Are Belfast women stylish? Gok Wan bares all
Ahead of his Belfast visit next week, stylist Gok Wan tells Helen Carson how local women shape up
He’s taught us how to look good naked, championed affordable high street fashion and made wearing glasses sexy, I am, of course, talking about Gok Wan.
And he’ll be in Belfast on Tuesday as part of a fantastic Belfast Telegraph giveaway when five lucky readers will get a makeover.
Ahead of his visit, Gok says Belfast women are just as stylish as those in the fashion capital that is London.
Gok Wan first shot to fame on his TV show How To Look Good Naked where he pushed women with body hang-ups to their limit, and literally stripped them down to nothing for a photo shoot in the nude, then made them strut down a catwalk in front of hundreds with nothing more on than their undies.
And since then the half-Chinese 36-year-old TV presenter from Leicester has been something of a pioneer for frumpy style-challenged women who feel their bodies just aren’t made for fashion.
In his latest TV outing Gok’s Teens: The Naked Truth he used his experience of being a bullied tall, gay, overweight mixed-race teen to brilliant effect to help young people whose lives are being made a misery by others who victimise them because of their appearance.
“I was really fat,” he has confessed, ballooning to 21-stone at his heaviest. Gok’s mum Myra is English while dad John Tung Shing was born in Hong Kong and emigrated to England aged 16.
His parents owned a restaurant and again, Gok is channelling his life experience, in this case his Chinese cooking skills into another TV programme — Gok’s Wok: The Perfect Chinese is due to hit our screens in May.
He says on his official website: “Having been working in my dad’s restaurants since I was five years old I thought it was about time to show you a few of my favourite recipes and special tips I have learned from Poppa Wan.
“I will be rustling up everything from street food to feast food to tantalise those taste buds.”
As an overweight 20-something, the turning point in Gok’s life came when he left Babington Community College where he studied performing arts to go to the Central School of Speech and Drama to study performing arts.
While there he felt his weight was beginning to dictate his life, so he went on a crash diet, losing half his weight in several months.
Since then, he went on to work with celebrities such as Bryan Ferry, All Saints and Vanessa Mae as a stylist, graduating to major style magazines and TV shows before getting in front of the camera himself.
And everyone’s favourite Fairy Gokmother — as he calls himself — will be in Belfast on Tuesday.
The visit is part of a promotional tour for his GW by Gok Wan range of glasses sold exclusively at Specsavers and will be available at all 17 stores in Northern Ireland from March 18. I had a down-the-line chat with Auntie Gok ahead of his visit to Belfast — which he says he is looking forward to.
But it’s not Gok’s first visit to Belfast and he complimented local women on their sense of style: “Belfast is the capital city so there is a real buzz about it. You have great bars and great restaurants, so of course, you have great clothes.
“I think style in Belfast is just as good as any other city in the UK — it is no different from London.”
And like any other issue Gok puts his mind to, spectacle wearing is about to get seriously sexy, although according to him it already is. “I didn’t wear glasses at school.
“Actually I didn’t start wearing them until I was in my mid-20s and was in Singapore at the time where everyone wears glasses, so I was in the right place.
“ I got a pair of statement glasses so it was a big moment for me, it was a rite of passage”
So, is it true that ‘men don’t make passes at girls (or boys) who wear glasses?’
“No, I don’t think that’s true at all. I personally like men in glasses. I don’t think it is a barrier. If someone takes you on a date and they don’t like you because you’re wearing glasses, then maybe that person isn’t worth being with. Glasses aren’t just wonderful optical devices, but a way to express your own sense of style.”
He admits to being obsessed with the glamorous eras of the 40s and 50s when it came to designing his latest collection.
And there is even a nod to the over-sized coloured frames of the 80s: “I rather like those, but maybe it’s because I remember the 80s. Coloured frames are back and have never been more fashionable than they are right now.”
Gok fans may be quite surprised, though, to hear his thoughts on choosing frames: “Trust your own instincts on this one. Get advice from the opticians, try glasses on and take a picture of yourself in them. Also realise that you will be wearing these for at least another six months if not longer. I think there are so many rules when it comes to fashion, and this doesn’t work for everyone.”
And Gok’s favourite gal in glasses is Kelly Osborne: “She looks absolutely amazing in specs. I also have a lovely picture of Marilyn Monroe wearing glasses.
“I like when Johnny Depp wears those little round frames or Jane Fonda from the 70s. Even in the black and white movies from the 20s, men and women look great in glasses. Some of the hip hop boys I like look fab too.”
Although he didn’t wear the dreaded NHS glasses at school, Gok says they might be no bad thing now, as they are currently en vogue, proving everything has its moment: “There are young guys and girls running round London wearing those at the moment.”
... now win one of five fab makeovers with Gok in Belfast
To celebrate the launch of GW by Gok Wan new glasses range at Specsavers, five lucky readers will win an amazing prize which includes a makeover session with Gok. The Belfast Telegraph has teamed up with the 17 Specsavers stores, House of Fraser and Nicholas Graham Concept Salon in Bangor for this incredible giveaway where each winner will be treated to a specs-styling session with Gok.
The lucky five winners can each bring a guest along to toast Gok’s latest designs with a glass of champagne at an exclusive sneak preview of the collection at the Merchant Hotel’s Champagne Bar. Gok will pick each winner a pair of GW by Gok Wan specs to suit their style, face shape and personality.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Graham and Helen Duncan from the award-winning Nicholas Graham Concept Salon, Bangor and the dream team from House of Fraser, which includes personal stylist Jemma Cousins, and Bobbi Brown make-up artists Emma MacFarlane and Shealeen Savage, will all be on hand to give each winner a head-to-toe makeover to complement their new frames.
The lucky winners will also be given a £125 eyecare voucher so they can have their chosen specs made up to their prescription in-store, and a voucher for Nicholas Graham salon or spa.
All winners will also receive a GW by Gok Wan goody bag including some sumptuous products from Nicholas Graham Concept and a luxury gift bag from House of Fraser worth £100.
House of Fraser Belfast will also be celebrating it fourth anniversary on March 6th, with many special promotions in-store for all customers. So if you miss out on one of these fabulous prizes, call into the store to avail of their many services.
how to enter
To enter the competition you must currently wear glasses for practical or fashion purposes. Entrants should send their name, full length picture, address and contact number along with a 50 to 100-word submission giving the reason why they deserve to be Gokked-up. Email your entry to email@example.com quoting ‘Gok Makeover’ in the subject line of the email. The closing date will be 9am on Monday (March 5). Standard INM terms and conditions apply. Winners must be able to attend the event at the Merchant Hotel on Tuesday, March 6 from 2.30pm-4pm. Transport not included. Winners must be 18 or over, disclose their dress size to Freshwater PR for styling purposes and agree to publicity and photography.