2022-05-15 00:14:10 By : Ms. Helen Yang

“I had no idea Heartstopper would be so big,” 18-year old Joe Locke tells GQ via Zoom from his family home in the Isle Of Man, where he is currently revising for his A-Levels. “I didn't ever think I'd actually be in the show, because the audition process was so long. It was Zoom audition after Zoom audition, and the whole thing began with an open call, rather than the producers reaching out to agents, which means anyone could have played Charlie Spring."

Netflix's coming-of-age, queer love story was released on the streaming platform on 22 April 2022 and it catapulted the show's main cast – Locke, Kit Connor, Yasmin Finney and William Gao - to instant fame. Locke's Instagram following grew by two million in a matter of days, while he has just walked his first ever red carpet and presented an award at the BAFTA TV awards. “Two weeks ago I wouldn't have even been invited, because no one even knew who I was, let alone asked to present an award,” Locke said, “It's been a total whirlwind and I still can't comprehend it. Presenting was actually terrifying, I find it much harder to be myself on stage, rather than be someone else in front of a camera.”

Locke fully embraced his surprise BAFTA turn and rocked a look for the books. “I'd never done anything like it before,” he explains following the event. “I really wanted to have fun with it, as who knows if I'll get the opportunity again. I grew up in the Isle of Man where you're judged if you wear a nice pair of jeans, rather than the typical tracksuit or hoodies most people wear, so I find it really freeing to be able to embrace fashion in a place that allows me to do so, without being judged." 

For the BAFTAs Locke slipped into a black lapelled, shocking pink suit from Parisian label Ami, while he looped a heart-shaped Swarovski pendant chain round his neck. "I wanted to pay homage to the show and everything it represents in a really subtle way, and I'm glad I went with the look I went for in the end. I had two options to choose from. The first was a corset, which I will try out another time."

In terms of who inspires him in the style stakes, Locke explains that he has long been a fan of fellow thesp Billy Porter's wardrobe – “he always does what he wants and runs wild with it.” Another red carpet inspiration is Olivia Coleman, who has a supporting role in Heartstopper. “I saw her at the BAFTA Craft Awards a few weeks ago and she had slipped into a pair of hotel slippers, because she can. She's Olivia Coleman. She looked great!”

Following his first red carpet walk Locke admits that he's already got his sights set on the biggest night in fashion. “I am desperate to go to the Met Gala,” he says. “It's all about flamboyance and being extra, while it's an altogether celebration of differences, which I'm all about. To get an invite to the Met Gala shows you're killing it in your field, which would be a dream."

Locke is also after an arguably meatier role. “While I'm doing my A-Levels and have plans to go to university to study history and politics, I actually really want to play the first ever gay Disney prince. Imagine that!”

Stylist: Holly White, Styling Assistant: Eoin Higgins, Suit: Ami Paris, Jewellery: Swarovski, Shoes: Christian Louboutin, Photographer: Joseph Sinclair, Photography assistant: Connor Harris, Hair: Hari’s, Grooming: Lancôme

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