Born to an English mother and a Chinese father in the British city of Leicester, Gok was bestowed with the name of Ko-Hen Wan at birth. Given his gregarious personality and ability to knock together a killer urban look, it proved a rather appropriate namesake – it means ‘Noisy Big City’ in the Cantonese language. Gok styled his three letter alias because childhood pals had trouble pronouncing his real name – Ko-Hen became Go-Ken (and even Gherkin) in the schoolyard, and he was having none of it.
Gok’s obsession with clothes and styling surfaced as soon as he was old enough to dress himself. “He was always interested in clothes. As a child he’d change five times a day,” revealed his sister, Oilen. However, one of Gok’s recent witty tweets confirmed that he most certainly did not inherit his flair for fashion from his father: “Poppa Wan just asked ‘why your jean got rip in?’, I answer ‘because that's how I bought them’. Dad replies ‘you pay full prices?’”
If anyone knows how to dress down wobbly body parts and work a person’s best physical assets with the right attire, Gok does – he weighed a hefty 21 stone (133 kg) as a teenager. At the age of 20, he decided to ditch his slack with an extreme diet (surviving on as little as two spoons of honey a day), and shed nearly half of his body weight in nine months. “I don't regret having been fat at all. Even when I was humungous I’d still rock up in a nice waistcoat and feel fabulous about myself,” stated the ever-stylish Gok, going on to warn women against unhealthy routes to slenderness.
Gok is gay, but has a rather cheeky aesthetic appreciation of the female form – he is an absolute sucker for breasts. “My favourite part of a woman’s body is the bangers. I absolutely love hooters. I love getting my hands on them. I love getting my face in there. I love dressing them. I love undressing them. I love boobs!” he enthused, employing a top-heavy helping of his usual euphemistic Gokisms to express his fondness of women’s bra-filling matter.
Derided as fat, ugly, stupid, half-bred and queer by peers in his youth, Gok has used his celebrity status to help combat the kind of playground ridicule that tainted his own childhood by becoming a spokesperson for the British anti-bullying charity, Kidscape. To this end, he fronted the ‘National Glasses Day’ campaign (a joint initiative between Kidscape and Specsavers opticians) and urged the nation to ditch their contact lenses and don their specs with pride after a survey revealed that almost half of vision-impaired kids were mocked for wearing spectacles. “I want children to know they are not abnormal, they are not freaks, they are just kids who happen to wear glasses," stated Gok.
School of Gok
In 2009, Gok made his crusade for body confidence political by delivering a 45,000-signature petition to 10 Downing Street calling for lessons in positive self-image to be introduced into the school curriculum. "We need to teach the next generation that what we see in the media is not a fair representation of the real body. I think that if we get into the schools and teach these kids about what is a healthy body and how all different kinds of bodies can exist in the same space, then they will have a lot more acceptance for themselves and each other," asserted Gok.
Gok has several tattoos. The most prominent is the series of four stick-figures on his inner right arm – each representing the Wan clan and Gok’s love for his parents and two elder siblings. He also has a rather unusual ink design tucked away on one of his triceps that can make him bleep at the supermarket. “I was just being a hippie 16-year-old student, and I had a barcode tattooed on my arm. It’s a barcode from a packet of softmints – Mentos – because that’s what I was eating when I decided to do it. I’m sweet and fresh, and I’m really bad for your teeth,” joked Gok about his hidden body artwork.
In 2009, Gok touched the nation by sharing his father’s silent expression of compassion when he took a boyfriend home for dinner and broke the news that he was gay: "We all sat down and it was just the most excruciating meal ever. I had left home and no longer had a bedroom, so my dad left the table early, which he never did, and went into the living room and made a bed for the two of us with an open fire. It was extraordinary, his quiet way of showing his acceptance. I just went into the toilet that night and wept buckets. The reason I've never told that story is that my dad and I have never discussed it."
Flirts and fancies
He may well have won the affection of the women that he has styled and saved from the brink of fashion disaster, but Gok believes that the no-nonsense personality that has made him the entertaining darling of TV makeovers has done little for his love life. “Men never flirt with me! I terrify men,' stated the reluctantly single presenter, who has a soft spot for dorky-looking fellas. “I had a huge crush on Tony Blair in a totally sexual way. He was so powerful but nerdy at the same time. That’s my ideal man – a bit geeky but strong,” admitted Gok. He has also fessed up to having a bit of a crush on pop mogul Simon Cowell, despite his reputation for wearing ill-fitting clobber. "I don't care about the high-waisted trousers. I wouldn’t like to dress him – I’d like to undress him,’ sniggered Gok.
Gok has divulged that he is an absolute control freak when it comes to planning his own wardrobe. "I suffer from really bad clothing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 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 confessed. He then logs everything that he has worn (where 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?' he added.