Model and actor Godfrey Gao, who made headlines in 2011 as the first Asian man to become the face of Louis Vuitton, has died at age 35.
Gao made his American film debut in 2013's "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," and he also starred in a number of popular Asian films and TV shows. He was filming a reality show in China on Wednesday when he suffered a heart attack and died, according to reports.
The actor was shooting an episode of "Chase Me," a Chinese sports reality show, and upon the onset of the heart attack, he fell while running. After being rushed to a hospital and undergoing three hours of rescue efforts, he was pronounced dead, his agency confirmed in a Facebook post.
PHOTOS: Godfrey Gao before his passing
Born in Taiwan, Gao was raised in Vancouver, and it wasn't until he returned to Taiwan in his early 20s that he became bilingual. "English is my first language," he said in a 2016 interview with Folio. "When I first moved back to Taiwan, my command of Mandarin was horrible ... My Mandarin has since improved tremendously and my English has regressed a little."
As Gao's career progressed, he began landing more high-profile work for major fashion labels, including his history-making gig with Louis Vuitton. But the actor admitted in the same 2016 interview that his first love was always sports.
"I grew up watching Michael Jordan and Kobe Byrant and wanted to be a professional athlete," he said. "It didn’t pan out but I guess it worked out for the best. When Asian players like Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian, and Jeremy Lin started excelling in the league, my heart swelled with pride. In a sense, they were fulfilling my dream of making it big in the game that I loved."
Gao got the opportunity to showcase his basketball skills earlier this year, when he participated in the Jeremy Lin 3rd Annual All-Star Game in August.
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