The stars of Queer Eye are vulnerable and honest about their own personal challenges regarding coming out, along with the hardships associated with being openly gay.
The Origins of Queer Eye
'Queer Eye' is an American reality television series involving a team of gay professionals known as the “Fab Five” who give fashion and lifestyle makeovers to nominated individuals in an effort to improve their lives and help them to achieve better satisfaction in life. The originally titled “Queer eye for the Straight Guy” premiered in 2003. It became a surprise success, running for four years before being taken off the air in 2007.
More than a decade after, Netflix revived the show with the shortened title 'Queer Eye' to broaden the overall scope of the show, avoid stereotypes and reduced the risk of alienating both queer eyes and straight guys. The show is renowned for its strong representation amongst the LGBT community, its inclusivity of people of colour and the way in which it challenges conventional notions of masculinity and self-care.
The Fab Five
One of the most important aspects of Queer Eye is the "Fab Five", a group of gay professionals all with particular expertise in different areas. Within the show, the stars of 'Queer Eye' are vulnerable and honest about their own personal challenges regarding coming out, along with the hardships associated with being openly gay.
The raw and powerful stories of these men help to educate society regarding LGBTQ+ issues, which alongside controversial topics enables society to further open their hearts to the LGBTQ+ community and be more willing to have these important conversations.
Jonathon Van Ness
Jonathan Van Ness, 'Queer Eye' grooming expert came out when he was just 8 years old. He was very aware of who he was from a young age and never wanted to stray or hide from that truth. Jonathan came from an incredibly supportive family, his mother in particular he considers his lifelong friend. The support he was given enabled him to embrace his femininity, leap over social norms and he even became his high schools first male cheerleader!
However, being openly gay was not an easy ride, Jonathon faced frequent bullying and his lack of self-esteem ran deep. As a result, he engaged in self-destructive behaviours such as binge eating, meeting up with older men and using drugs to numb the pain of abuse experienced as a child. By the age of 19, he had dropped out of college and enrolled in a 11-month beautician program at the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis. Little did he know that this is where he would gain the skills and contacts that would later ensure him a role in 'Queer eye'.
For Karamo Brown, Queer Eye's culture expert, the notion of "coming out" was something he actively advocates against and instead believes that people should be "letting people in" to their lives. Coming from a Jamaican household, homophobia was something he was exposed to from an early age and as such, revealed his sexuality to his father at the age of 16 their relationship ended, leaving them to not speak for 10 years. However, years passed and his father eventually reached out to reconcile and rebuild their former bond. In addition, Karamo's girlfriend prior to coming out became pregnant and moved away, until 10 years later she contacted him and he learnt about his son. Karamo took full custody of his son, Jason, and humbly took on the fatherhood with zero hesitation.
Tan France, Queer Eye's fashion expert, came out at a later age of 34, informing his religious Middle-Eastern family of his sexuality and that he had in fact been married to his partner for over a decade! Tan came from a religious Middle-Eastern family, where the word gay was never mentioned in his parents’ home and as such was worried that being gay would result in being disowned by his family. Once his family found out, he was told not to talk about it or his marriage, it took 10 years and France’s role in Queer Eye for his family to open up and become willing to learn about Tan's life as an openly gay man.
Antoni Porowski, Queer Eye’s food and wine expert, regards his sexuality as very private and didn’t feel the need to ‘come out’ in any formal way. Antoni originally struggled with being cast on Queer Eye as he does not identify as traditionally gay and instead find himself as fluid on the spectrum. Antoni's struggled with his identity as a Canadian/Polish immigrant living in America and was subject to xenophobic comments which alongside his struggles regarding sexuality, it is not shocking to learn that he is still figuring out his identity. Antoni also expresses how he has previously loved women and feels that referring to himself as gay would dishonour that love. As a result, he never officially came out to his father, although after a comment made by his father regarding his 'discreet' lifestyle he decided to send an email informing his father about his life, living with his then-boyfriend and informing his father that most importantly, he was happy!
Bobby Berk, Queer Eye’s design expert, came from a devout Christian family in a small conservative town in Missouri. Bobby realised he was different from an early age, yet the lack of information available due to not having internet meant that only at the age of 14 he truly understood his sexuality. Bobby kept this a secret due to inbedded homophobia within the church community and as the term ‘gay’ was often used in a negative way. Berk decided to drop out of school after his sophomore year and leave town rather than face the fallout of his sexuality as he was aware this was not an option where he lived.
The 5 lessons to take away from Queer Eye
1. You can't have connection, joy and happiness without vulnerability
2. Make peace with your past to make way for the future
3. Stay open-minded
4. It takes time to learn to love yourself
5. Working on your self is not selfish, by helping yourself you will help people around you