends. We have a huge amount in common.
What are your proudest career achievements?
How To Look Good Naked is up there. I’m proud of turning my life around from not knowing what I wanted to do at an early age to going into fashion. Most of it, really. I’m proud of what I’ve done. I’ve been lucky — I’ve been able to diversify a lot. I’m doing a lot of DJing at the moment. Every weekend I do a set somewhere. I’ve got a monthly residency in Ireland but I go all over.
What lessons has your career in showbiz taught you so far?
You have to trust that everything is going to be all right. At times things can feel chaotic and confusing, and you can feel unsure of yourself, but you just have to trust it will all turn to be OK.
Gok Wan One Size Fits All — Secrets To Style And Body Confidence tours the UK from September 30. gokfashion.com