How To Look Good Naked ‘On the couch’
: Psychoanalytic approaches to British makeover television and gender’

  • Theodora Thomadaki

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This project formulates an original psycho-cultural approach by studying the cultural and therapeutic value of Gok Wan’s makeover series How To Look Good Naked. Through an in-depth application of Donald Woods Winnicott’s object relations psychoanalysis to the textual narratives of the makeover show, and by developing a viewing method that derives from psychoanalytic training on observation, this thesis offers an account of the affective impact of Gok Wan’s popular makeover phenomenon. This thesis addresses key themes and elements that signal the evolution of British makeover television and identifies how Gok Wan’s format and strategies chime with what has widely been hailed as a particularly ‘therapeutic’ moment in popular culture. The emblematic features of Gok Wan’s rendition of the makeover format highlights its potential positive outcomes by examining the articulation of current embodied feminine subjective experiences, in order to interrogate the complex relationship between postfeminism and therapeutic discourse. This thesis recognises that the therapeutic opportunity of Gok Wan’s method lies in the transformational process by creating emotionally constructive spaces where the articulation of experiences leads to inner self-discovery. Playful mechanisms of creativity are central to Gok Wan’s empathetic approach to working with participants to enable transformation, reflecting a number of key themes in object relations psychoanalysis and its understanding of self-experience. The opportunities afforded to participants for self-interpretation create a useful platform to reflect on Gok Wan’s role, who has been candid about the parallels between his own emotional experience and that of his participants. Psychoanalytic models of transference and countertransference indicate how this dynamic challenges dominant notions of the makeover expert as omnipotent. This project demonstrates the value of object relations psychoanalysis for critical interventions in the field of media, cultural and feminist studies in order to provide a deeper understanding of the affective impact of makeover television in shaping notions of subjective experience.
    Date of Award7 Jun 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorCaroline Bainbridge (Supervisor) & Karen Cross (Supervisor)


    • How to Look Good Naked, Donald Wood Winnicott, psycho-cultural approach, Gok Wan, makeover culture, mirrors, self-reflection, postfeminism

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