Although born in Taipei, Godfrey Gao spent most of his childhood in Vancouver emulating “His Airness,” Michael Jordan, both on and off the court. Standing well over six-feet tall, he was a natural ball player. While his infatuation for hip-hop as well as his father’s keen fashion sense instilled the importance of style. As a result, a sneaker addiction has followed him for decades, but most importantly, his love for fashion allowed him to ditch his dreams of being a pro basketball player and pursue modeling, and subsequently acting.
In 2013, the 30-year-old globetrotter starred in his American feature film debut in 2013 with The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, whilst his latest endeavor is a fashion label with his friends dubbed Flagship Lifestyle. With a number of new projects in the works for the coming year, Godfrey sits down with us to talk about his upbringing, acting, style and Djing, whist modeling select items from MR PORTER‘s 2015 spring/summer collection.
Who is Godfrey Gao?
I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, but raised in North Vancouver, Canada. I grew up watching and playing basketball, and eventually went on to play in college.
Tell us more about your love for basketball and how did it transition into a career in acting?
The main reason I enjoy basketball so much is because of Michael Jordan and what he has done with Jordan Brand. Because of him, I’m a sneaker freak. I must have every release. So when I realized my dreams of the NBA were very unlikely, I decided to pursue a career in entertainment. I came back [to Taipei] one summer for two months while I was still in college and got introduced to a TV producer. I wanted to check out one of the top talk shows in Taiwan one day so I went into the TV station and saw the producer. I remember wearing a Jordan bucket hat, a throwback jersey, a pair of Pepe jean shorts and Jordan sneakers. I was pretty hip-hop, and because I played basketball in college I was a little bigger — me and my brother were standing 6’2″ to 6’5″. So the boss walks over, and he wanted to take some pictures of us. He then sent us over to his wife’s agency, and then we signed a contract. It kind of just took off from there. After I signed the contract, I played one more year of college basketball and left. I believed that if someone gives you a chance to do something, why not? So I started out doing second male lead roles in TV dramas, and that’s how I started. The changes were impressive.
How does modeling and acting differ for you?
Modeling is easier now than before. You just pose, give attitude and feeling, whereas in acting, you need to worry about the lines, the chemistry. It’s totally different. I think the most difficult part of acting is remembering the lines, and taking a different perspective. Modeling can be tough because of the expressions you have to find and deliver.
Out of DJing, acting and modeling, which do you prefer?
I prefer DJing. Music has always been a big part of my life. I began DJing in high school. I started making money from washing cars, and bought my own DJ set when I was 16. I kept getting newer, better gear, and when I moved back to Taipei I continued to DJ. It was tough at times. I would practice and DJ small events in between acting to earn extra cash. So DJing has been my part time job if I’m not acting or modeling. My music style is more old school, funk, ’80s, ’90s, etc. I do enjoy hip hop, R&B and soul, but nowadays a lot more trap, dance, electronic and house music. I have a lot of DJ friends here too, so we have a lot of fun messing around. I haven’t done a mixtape yet, but I would like to do that if I had more time to. Music is how I relax and unwind.
You mentioned emulating Jordan as a young kid. Who influences your personal style?
My fashion sense came from my dad. When I was growing up in Taipei, I watched my dad’s style, and it eventually grew on me when I started in the fashion industry. My dad is a major fashionisto. He’s lived through seven decades of fashion. When I was little in Taipei, his closet would go on for days, he would never have to wear the same thing twice. He had such an extensive wardrobe, and from that I could tell what my dad enjoyed. I remember when we moved to Vancouver, he would bring clothes for us every summer. He worked full time in Taipei, and he would bring us all these name brand clothes, and it was so exciting. We were spoiled because we were turned on to name brands at a young age. Now, I’m sponsored by Nike, so I’m really lucky. During the teenage days, I would also look at fashion trends in The Source and XXL, as well as fashion icons like Pharrell, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, James Dean, Beckham, Kanye and Nick Wooster.
Can you define your style in five words?
Well, like my clothing company with my three friends from Vancouver, Flagship Lifestyle, Inc., we began looking at the current trends, and came up with four concepts, the cool, the bold, the clean and the sophisticated. Those are the four principles we follow. The brand is slowly picking up, but I think it’s gonna take off pretty soon. We’ve got a lot of cool stuff coming in.