Love it or hate it, reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex has put the UK county on the map, made fake tans in mid-winter fashionable and introduced the words ‘well-jel’ and ‘vajazzle’ to the English vocabulary.
What some of the cast of ‘real people’ lack in bristling intellect and sophistication, they make up for with bling, glamor and juicy gossip.
Entering its sixth series in July, TOWIE now has a cult following of millions and has fast become a hit with many gay fans.
The latest gay character to dazzle viewers with his blinding white veneers is fashionista and Gok Wan lookalike Bobby Norris.
Introduced to TOWIE watchers as Lydia’s gay best friend, he has grown to become one of the program’s highlights, with his flirty friendship with Charlie leaving many fans wondering if there’s more to their bromance than meets the eye.
GSN chatted to him as he had a fresh coat of tan applied and prepared for a ‘reem’ party at Essex ‘it’ club Sugar Hut.
How did you get involved with TOWIE?
It’s not something you audition for and you get into it through your social network. The people I socialize with are on the show. It all happened very quick for me. One minute I was on the phone with the producers and the next I was filming with Lydia’s mother in her shop.
What’s been the reaction from friends, family and the public?
I feel very lucky because I’ve had such a good response. Not just from friends and family but from all spectrums of the public. Gay and straight men will come over and ask for photos.
It’s really nice and that’s what’s lovely about the show. I don’t feel like I’ve been typecast as the new gay guy. That was always a bit of a concern, that I would only be put with the girls in scenes. The Marbella special was really refreshing. I got to stay round Charlie’s and then Charlie shared a villa. I filmed with the boys a lot more. It was really nice to incorporated into both groups.
How do you feel about always being compared to Gok Wan?
Before the show I got stopped almost daily by people thinking I was Gok Wan, asking for their picture taken with me or autograph. The first time was when I was randomly queuing up and a woman just turned round and was ‘Oh my God, I love your show. We watched it last night. I love the way you make people look younger.’ That was kind of the first time and it snowballed from there.
I take that as flattery and it’s not something I would shy away from. On the other hand, I don’t go out of my way to look like him and now I consciously made the decision not to. I’ve lost the big fringe and I’m wearing contact lenses more. I’m glad people know me more as Bobby than a Gok Wan lookalike.
What’s going on with you and Charlie? Bromance or romance?
I absolutely love Charlie to bits. He’s one of the most important people to me and is one of my best friends. We’ve got such a close bond, on and off the show, it’s so lovely to be able to do our filming together and when the cameras stop rolling, go socialize. We do dinners, we do drinks and we have a real friendship. We are very close.
People have speculated about his sexuality because he dated Gemma for months without sleeping with her. Do you think he might be gay or bisexual?
The whole Gemma situation was what sparked the whole rumors about his sexuality but he was just being a gentleman. He wanted to take it slow and because he didn’t feel the chemistry or the physical attraction towards Gemma, I think that’s why he didn’t choose to go down that route. As far as I know, that’s why he didn’t want to mislead her or take advantage of her. I’ve had no confessions from him about whether he’s curious or not.
Are you going to have any love interest on the show?
There’s certainly one or two hot guys in Essex at the moment and one or two may have caught my eye. On that one, I’d like to say watch this space really.
In the Marbella special, you had a bit of a flirt with a girl. So will you be dating women in the future?
That was a little bit of a random night. One of the girls on a hen night decided she was going to proposition me and was very flirtatious and tried to have a grope around. But I’ve had a lot of tweets since asking if I can confirm if I am still gay but there is no worries about me ever turning straight, let’s put it that way. It was nice to have a bit of affection and a flirt but I was never going to take her home and sleep with her.
The TOWIE cast are famous for their Essex tans. What’s your tip for getting a ‘reem’ bronzing?
I always feel pasty, even though people tell me I’m the brownest person in Essex. I really have tan-orexia.
The best way of getting your tan is a day or two before, really exfoliate and get your skin ready. Then it’s all about building it up in layers. A lot of people go wrong by putting half a tube on, whack it on their face and you get a terrible look. It’s streaks galore and you look like a satsuma.
My tip is, do little thin layers and build it up. That way, when you get to the layer you like, you can stop. Although it takes me quite a few layers to get where I like.
What are your ambitions for the future? Life after TOWIE?
I’m so happy in TOWIE and to be filming with my friends. I don’t even see it as a job. We get up every day, we get to go and film together and I love that so much, to be honest, I haven’t thought of anything to do off the back of that. I’m very much honored and privileged to be in the show, it’s got such a cult following that I think I would be silly to even start letting my mind wander in another direction.
You can follow Bobby's antics on Twitter @BobbyCNorris