The Queer Eye Guys Are Your Streaming Therapists

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The Queer Eye Guys Are Your Streaming Therapists

In the hallway outside of our interview room, the Fab Five from Netflix’s Queer Eye are getting changed for their next video shoot. All of a sudden, design expert Bobby Berk steps out in his underwear to ask where his pants are. Seems like a logical question. They’ve been moving at a crazy pace since Season Two was released last Friday, so there’s no room for being shy. After they change, Bobby pats the seat next to him and tells me to sit down. Culture expert My new life coach Karamo Brown boxes me in on the other side, and even though I’m the one asking the questions, I can feel it happening: I’m about to be Queer Eyed.

This is what they do best: bring you into the fold, open the conversation with a hug, and immediately get personal. That’s what makes Netflix’s Queer Eye so different than its Bravo predecessor. Bobby and Karamo and Tan and Antoni and Jonathan all have their areas of expertise, but as style expert Tan France says, no one has a lane to stay in.

“None of us went into this thinking, he’s only going to talk about grooming, he’s only going to talk about food,” France says. “Having those conversations opens up a much greater dialogue with them. I don’t think any of us see our role as solely one thing.”

Splitting emotional duty makes sense, though. While each subject’s episode takes about a week to shoot, the guys get even less time. They come in on a Tuesday, spend an immersive four days, and then they’re off to the next assignment by Friday. Of course, to get to the breakthrough, you have to have a couple ingredients. Brown says that the first step is having someone willing to take that leap. “To hear them say, ‘I’m tired. I don’t want to be stuck in my ways anymore,’ is amazing,” he says.

Brown, who has a background in counseling (“culture expert” is admittedly a strange title for his work on the show), explains that he jumps in immediately and starts cracking into the parts of their subjects’ lives that could best be improved. The rest of the guys hop in from there. In a society where people are becoming less and less interested in addressing difficult topics, with themselves or others, that can be a sensitive challenge.

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“We go in there and listen and really see you for who you are,” Berk explains. “And we then show you the best parts of yourself that you don’t see—but we do.” While his expertise is in design, Berk—like his four co-stars—also plays a role in this group therapy effort. “I have a background in counseling because I’ve been to a lot of therapy,” he adds with a laugh.

Being around the guys is a form of therapy itself. They’ve mastered bouncing back and forth between the serious and the fun. As the self-described emotional one, Antoni says, “For some reason, people send video clips of me crying—like I haven’t seen it. And they do it a lot. And whenever I see my reaction, I kind of get goosebumpy and flushed in the face. I think what people are touched by is that so much of our human experience is the same. These are all human truths that are very much universal.”

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And a lot of those human truths lie in the areas of expertise each of the guys cover. What’s more personal than the place you live, the way you dress yourself, and the food you eat? It’s through those facets that each of the guys is able to break into lives of people from season one’s Tom and his redneck margaritas to trans man, Skylar. Most importantly, the five want to make it certain that these episodes don’t have to be the end of the road. “You aren’t a moment,” Brown says. “You are a lifetime of experiences.”

With a successful first season and a buzzy second one, the door seems to be wide open for a third, likely filmed somewhere other than Georgia. While the destination may still be up in the air, the concept behind the second season seems to solidify one thing that works. France sums it up perfectly, “It is possible to bridge these divides to a certain extent if we just treat each other with respect and stay open to a conversation at the very least.”

As Pride Month comes to an end, the Fab Five offer their best advice on how to be the best straight ally you can be.

Karamo Brown:

I would say for our straight allies, your job is to listen and not judge. Then listen, and not act. The reason I’m saying that is because what happens is that a member of the LGBT community will let someone into their lives. I don’t like the term “coming out” because it gives the power to the other person. Once they do let you in, it’s your job to listen. Don’t put your baggage on [them.]

Bobby Berk:

I was going to say listen, but Karamo elaborated it so much better.

Antoni Porowski:

Make gay friends and ask them questions. Be open-minded and try to be as open as you can on the experience scale.

Tan France:

Ask questions. You’ll see in episode five with Skylar, I want to educate myself. I want to be a better ally. Ask questions.

Jonathan Van Ness:

Be able to see people’s humanity. I think the way that you do that and see people for more than their surface value is, say, you’re reading something in the news: the gender pay gap, or gay adoption, anything that involves a group of people being marginalized. How would you feel if this were your sister or your brother or your best friend this is happening to? I think for a lot of people, men or women, it’s easy to have things not affect you because, it doesn’t affect you. So to be a better ally, you have to look at it as if it’s someone you know instead of this abstract person you’ve never met.

Seasons One and Two of Queer Eye is currently streaming on Netflix.

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