For people of a certain age, the original run of Queer Eye was quintessential daytime TV. Five well-dressed, well-spoken, and hilarious men helped other men reach their full potential and become their best selves. The original five seasons won Emmy awards, permeated pop culture, and put diverse people with compelling stories on our televisions. The newest iteration, brought back by Netflix has had the same, if not larger, impact on viewers, thanks to the accessibility of streaming and the Internet.
The “Fab Five,” as the stars of the show are colloquially known, are all experts in a certain area. Jonathan Van Ness grooms the nominees and Antoni Porowski teaches them to cook, Karamo Brown enhances their cultural awareness while Bobby Berk enhances their home, and finally, Tan France upgrades their fashion. All five men come from different backgrounds and cultures and even different countries; France is English and Porowski is Canadian. They individually contribute to the makeover process by guiding the nominee through decorating their home, building their confidence, styling themselves, and developing culinary skills.
To say the show has been a hit is an understatement. Within days of its February 2018 premiere, everyone and their mom was talking about it. Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram exploded with posts about the show, featuring Van Ness’s one liners (can you believe?), reactions gifs, and hilarious tweets about how Berk seems to literally rebuild people’s homes within a weekend. The show’s success was so massive that a second season was announced immediately in March 2018 and premiered in June of that year.
Heartwarming and hilarious, the first two seasons have featured an even more diverse crew of nominees, including in the second season a trans man, a mother, and an 18 year old leaving home for the first time.
As part of SAMU’s Winter Speaker Series, France will be speaking to MacEwan University students in March about the show’s success, LGBTQ2S+ rights, and self-esteem. Earlier this year, he took time to answer a few of the griff’s burning questions about those topics, and also told us what his biggest fashion pet peeve is.
In an email exchange, France said that the message he hopes to share is one of inclusivity, the importance of representation and how your decisions as a young adult truly do shape your career.
“Surround yourself with positive people and unfollow social media accounts that make you feel like you aren’t enough, or need to do more to be ‘perfect’,” he wrote.
“I remind myself every day of what makes me happy, and why I do the job that I do. I also surround myself with positive people, so I’m able to digest the news more successfully and move forward with my day,” he explained.
If you follow any of the Fab Five on Instagram, you’ll seem them commenting constantly on each other’s posts, giving compliments and joking around with each other. “Our public support for each other really does encourage others to treat each other with more kindness,” wrote France. “It encourages our audience to build their friend groups up, as opposed to seeing them as any sort of competition. We’re modelling behaviour that we hope will impact younger generations to reconsider their social interactions.”n response to the amount of diversity shown on the show, France said it’s the reason he took the job.
“There are so many untold stories and it’s important to be part of a movement that is actively trying to highlight those stories.”
“Having a more diverse group of heroes is the reason I think the show is so successful. The audience gets to learn about communities they may not understand, all whilst being entertained,” he added.
In the wake of the politicians both here and abroad enacting harmful and regressive policies about the LGBTQ2S+ community, such as the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party looking to restrict the definition of gender identity, France says people need to stay visible and informed.
“Protest with informed opinions and calm, and not with aggression. Contact local politicians to tell them your concerns and do all you can to educate people in your immediate circle.”
Finally, what is France’s number one fashion pet peeve? “Crocs/Jelly shoes,” he told the griff.
An Evening with Tan France takes place March 1, with doors opening at 5 p.m. and France will take the stage at 6 p.m. Following the event will be be a Meet and Greet for MacEwan students who purchased VIP tickets. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis.