TV

Tan France Explains Personal Style And How Life Has Changed With ‘Queer Eye’


Netflix

When Netflix announced that it would be rebooting the classic makeover show Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, many were curious to see how it would fit into a more modern (but still desperately in need of growth) television landscape. However, as soon as the first season of Queer Eye landed in February, viewers were hooked. The new Fab Five took the tried and true makeover formula and turned it into something new and fresh, focusing on meeting their “heroes” where they are emotionally and physically while helping them find their best selves. While gently showing these men that they are capable of change, Queer Eye also became the feel-good show of 2018, moving viewers to tears, understanding, and laughter in equal measure.

As the second season hits Netflix today, even more viewers will be drawn to the shows hopeful message and overwhelming positivity. Tan France, the Fab Five’s style guru, was kind enough to talk to UPROXX about the new season, helping people open up, and common mistakes that people make when building their personal style.

I’m going to be honest: even though this is a phone interview, I was definitely much more conscientious in picking out my outfit today.

The funny thing is that so many people say that, but on the phone it’s interesting. You know I can’t see you, Alyssa!

I know that intellectually, but I still reminded myself “colors and patterns are our friends! You don’t want to let Tan down!”

That makes me happy.

Good. So I saw the Betty Who video this morning. Amazing.

It’s good, right?

Was that as fun to film as it looked? Because it looked like a total blast.

Yes! So here’s the thing. So it was a really, really long day, and sometimes at the end of those days, you can feel so done and so beat. I was so energetic. I couldn’t sleep. It was such a fun day. She is a sweetheart. I’d never met her before, but a couple of the other boys know her quite well, Bobby and Karamo. They said how lovely she is, but I wasn’t prepared for just how lovely she was, and she was just so warm and receptive and helpful. Honestly, I had such an awesome day.

Let me tell you this as a side note. The last time we did something like this where I had to dance in front of other people — I’m not comfortable with dancing at all — but we did this for the opening credits of season one and I couldn’t sleep the night before. Like I felt physically sick. I was just so nervous. But because of all that has happened over the last three months, I went into that music video thinking, “I can do this! I’m totally fine with this.” And it felt great.

It’s been a crazy few months for you guys. I mean, the first season blew up so fast. Everybody was watching it. Everybody was in love with it. Everybody was crying on their couch. What was that transition like for you, even beyond the tens of thousands of Instagram followers?

Actually, I don’t want to discredit Instagram because that’s where I see the true connection. On the streets and in my PMs is where I see the true reaction from the followers of the show because I have a plethora of PMs every day from people all over the world saying how the show has impacted them, their lives, and their opinions, and some of those opinions were somewhat negative. People that look like me, sound like me, dress like me, up until the point that they saw the show. So for me, yes, the Instagram following got huge and that’s lovely, but it comes with amazing messages from people that are offering so much support for what we’re doing and what we’re trying to achieve. But then also on the street, I don’t think I expected this so soon.

I don’t know if you’ll realize, at this point, but it’s only been three and a half months. That is shocking. This has only been three and a half months that the show has been out, and our lives changed exponentially. I mean, I can’t just go to the grocery store and think that I can do it in five minutes any more back home. That’s not a possibility. I have to plan an extra 15 to 20 minutes for people who want to say hi and tell me how the show has affected them. So yeah! At every level, it’s affected my life.

I can imagine that it’s been a real adjustment. As you’re working with people on the show, what have you found is sort of the biggest hurdle for them to overcome as you work with them and help them achieve their best life?

So, on the show, with our heroes and heroine, the biggest issue is getting them to open up. Actually, not so much with Momma Tammye in season two. She was a little more open. I think that by nature of being a woman she’s a lot more comfortable with opening up and talking about her emotions, but for the men that we’ve helped up until now, the biggest hurdle is getting them to really talk about their feelings. That’s not something that men usually do very comfortably, especially not straight men. So that has been the biggest hurdle when we initially meet them.

But it’s funny within the first couple of days after they realize just how much you’re wanting them to open up to us and tell us about their life, we seem to open up the flood and then it’s everything that is spilling out and it’s not just, “Let me tell you about what’s going on in my life right now,” it’s “how I got to this point from being a kid to now.” And that feels really special because they’ve finally been given a platform to be able to talk about what they’ve gone through, what they’ve been through.

That’s really beautiful. What did you guys sort of learn from the first season in how you interacted with everybody and how did you apply that to season two? Was there a lot that you had to change or was it pretty much the formula work from the get-go?

So here’s the thing. We filmed season two back to back. We didn’t actually know which episodes were going to be in season one, which were going to be season two. So we didn’t have that luxury, unfortunately.

Gotcha. I wanted to talk to you about Skyler’s episode in season two. You were pretty frank with him, that you weren’t too familiar with the trans community. And I feel like most people really misunderstand what it means to be trans. What did you learn from interacting with him and what do you hope viewers take away from this episode?

So I want to preface this by saying for me that was a really important episode. It was important for an audience that may not have had interactions with trans people before. We always do our research before we get with the hero, and plan what the episode would be, but with Skyler, I did way more research than I ever have on a hero because I wanted to make sure that I understood what his body required. That I understood what he would want the world to know. We’ve got a global platform, a broader global platform, so I didn’t want to just ask questions from an American perspective. I wanted to ask questions so that the world would understand what they’re going through and what their plight is, and so one of the questions I asked was something along the lines of, “What questions would you never want to hear again?”

And I think that was a really important question. The way I did my research with this was to ask all of my friends — and I have a very mixed bag of friends from many walks of life — “What question do you have when you think of a trans person? What is a thing you’re asking? What is it that you’re thinking, and what would you ask?” And so I pulled together the best of those questions. I had my own, too. And that’s how I based those scenes with him, I wanted to really make sure that I was doing the trans community a great service and able to really shed a light on what they go through. What I hope viewers take away is something I learned with this, which is to be very mindful of how you ask your questions. With a trans person, be sensitive to that.

But also something that wasn’t really covered in the episode, and I understand why because we don’t have time to cover every facet of a conversation, was that being trans has nothing to do with sexuality. Quite honestly, I didn’t understand that before I met with Skyler and I think that was really important message also. Hopefully, we’ll tackle that if we are lucky enough to get a third season and hopefully we’ll work with more trans people and we can delve into more issues that we weren’t able to address in this episode.

With this reboot, do you think that it was more or less difficult to find heroes to help than it was during the previous iteration of Queer Eye? Do you think people are getting more receptive to this less traditional form of masculinity?

I’m going to say this, and please don’t take this the wrong way. This isn’t directed at you. I think it’s arrogant of us to believe that the original show did everything it needed to do for the gay community representation and that just because this American show back in the day was so successful that we solved the world problem as far as a representation of gay people on mainstream media and in real life. I don’t think that everything was achieved with that show. I think that there’s always space to have this kind of conversation. It’s a continued conversation and I think it will need to be continued until there’s nobody in the world that thinks that we are less than.

Absolutely. I agree. Now I feel like a lot of people have a hard time sort of developing a personal style. I’m 28 and I still feel like I haven’t really nailed it down. What tips would you give people, particularly millennials, who are trying to figure out navigating a signature look?

The best advice I could give is to find a public figure that you feel like you can connect with. Let’s give an example. If you’re a major rollerblader, and there’s this rollerblader who you’re obsessed with, and they’re the best rollerblader in the world and you love everything about them, they’re style, use them as a reference when you are looking at changing up your style. Changing up your style can be really daunting for a lot of people. I’m very comfortable with shopping. A lot of people aren’t, so I would say find somebody that you connect with that you think is really well-dressed and has a lifestyle that you aspire to, and use as that a reference point when you go shopping and think, “Would that person wear this thing? And if they would wear this thing, what would they wear it with?”

What do you think are some common mistakes that people make when they’re building their personal style?

I’m going to give you a good example. My husband’s going to hate me for this, but my husband has done this many times, but he’s calmed down. He used to think if he was shopping, he wants to get something bold because it’s not often he goes shopping. So he wants to get as much bang for his buck as possible, so he’ll go with something super flashy. “Why would I spend money on something that looks plain?” Well, because that thing’s going to stand the test of time. You’re going be able to wear it for years to come and look stylish and look back in a few years and feel like you were stylish. So I would suggest if you are not the kind of person who does well with bold colors and bold prints, maybe don’t go for those. Maybe go for the more classic that feels a lot by you and you can wear for years to come. Don’t go for the hottest trend.

That’s really good advice! To kind of wrap up, were there any moments in the first or second season that didn’t make the cut into an episode that you wish people could have seen?

Actually, I’m going to refer back to that Skyler moment about talking about the difference between being trans and not identifying with the body that you have and taking out sexuality. I think that’s really an important message and I really hope you have a chance to do that in the future if we ever get picked up, or when we get picked up for a new season. Let’s be positive! And then also with Neil Reddy from episode two of season one, I wish we could have pushed that even further, the discussion about how the episode is so important to see a Pakistani and an Indian on TV together.

Season two of Queer Eye is now streaming on Netflix.

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