Gok Wan: Underage clubbing helped me beat school bullies
Gok Wan has said underage clubbing helped him come to terms with his sexuality and mixed-race heritage.
The TV presenter and DJ, best known as the host of How To Look Good Naked, starting attending house music parties in his native Leicester and the Midlands while still a teenager.
The 46-year-old, who is gay, said the experience had helped him find a “community within music” and ignore the bullying he faced at school.
He told the PA news agency: “House music for me was incredible. It was a huge part of my growing up and developing into a young adult because I found a community within music.
“I was very young, I was going to clubs underage. I am going to be very honest about it, I am not very proud of it but I did, like many people.
“I had such a terrible time at school, just an awful time of being bullied. I felt like I wasn’t worthy and felt victimised.
“I was dealing with my sexuality, I was dealing with so many different things and then all of a sudden I found a room of people who didn’t care what I looked like.
“They didn’t care that I was camp, they didn’t care that I was mixed-race, they just cared that I loved the music. It was a such an important part of my very young informative years.”
Wan has been streaming Isolation Nation DJ sets from his kitchen since April 2020 and has teamed up with club promoters Glitterbox and Comic Relief for a Red Nose Rave this Friday.
Airing from the Royal Albert Hall over three hours, the performance will feature leading house music DJs Melvo Baptiste and The Shapeshifters, with vocals from Teni Tinks.
Wan said he had stopped listening to dance music because of his busy work schedule, but reconnected with the genre about 10 years ago.
He said: “I guess there was a part of me – I haven’t even really thought about this, I am having a bit of an epiphany now – but there was probably a part of me that thought that because I was getting older I wasn’t allowed to listen to that music because it was so synonymous with my youth.
“And of course that is complete rubbish. That is something I told myself. Nobody had told me that.
“And then about 10, maybe 15 years ago I remember getting out some old music and thinking, ‘Oh my God’ and it was Don Pablo’s Animals and it was a remix of Venus. An incredible track.
“I remember Grooverider playing it at a club called Amnesia back in the 90s. It took me back there. I saw the lasers and the smoke and the big soundsystem and it was phenomenal.
“So house music is absolutely at my core. It really is. It has told my story, it has allowed me to tell my story and it will continue to tell my story.
“And I get to now play music – my favourite music – to other people that love it.
“And that is one of the secrets of Isolation Nation, because we have sometimes three or four generations of a family in a kitchen on a Saturday night.”
The Red Nose Rave will air from 11.30pm on March 19 on Facebook Live and YouTube.
Donations made will help tackle issues including homelessness, hunger, domestic abuse and mental health problems.
Details to join will be shared closer to the date.