Meet the British academic reliving David Bowie’s entire life in one year

Professor Will Brooker is adopting Bowie's various personas, eating habits, musical tastes, all in the name of research


Professor Will Brooker is more than your average superfan. Brooker, a professor of film and cultural studies at London’s Kingston University, is spending an entire year actually living the life of his favorite artist, David Bowie. He’s dressing like Bowie, reading like Bowie, even eating like Bowie. And it’s all in the name of research.

“The idea is to inhabit Bowie’s head space at points in his life and career to understand his work from an original angle, while retaining a critical and objective perspective at the same time – a kind of split persona perhaps,” Brooker explained to The Guardian.

In order to accomplish this, Brooker is spending months at a time inhabiting different periods in Bowie’s life. He began with 1965-era Bowie, moved through Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, and is currently capping off 1974’s Philadelphia soul phase. The goal is to get into the musician’s headspace in order to bring a new perspective to his work in Brooker’s forthcoming monograph (“a detailed written study of a single specialized subject”), Forever Stardust.

It’s more than just dressing the part, however. He’s also limiting himself to music that Bowie would have been listening to at any given era, and same goes for literature and film. As it turns out, Bowie’s book collection during the early ’70s was rather odd, ranging from Beat writer William Burroughs to occultist Alesiter Crowley. “If you’re reading some strange science fiction and books about magic you can kind of get into Bowie’s head and see it’s sometimes quite a strange place,” said Brooker. “A dangerous place, a place you wouldn’t want to live too long.”

Though he’s occasionally tried to mimic Bowie’s actual diet, going for weekends eating only milk and red peppers at one point, there are some limits to his immersion. “The levels of cocaine Bowie was consuming is not just illegal for a professor like myself, but it’s much too expensive – as well as unhealthy,” Brooker conceded. “So at the weekend I had a six-pack of energy drinks to try and simulate the experience of illegal substances. It made me very jumpy.”

Well, you can’t exactly blame him for skimping on a few details. One place he’s not holding back, though, is in the look. He’s already had Bowie’s bright yellow suit from 1983 made, stocked his closests full of white shirts with broad collars, and is readying a bleached perm for his trip into the ’80s. Next on the itinerary is Bowie’s famed Berlin years, for which Brooker will actually be moving to Berlin.

“It’s fortunate that I’m going through his career chronologically. Because I think by ’83 he was pretty clean,” Brooker joked. “I think I’ll get a tan, get fit, get my hair changed again, get my teeth whitened.”

As for what he thinks Bowie would have to say about the project, he said he hopes his idol would see the joy in the project, though he doubts we’d ever really know for sure. “I hope he would be interested in and amused by my research. I do feel, though, that everything he says and does in public is performance, so if he did hear about it, we would be unlikely to know what he genuinely thought.”

Below, check out video of an interview Brooker did, in full Bowie regalia, for Australia’s ABC RN.