Godfrey Gao is a beautiful man. That much is clear. What is also clear is well, his skin, which is the raison d’être for the Taiwanese-Canadian model-actor’s recent appearance in Singapore as the face of SK-II Men, the Japanese cosmetic giant’s first foray into the growing market of men-only grooming products. Waving to regional press at the glass-clad pavilion of the swanky Avalon nightclub at Marina Bay Sands, the man’s magnetism is undeniably electrifying. We were amused to witness the sighing murmurs of admiration from the hordes of female reporters snapping away with their smartphones—and no wonder, too, because Gao’s handsome mug is matinee idol material.
A bona fide heartthrob in Asia, Gao jokingly attributes his leading-man status to his carefully manicured stubble, which he says he tweezes every few days to keep its designer shape. The scruffy and strapping stallion has also shaken up the erstwhile homogeneity of the men’s fashion industry: Gao made headlines last year for being the first Asian man ever in Louis Vuitton’s 157 years to front the French Maison’s Spring prêt-à-porter campaign.
At 1.95 m, style seems to come easy for Gao. The clotheshorse is a regular frontrow fixture at major fashion weeks; indeed, the jetsetter was meeting the Singapore media straight from Milan, where the biggest houses were showing their collections for Spring 2013. Asked for style tips applicable to men living in the tropics, where weather is an oft-cited excuse for sloppy dressing, Gao says his regular sojourns to Italy during the warmer months of the year prove that spiffy dressing is possible in the stifling dog days of summer: “In Milan, every guy dresses really well, even if it’s blazing hot. Every man should dress his best: it doesn’t have to be flip-flops and wifebeaters all the time. Change it around. Wear loafers, a light jacket, a vest, or stack on some accessories.”
And yet, Gao takes pains to point out that he is a regular twentysomething guy. He tells us he shoots hoops with his pals when he’s off duty, and enjoys racketing up a storm in the basement with his drum set. Best of all, Gao says he loves holding a hearty cookout for his family and friends. An eloquent man who dresses well, takes care of his skin, works out…and is a good cook to boot? Could Gao be the archetype for 21st century masculinity?
You’ve often been hailed as the first male Asian supermodel. What’s your response to this?
The first few words would definitely be, ‘why, thanks’. I am extremely grateful to be where I am now and it keeps me motivated to do even better.
It was a massive honor to front such a prestigious label as Louis Vuitton. When I first heard the news, it blew my mind. I couldn’t believe it. I never thought I’d get this opportunity to be an Asian representative at this level. it’s been a great stepping stone for my career, for bigger opportunities to come.
We’re interested to know the man behind the glamour. What are some of your hobbies, and what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
On my off days, I like to keep my energy up by hanging out with my pals and playing basketball and volleyball. I also like to play the drums and cook for friends and family. Aside from the modelling and acting, I’m just your average guy, really.
You were raised in Vancouver by a Taiwanese father and Malaysian mother. What are your fondest memories of childhood?
Well, my father was a very well-dressed gent, so some of my fondest memories of childhood actually revolve around style, believe it or not. I learnt the nuts and bolts of fashion from my dad, and I bonded with my mom over homemade facials. She used to have cucumbers on her eyes and other green stuff on her face, which scared me but also made beauty rituals fun for a kid. So yes, I attribute my skin to my mother because she taught me the importance of skincare when I was just a boy.
“My facial hair changed my life. I experimented by not shaving one summer and immediately after that, roles came rolling in. I guess people like me scruffy.”
You were in Singapore recently for the launch of SK-II Men. Did you get to try any of Singapore’s famous hawker food?
It was sad because I was on a very tight schedule so I didn’t really get to try the hawker food this time round. But I’m a foodie and I love Singaporean cuisine! On the several occasions I’ve been to Singapore, I’ve tried—and have grown to love—the char kuay teow, barbequed stingray, fishball noodles and chendol!
Why did you decide to pursue modeling as a career? Was there a defining incident that made you decide to take the plunge?
Truth be told, I never wanted to be a model. Like most boys, I wanted to be a sports star. That all changed when I was 19. I was spotted by an agency for my height and athletic physique– that was how I stumbled upon modelling. There’s been no turning back since.
As a man in an industry preoccupied with appearances, how concerned are you about ageing? What’s the most extreme measure you’ve gone to–or are willing to go to–in the pursuit of beauty?
In my line of work, it is imperative that I maintain my appearance. To that end, I have to admit that the thought of ageing has definitely crossed my mind: it’s something that’s unavoidable for everyone. What is important is to age with dignity.
Our skin is the most obvious reflection of our age. I’m not saying we should spend hours prepping our faces. I know how lazy most guys are when it comes to grooming. All it takes is 10 to 15 minutes a day: just cleanse thoroughly twice a day and slap on a good moisturizer. With some help from SK-II Men, I know I’m taking the necessary steps to look my best. Trust me, you’ll feel good knowing you’re taking care of yourself.
I like to keep up with new fashion trends and of course, I’m committed to sticking to an easy skincare regimen – that’s how far I’d go in the pursuit of beauty. I like to keep it real.
If you weren’t a model, what would you be doing?
My childhood dream was to be in the Super Basketball League in Taiwan. I guess if I weren’t a model, I would be a professional basketball player or a fully-dedicated actor. My dream is to make my debut in Hollywood soon, so wish me luck!
What’s the single most surprising and effective grooming tip you’ve been given from industry insiders?
It would be to embark on a skincare regime. Two simple steps will suffice: clean and moisturise your face! I never knew how effective this was until I gave it a try. Having good skin is important, especially in the modelling and entertainment industry. Even if you’re not an actor or model, having a clear, smooth complexion is a confidence-booster. It feels good looking good.
From the runway shows and ad campaigns you’ve participated in, which has been the most memorable, and why?
It has to be my first time walking for Hugo Boss at Berlin’s fashion week. That opportunity really spearheaded my modelling career. Hugo Boss was the first international brand that I worked with, and it holds a special place in my heart.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to? Who do you consider closest to in the industry?
I look up to a lot of the Asians in Hollywood like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Lee.
Give us a peek into what a typical work day for you is like.
There’s never a typical day at work because I am constantly traveling for shoots or filming. I wake up in different cities most of time, but if I had to give an example, it would be my hectic schedule during the launch of SK-II Men in Singapore. I was in Italy for a few days for Milan’s men’s fashion week. I flew in to Singapore on the morning of the SK-II Men launch, and had to leave the next day to Shanghai for filming.
“Our skin is the most obvious reflection of our age. Looking good isn’t the perogative of women, you owe it to yourself to look your best.”
What to you is the ultimate luxury?
The ultimate luxury for me would be to find a work-life balance. I’m always on a very tight schedule when it comes to work, so being able to have time off at home with family and friends seems like the ultimate luxury to me now.
Can a luxury product ever become a necessity? Is that even a good thing?
It’s always about moderation and finding the right balance. I will have to say that SK-II Men is my luxurious daily necessity. That isn’t even a promo spiel. It’s amazing how dedicated I am to the products, especially the SK-II Men Facial Treatment Essence.
Is luxury best shared with others or kept for oneself?
Shared, for sure! That’s why I’m here in Singapore, to share the importance of a simple, no-nonsense skincare regime to the guys out there. Looking good isn’t the perogative of women, you owe it to yourself to look your best. You’ll thank me in 10 years!
What are five luxury products or experiences that are essential in your life?
Let’s see. I’ll pick my trusty waterproof Louis Vuitton duffel bag, a bottle of SK-II Men Facial Treatment Essence, my favorite pair of diamond studs, comfortable sneakers and a good-quality watch.
This profile originally appeared on Luxury Insider.
See Godfrey Gao in the first campaign video for SK-II Men below. The SK-II Men’s range consists of a Moisturizing Cleanser, Age Revitalize Moisturizer and Facial Treatment Essence. The full suite is available at SK-II counters now.