Netflix's Queer Eye star Tan France is proud of all his 'heroes', and can't wait to take the show global
The stylist knows what he wants for season 2, and it involves going a whole lot bigger
'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' was a pioneering show back in the day. The thought of five gay men entering the lives of a wholesome American family and shaking things up, albeit for the better, was not a norm in the early 2000s. Especially not enough for it to be televised on a national network.
The show managed to bring about a wave of acknowledgement and tolerance of the gay community and Netflix has brought the show back in 2018 to take it a step forward with acceptance.
Tan France, the official stylist of the new Fab Five, explains to us just exactly how he and the rest of the boys –Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski – managed to do that, along with revealing the truth about the resident "food and wine" expert's actual kitchen skills.
Here are a few excerpts from Meaww's conversation with Tan:
Meaww: What was your reaction on hearing that there would be a reboot of 'Queer Eye' and that they wanted you on it? Were you a fan of the OG 'Queer Eye'?
Tan: I was shocked that they even wanted me to audition because I had never applied for this kind of show before. I was never part of the entertainment industry so this was quite surprising to me. Once I found out, I was so excited, because I was a huuuuge fan of the show. It was so pioneering for what it was back in the day. This was 13-14 years ago when there weren't shows like this on TV and this was the first exposure of my community that I've never seen anything that truly represented our community. It wasn't just an act or playing a part.
Meaww: Who were you the biggest fan of?
Tan: Carson Kressly. Not just because he was the fashion guy, but because he was unabashedly himself and he helped break down so many barriers.
Meaww: One of the best things I heard on the show is you saying “The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance." Was this a goal you had before starting on the show, or was this an observation you made during the course of it?
Tan: It was something I thought of before I even accepted the job. I wanted to push an agenda quite honestly. My agenda was to show people that we are all the same. We are all worthy of love and we should be accepted as your equals and your brothers, your siblings, your kin. It was really important to not be seen as stereotypes or as caricatures, but as real contributing members of society.
Meaww: Did you feel like anyone treated you guys like caricatures? How was the initial response you got from the people you met through the show?
Tan: Almost everyone — we call them the heroes that we know. Almost all of the heroes were a little apprehensive at first because we are a loud bunch. We go in to their homes and we basically crash their homes. So, I think a lot of them were [apprehensive] when they met us. Most of them hadn't even met a bunch of gay men before; even people of color before. So, for them it was quite shocking. However, within even just first couple of hours of meeting us, they realized that we were there to help and were willing to accept us.
Meaww: Changing the location from New York to Atlanta was probably one of the best decisions made for the reboot. Did you have any inhibitions regarding this, considering the stereotype surrounding the South?
Tan: Of course, there were some apprehensions about going to Atlanta than New York, because NY or LA there are lot more liberals so they've met people like me before – met people from the middle east and met people from the UK and they've met gay people So, that's not too much of a shock to them. However, that might not be the case with the people from Atlanta. What I was surprised to find is that they were very welcoming and I think it's because they knew that we were there to help. They knew that weren't there to be combative or stir up any trouble with them. We just wanted to show them who we are.
I come from a small town in England and I am one of the very few Middle Eastern people and I'm one of the very few gay people. So I was used to having people needing to warm them up to me by being super friendly, super nice and super engaging. So for me, it wasn't as shocking as it was for some of the other boys. All the boys are in either New York or LA, surrounded by liberal people all the time. I am not. I now live in Utah and Utah is one of the most conservative states. So, I am used to people like ones that we met and know how to interact with them better than anyone.
Meaww: Which "hero" did you connect the most with?
Tan: Neal Reddy (episode 2). I was so excited because quite honestly for me being Pakistani and understanding our culture – my culture - I know that this isn't something that you see ever on TV. You don’t see a Pakistani person helping an Indian person. You don't see us connecting at all on TV – it is usually on a cricket match and we're against each other. It's never a case of we're working together to realize our similarities and so, I loved the opportunity to be able to do that.
And, I think it's because of somewhere like Netflix that we were able to do that. If it was on a regular network show, that may not have been possible. If this were in India or Pakistan that may not have been possible. We have the luxury of being somewhat off-set from it because we're in US and we are on a network that allows it.
Meaww: On the show it seemed like everyone loved your pick of wardrobe almost immediately. Was there anyone who resisted the your suggestions and came around later, that we didn't necessarily get to see on screen?
Tan: On the whole everyone was really receptive to the makeovers I gave them. Let me tell you why. So, the last version of the show was all done within a day. However, our show is done within a week. So, I spent a lot of time with these guys. I really get to know them, what they may like and what they definitely don't like. And, I don’t push my own agenda too hard. I want to push them to look like the best version of themselves, but I don’t want to turn into somebody else. So, I think that they were really accepting of what I was giving to them, what I was suggesting for them, because I took into considering who they were, what their families were and what their life was all about. So, I didn't come up against any major opposition.
Yay, what wonderful news!!! 🎉🎉🎉— Tan France (@tanfrance) February 22, 2018
Meaww: AJ (episode 4) probably had the biggest growth this season, and as a viewer, his breaking down to his step-mom was as cathartic as it was heartwarming. How excited were you to learn about his engagement, especially considering he was not even out to a lot of people when you met him?
Tan: I am so happy for AJ. First and foremost, he is a really good man and so I wanted nothing but the best for him. It was a really important episode for all five of us in The Fab Five. We all know how difficult it is to come out to your family, to your parents and so we could empathize more than anyone during that time. And so we just wanted to make sure that it went as smoothly as possible and that the experience wasn't too traumatizing for him, because it can be sometimes. So, that's why we're excited for AJ.
You know when we sit in the loft room watching the playback of what they go through. We are watching as if we are the audience. What you don’t see is that we all broke down crying so hard during that moment. Because they didn't want it to be about us. That moment was about him and that was an editing choice to make. But, we all had such an emotional reaction to how that went down because it brought back all those feelings of when we came out to our families.
Meaww: Have you kept in touch with all of them?
Tan: Some of them I keep in touch with via social media, some of them via text.
Meaww: And, are they practising everything you taught them?
Tan: Shockingly, they are. Quite honestly, I am shocked. I thought that 'Oh, three weeks, four weeks then they will go back to their regular clothes,' but no. Not at all. If you follow any of them on social media, almost all of them has kept up the looks that we gave them. And, they've added to those wardrobes as well. Yesterday Tom Jackson (from episode 1) made an announcement that he is back with his ex-wife Abby and he was wearing an outfit that looked like something I had found for him, but he did purchase himself. And that felt amazing.
Meaww: On screen, the dynamic of the Fab Five translated brilliantly, how close are you guys when cameras aren't rolling? Did you know any of them before the show?
Tan: We hadn't met before [the audition]. So, we had our auditions February, March, last year and none of us had met before. However, the first day of audition, me, Bobby and Karamo were already friends. We were taking pictures together. Karamo is always cold, so he was wearing my coat because he was cold and we were all chatting together and just talking about how these auditions would go. The next day we became friends with Jonathan and Anthoni. So, I think truly I think that's why we became the Fab Five- because, we were so close so quickly at the auditions. And, we were all from different categories so it all made sense that we would be the Fab Five.
As soon as we got the job, actually even before got the job, Bobby created a text thread called Fab Five. Even if we didn’t get the job we thought we would be friends – no matter what we will be friends. It just so happened that we got the job. And then, I went out to see them a few times in LA, we hung out and we text every day – we used to and we still do. Yeah, we got along really well even before we started shooting. And then, once we started shooting we lived in the same apartment block. So, we hung out literally every evening for months.
Meaww: What are your hopes for a second season?
Tan: All we can do is hope and pray that we get a season 2. Judging by the reaction of the audience from the show, we hope that we will get a season 2, but we won't know about that at least until April. My biggest dream for a future season is that we go international. I think that would be fascinating. We might go to South Asia. I'd like to do that.
Meaww: On behalf of all fans I'd like to say an increase in the number of episodes would be great.
Tan: When I watch the show... I've only seen the whole season once, I don’t like watching myself on TV so I've just watched it once. However, there are lot of scenes on the show that I've never seen, cos I don’t go to everybody's scenes. I only go to my scenes and group scenes. Even me, after episode 8 I was like, 'That's it? That’s all we got? There's got to be more.' So, I feel robbed too. I want another five or six episodes minimum.
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