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BRAD TO THE BONE

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Superstar stylist and Fashion Police’s Brad Goreski learned self-destruction is never in fashion
By Nelson Branco

You apparently can go home again.

Recently, superstylist to the stars and TV personality Brad Goreski was a headline speaker during a mentor session at his alma mater, Toronto’s George Brown College, where he studied musical theatre.

“It’s always nice to be recognized by your school,” Goreksi told IN Magazine exclusively during a recent jaunt back home. “The theatre program was very rigorous. To get to come back and be able to share my experience—from being on TV, styling, designing, to working in America—well, it’s great to give back to the college I attended.”

Now 39, Goreski was also honoured to present at the 2016 Canada Walk of Fame ceremonies (which airs Dec. 18 on Global TV)—and pay tribute to a boldface name he long admired.

“Jeanne Beker was one of my idols growing up,” he shared. “So it was cool to be there. I was a big viewer of Fashion Television. It’s one of the shows that gave me a desire to be in fashion. It’s one of those things that happens to me today that makes me go: ‘Omigod, it’s such an honour to be a part of this.’”

He’s come a long way from the 19-year-old wannabe actor to one of the fashion world’s most dependable and talented style and design mavericks.

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Ironically, as Goreski was studying some of the most beloved stage productions of our time, he found himself battling his own plot twist: addiction. In his 2012 memoir, Born To Be Brad, Goreski recounted his early, dark days when he struggled with cocaine for years, along with alcohol, ecstasy and pot.

“I needed to get help. I was in our bathroom, staring in the mirror, and I didn’t recognize myself. Finally, I felt the weight of the situation,” Goreski wrote. “I told myself, ‘You can carry on like this, and the drugs will be your life.’ I wasn’t doing anything with my life except wasting it.”

Sick and tired of being sick and tired, and against the advice of his former boyfriend, Goreski opted for unconditional sober living. He threw himself into AA meetings and wrote himself his own happy ending.

Goreski was living Hollywood life in reverse: overcoming his demons before fame.

Well, if you don’t count his local mini-celebrity status on Citytv’s Electric Circus as a Toronto club kid. (“My dad would make fun of the show, calling it ‘Electric Titties,’ because there were always close-up shots of women’s breasts bouncing on camera. But we loved it,” he penned in his autobiography.)

Today, Goreski is still clean, healthy, and kicking red carpet butt with aplomb and wit.

But how did the former wild child who dreamt of becoming an actor evolve into a bespectacled, bow-tied fashionisto who dresses the likes of Jessica Alba and Demi Moore? Goreski rewound the tape for us, saying, “I auditioned a lot in Toronto, but I didn’t like it or the unpredictability of acting.”

So he took a chance and moved to New York City, where he became the oldest summer intern at Vogue at 21. It was a full-circle moment: the future stylist’s fate had been sealed when he picked up his first issue of the fashion bible at 12. There, Goreski wanted to be a fashion journalist. But thanks to advice from a smart boyfriend, Goreski decided to shoot for the stars.

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“My boyfriend said to me: ‘Why aren’t you actually working with clothes and not just writing about it? You should be doing it.’ Then, I got my internship at Vogue and really set my sights on being around clothes,” he told us.

His unconventional road to the bright lights of Hollywood and the edgy streets of New York City was actually easier to navigate than one would think. That’s because Goreski was never too concerned with fame. In our obsessive ‘iCulture,’ Goreski was defiantly focused on the work—and the quality of his skills—instead of wasting time salivating over the latest Hollywood party invites.

“I want to be really good at my job,” he told IN. “The quest for fame was really never there for me. I’ve always been more concerned about keeping working. When I think of everything I’ve done, it seems like it all went by fast; but at the same time, there seems like there is so much further to go.”

After New York, Goreski earned his 15 minutes of fame thanks to his scene-stealing turn on reality TV series The Rachel Zoe Project and later with his own vehicle, It’s a Brad, Brad World.

He recalled, “Oddly, all my worlds collided with me being on reality TV. Everything came full circle. All my training—from theatre to fashion—all paid off. Not that there is a level of performance in reality TV; but more because I was comfortable in front of the camera.”

Goreski’s instafame could have easily been over before the next Kardashian scandal. But he’s now traversed from stylist to designer, and is focused on building a business and brand. He’s the creative director of his own collection, C Wonder, which has
been featured on QVC.

“In terms of brand building, I’ve tried not to push,” he said. “I’ve always tried to do things that felt organic and I felt passionate about. There’s a lot of hard, hard work behind the scenes. There are a lot of projects, pitching—and you always have to think of the next idea. It never really ends, but I love what I do. I like the fact that my work has a positive impact on people, and they are responding and continue to respond.”

Since 2015, Goreski has become more of a mainstream name thanks to his co-host gig on E!’s widely popular but behind-thescenes-challenged Fashion Police, which was once helmed by the late, great Joan Rivers.

“I love it,” he gushed. “[Co-host] Margaret Cho has become a really good friend. She’s an incredible part of the show. We all love talking about fashion and getting into it. I absolutely adore [host] Melissa Rivers. We’ve become very close throughout everything that has happened on the show. [Co-host] Giuliana Rancic and I work together a lot on the red carpets, so we’re very close too, of course. And [new addition] NeNe Leakes has just turned my world upside down. I can’t say enough about her and how wonderful she
is and how much fun we have on the set.”

But Goreski is no shrinking violet on the show. He’s quickly become a fan favourite and critical darling because, while funny, he takes the fashion element seriously.

“I don’t have writers or prepare jokes in advance,” he explained of his on-screen prep. “I like it to be organic. The best moments—and you learn this on reality TV—always come out of nowhere. So I try not to be too prepared. What I do is when it’s a big award show, I’ll do outreach with designers and stylists for insider information about the gowns. For me, I really like to know the backstory, and so does the viewer. And it’s easy for me to get the story behind Sarah Paulson’s green Prada dress at the Emmy Awards, for example. It’s stuff I’m generally interested in.”

Luckily, he hasn’t pissed off past, present or future celebrity clientele. And you can thank his smart strategy.

“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I know what it’s like to be on the other side as a stylist,” he related. “I know it doesn’t feel great when critics slam your fashion. On Fashion Police, I always try to come from an angle of, how do we fix this look? But there
also have to be moments of fun. You have to remember we’re not breaking down the US presidential election: it’s a cocktail hour of friends praising or dissing fashion. For me, the reaction has been positive.”

With nearly two decades observing the fashion world, what are his thoughts on the current state of the industry creatively?

Goreski is impressed. “The Paris shows just wrapped and they were amazing. I can’t imagine what a nightmare I’d be to my parents if I was growing up in Port Perry with the access that people have now. It would be ‘Bankrupt City’ in our household! Listen, back
then we had to drive to the Pickering Mall to get designer fashion. Talk about going the extra mile. So access is a big positive. Men dress so much better now. I think the men in Toronto are super stylish. I’ve seen so many cool outfits. Fashion is in a good place. Designers are actually designing clothes people can actually wear. Also, we still have the fashion that is aspirational.”

Fave trends? “Metallic,” he listed, “because I like sparkle and I love shimmer. I love taking that fantasy from the red carpet and incorporating it into your everyday life.”

Worst trends? He sighed. “One of the things that I’m not so happy about is wedge sneakers. They’re not cute at all.”

One trend that Goreski will never give up is love and marriage. He’s been with his hubby, veteran TV writer and producer Gary Janetti (Will & Grace, Family Guy), for over 15 years (they met when Goreski was 23).

So what’s the secret to a long-lasting gay relationship in Hollyweird? Goreski answered: “He’s just great. He was already established in his career but he really wanted me to create my own life outside of his. I’ve done that—and he’s super proud of me. He’s the first person I go to for advice. We’re continuing to build a life together and we encourage each other. Time away from each other is also just as good as some time apart, but we definitely take the time to be together. We visit our families together. He’s super chill. I can’t imagine life without him.”

Coming out was a generally positive experience for Goreski, albeit with the usual challenges. He replied, “I was a theatre queen living in a hockey town, so Port Perry wasn’t the easiest place for me to grow up in and go to school. But it was also a place that embraced the theatre community. That’s where I got my bug for acting. My family’s been very supportive. I don’t think there was a question that I was gay! My whole family supports me and loves Gary. I was lucky.”

So what’s left on his bucket list to accomplish? He was matter-of-fact: “I’d love to work with Adele.”

But his true love will always be the beautiful, buxom goddess in the white dress. “Always Marilyn Monroe,” he enthused. “I was obsessed with her as a kid. My bedroom was covered with Marilyn Monroe posters. I actually had the chance in New York to visit a woman who had the original ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’ dress in a lit glass case with all the jewels. I had a full meltdown in front of it seeing it in person. She was everything.”

Something tells us that one day one of Goreski’s designs will also have a young gay salivating and dreaming of possibilities.

NELSON BRANCO is the editor of 24 Hours Toronto newspaper. As a contributing editor, he’s penned pieces for magazines like Hello Canada, People, TV Guide and online sites like Huffington Post. He’s also worked as a TV producer for Breakfast TV, The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News and Sun News Network

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