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Working with Gok Wan - Part Three

Written by Jackie O'Fee on June 14th, 2012.      0 comments

Here’s the final instalment in our three-part blog “Behind the Scenes with Gok Wan” – where all the preparation, all the stress and all the excitement meet to create all the magic.

Tuesday morning; I arrive at the Langham at 7:15am to pick up Thuy.  With me are all the garments/ shoes/ accessories for the Good Morning TV segment and we head straight to the TVNZ studios. The models are already here, getting hair and make-up done. (This is quite different to my own fairly regular Good Morning segment where my models do their own hair and make-up!)  At least  this is a setting I’m comfortable in, and it’s nice to see a few friendly faces as Thuy and I get down to steaming (yes – more steaming), taping (well, I tape) the shoes that were sourced last minute and accessorising. We also tape up the boobs of one of the models who has arrived in an unsuitable bra - go gaffer tape!  Basically, we get on with getting the girls ready before Gok’s arrival.

Gok arrives with his little entourage: his PA Mark, his make-up artist (an absolutely gorgeous Irish/Aussie girl) who has flown from Australia with him, and a cluster of Westfield staff including their lovely marketing manager, Rochelle. He’s absolutely charming again, and I’m impressed by his inclusiveness – he kisses all of us hello, chats with the models, tweaks their outfits and we all head down to the studio.
Gok on the Good Morning couch with Jeanette & Rod
In the corridor he is asked for a photo by Jeanette Thomas, Peter Williams shakes his hand (Peter Williams is a superstar at TVNZ by the way), and we basically wait for filming to start. Part one is a brief interview on the couch with Rod and Jeanette where Gok announces Zambesi is one of his favourite labels and how he wishes they sold in the UK. I tweet that immediately – and to my delight, Zambesi pick it up and re-tweet it (small things huh?). Part two is the models and the explanations of why he has dressed them in such a way. After the cameras stop rolling, several TVNZ staffers emerge wanting photos with Gok – I decide “What the hell?” and stand in line too. The segment goes really well and while Gok heads off to do more interviews, Thuy and I pack up and head back to the Albany boardroom. 

Up in Albany I need to gather some items for my part of the show. I will be demonstrating the Westfield Body Shape Calculator (an online tool to determine your body shape) and need different garments to illustrate what works for each shape. It makes sense to use centre-specific retailers for this portion, so I zoom around the mall with my clothes rack gathering up bits and pieces. At this point, I’m pretty nervous and feel the clock ticking away furiously. By the time I make it back to the stage, it’s time for me to get ready – I leave the clothes with Jody who is busy laying everything out for the show and head upstairs to get changed.

Upstairs, they have the boardroom closed – it’s now Gok’s ‘Green Room’ - I find my outfit crammed onto a rack in the marketing manager’s office and head to the toilet to get changed. I don’t mind because I’m a kiwi girl who’s pretty down to earth, but I can’t help but notice the difference and have to say, it adds to my “just the support act” nerves. After a quick check in the mirror and a wee freak that I didn’t bring the lipstick I was hoping for, I head back down to the stage. I see Gok arriving as I leave the centre management offices – he’s being greeted by a couple of little girls wearing “We Love Gok” Tee shirts - cute. 
Gok Wan TV
Doing the pre-show
It’s not quite noon and crowds are already gathering, it’s getting frenetic backstage as the hair team, the make-up artists and the stylists all set up their stations. Given this is the first show, none of us really know what to expect and the tension and nerves are high.  I get miked up and the sound guy tells me my carefully selected earrings are causing problems as they bang against the head-set. OK, Off I zoom to the Diva stand that’s just to the right of the stage and tell the girl I need a pair of earrings now and will have to come back and pay her later. She appears to have no idea what to do in the face of such a whirlwind and nods. What a sweetheart.  Back behind the stage I take my place, ready for the stage manager’s cue and boom – I’m up.
Gok Wan
A BRAVE model gets measured
The crowd is huge. To my right, in the VIP seats sits a gal that I once seriously offended. She’s never forgiven me and I feel the heat of her glare, eek – don’t look in that direction then (oh, and if she’s reading – I really am truly sorry). I stick to my script, we watch a great video of “Behind the Scenes of the Westfield Winter campaign” and I start to relax. I call for volunteers from the audience to come up on stage to be measured (yes, measured), with their dimensions called out in front of the approximately 3000 people gathered and amazingly they happily come up. It might help that I have copies of Gok’s autobiography to give away, but I’m truly humbled that these gals were keen to be a part of the show.

My 30 minutes come to an abrupt end as Gok arrives backstage and says into his mike “Oh, hurry up, I’m waiting...” Not something anyone warned me he might do! Right, quick wrap up and it’s back stage. Before I introduce him and get the crowd cheering, Gok says “Well done, you did an amazing job!” I smile, do his introduction into the mike and head down the steps to enjoy his show. 
Gok Wan
 Gok on stage in Westfield Manukau
He is adored – the crowd roar with laughter at his filthy jokes, his potty mouth and his cheeky innuendo. It’s going really well and Gok begins selecting models to be “made-over” backstage.  I try to stand out of the way as each gal comes down the steps, has her photo taken, is put into a fitting room while an outfit is selected for her (if the first doesn’t work another outfit is chosen until the right look is found), she’s dressed (go Jody!), then it’s hair and make-up (yes, both at the same time) before lining up to head back onstage.
I get called back onstage with Gok to do a couple more ‘Body Shape Calculator’ examples, he does a Q&A, pashes a boy from the audience (turn away now, Ethel) and then each of his makeover volunteers come out for their big reveal. They all look fabulous. Gok has selected six women randomly from the crowd (plus one pre-selected makeover winner) and in less than 15 minutes each, they are totally transformed.   The crowds love it, the energy of the team backstage is awesome – it’s all incredibly fast paced back there – and boom – it’s all over. Wow.  I go back onto the stage to tell everyone (there’s no-one listening) where to queue for autographs and photographs and then it’s done. Gok and I share a quick smile while we both drink some water and I head back upstairs to get changed again.
Gok Wan
Jody pauses backsatge before the first makeover is chosen

Gok Wan
Hair and Make-up applied simultaeneously to a makeover recipient

Oh, and an hour or so later when I’ve taken the clothing back to the retailers I’ve borrowed from, I go to the girl at Diva to pay for my new earrings. She’s completely surprised and admits she’d forgotten.   
Meanwhile, everything is packed up into various cars and transported to Manukau, ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Gok Wan
Thirsty work - Gok and Jackie post show.

Working with Gok Wan - Part Two

Written by Jackie O'Fee on June 6th, 2012.      1 comments

Here is Part Two of “Working with Gok Wan” – It’s all about the preparation. There are unfortunately no action shots to add to this post - we were simply too busy to take any!

Monday arrives. I’ve got to admit, a sleeping pill helped me see it in better spirits. I leave home early so I can get to the Albany boardroom ahead of Thuy, who is due to arrive at 9am. I get there around 8:15am, and Jody is already in place putting finishing touches to the outfits we’ve created for the winners of the Westfield “Win a Makeover with Gok”.  We’ve also got three pre-approved (but with suggestions) outfits ready to go for some “models” for his appearance on TVNZs ‘Good Morning’ show, which is scheduled for first thing Tuesday morning. We’ve also gathered a few pieces as props / talking points for his scheduled TV interviews.  As with absolutely everything else, these need to be presented to Gok for his approval. Although it was geographically impossible for him to do the actual styling, I have to say I am completely impressed by his total “hands on” approach. There will be nothing appearing in any of the shows that he doesn’t like or hasn’t seen. Given the logistics of this whole tour, that is pretty amazing.

Thuy arrives, diminutive but elegant in a gorgeous lace dress (I wonder if it’s Louis Vuitton but I’m too terrified to ask). We hug hello – after all, there’s been loads of communication between us over the past couple of months, and we feel like we know each other well. Together Jody, Thuy and I shift the boardroom table so there is more floor space. Thuy quickly starts pulling some of our outfits from the racks and laying these on the floor. She takes other outfits and re-styles them to suit the more pared down ethos that Gok has been exhibiting in his Australian shows. It might surprise you but we are completely happy with this – this is someone who has worked with Gok for a number of years, plus has recent knowledge of where he is currently coming from. We have styled up more than enough options knowing that many would be re-worked or perhaps not even used. We’ve also been warned that Gok could arrive and hate everything, so hey, if Thuy likes it – he’s more likely to like it, too.

Thuy feels Cue’s current collection is perfect for what Gok is using (his own fashion collection for Sainsburys’ in the UK is very similar – if a lot cheaper) and has an appointment to borrow from the Albany store at 10am, plus she’s also arranged with Equip for us to borrow more jewellery and accessories. I guess we never thought to grab pearls!

We race around gathering last minute bits and pieces before Gok is scheduled to arrive at 3:30pm. Reports (via Twitter and a request for a driver) come in that Gok is shopping in the city. Zambesi is a particular favourite of his, and he was definitely intending to visit their Britomart store.

At around 1pm I switch from ‘stylist’ mode to ‘show Stylist/MC’ mode. I’m hosting the pre-show each day and entertaining the crowd who will be waiting for Gok, as well as explaining what’s happening in each centre and demonstrating the Westfield Body Shape calculator live on stage. Yes, I’m aware that I’m the ‘support act’ and have mounting fears that everyone will start shouting at me   “Get  off – we want Gok!” Anyway, I have a script to learn before our first rehearsal is scheduled for 6pm.  I leave so I can focus on my script.
Back at around 3pm, Jody and Thuy have been working hard finalising looks to show Gok. We’re waiting for him. And waiting. And still waiting. Finally, at around 4:50pm we hear “He’s here!” There’s a collective intake of breath – this is something I’ve never experienced, it seems everyone is nervous. I race to the loo (I know – the WORST timing) while everyone stands around the boardroom.

When I get back to the boardroom he’s already chatting to Thuy, asking her questions about how things are with her like a long, lost friend. He’s tall – around 6 foot, and leaning fairly heavily on a cane. Finally she takes him through the looks she’s laid out. He hates around half of them and begins describing why he doesn’t like them. Then he asks Jody and me to show him the outfits we’ve created for the TV segment on Good Morning the next day, for the TV interviews and for the makeover winners.  It’s terrifying. We stumble through and he actually says “I’m not that scary am I?” So, I try to tease him a little “I did some research and I know you love...”. Hmm. He smiles, is totally sweet and COMPLETELY charming but I feel awkward. This man is a HUGE star.  Then he begins; “Yes, that’s cool, but can you get me it in a different colour?” “I want just a simple vest here instead of that blouse and I think we need a really chunky boot as well” “Can you get me that in black?” I show him a black alternative from the racks, “No, that looks like a curtain”. Jody is likewise given a long list of instructions. It’s now 5:20pm. Westfield Albany closes at 6pm. We run.

Around 5:40pm I’m summonsed back to the boardroom – Gok has found a dress he really loves in the racks – ironically it’s a piece we’d gathered as a prop for his TV interviews. He now wants to use it on his Good Morning model tomorrow morning. Easy, except the dress is a size 8 and the model is a size 12. It’s also a Veronika Maine dress – available only at St Lukes and Two Double Seven. Right. We ring the Newmarket store and at the same time arrange for someone from Westfield head office to collect it (a security guard, actually).  The dress will then be collected from Westfield head office and taken to The Langham (via the Florence and the Machine concert), in time for the morning’s filming. We also now need to replace this ‘prop’. With less than 15 minutes until stores close, I go off running again.  I’d like to think that perhaps Gok thought the stores in Westfield might have been open until 10pm, or maybe he just didn’t think about it at all but I am almost certain he didn’t realise the huge time pressure he was putting on us. Maybe he did – but with so much charm we were totally into it.  At one point as Jody and I looked at each other and smilingly raised our eyebrows, we agreed that these would be our “War Stories”. We were freaking out but loving it!
Stylists work for Gok Wan
The stage is set - rehearsals are done - tomorrow is SHOWTIME!
Around 8pm I go downstairs to rehearse. The Australian based show crew are incredibly complimentary about me – apparently I’m the “Best Stylist/MC they’ve had on any tour”. Feeling a little bit proud I head back to the boardroom, where Jody and Thuy are checking and re-taping shoes, finalising new outfits etc. I pack up the garments we’ll need for the TV segment the next morning, arrange to pick Thuy up at her hotel at 7:15am to be at TVNZ by 7:30am and head home around 9:30pm. Yet another huge day – but my first huge star! 
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