Godfrey Gao, the Taiwanese-Canadian model known for making history as the first Asian model signed to Louis Vuitton, has passed away tragically at the age of 35.
Gao was filming a reality television show in Ningbo, China called Chase Me.
The object of the game in the show is for celebrities to compete in physical endurance challenges against non-celebrity contestants. It is reported that Gao could be heard by an audience member saying “I can’t keep going” before collapsing and entering cardiac arrest. He reportedly had been filming for 17 straight hours—from 8:30 am on November 26 until 1:45am on November 27 when he broke down in the middle of tackling obstacle courses for the show.
On Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website akin to Twitter, fans of Gao are outraged against the conditions of labor required for actors on the sets of strenuous reality television shows such as Chase Me. On the series, contestants are pushed to their limits, and asked to participate in difficult physical activities like scaling buildings and walking tightropes.
The New York Times reported that users of Weibo have discussed the situation so much that hashtags about his death are now reaching millions of views. Producers of the show, and the channel Zhejiang Television are under fire for Gao’s accidental death. Actor Xu Zheng, for example, posted on Weibo about wanting Chase Me to be “held responsible” for Gao’s preventable death. “The show’s awareness of safety precautions is too poor,” he said.
Gao made history in 2011 with Louis Vuitton. Two years later, he starred alongside Lily Collins and Lena Headey in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and appeared in several Chinese television shows. He also voiced Ken in the Mandarin-language version of Toy Story 3 in 2010.
Fans, friends, and fellow actors shared their remembrances for Gao on social media. Outside of Weibo—on Twitter, for example—fans of Gao are demanding the show and reality television industry be held responsible for his death.