Back in the early 2000’s, we were graced with the presence we once knew as “The Fab Five,” five amazing men who made up the cast of the original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (the title was then shortened to Queer Eye later on). The reality show followed five gay men who were experts in grooming, culture, style, and interior design. The five would typically take on a straight man who was lacking in all these areas and make him over for the best. The show was a hit for the Bravo network and lasted only four seasons.
But just last February, Netflix released a Queer Eye reboot starring Karamo Brown (culture), Tan France (fashion), Antoni Porowski (food and wine), Bobby Berk (interior design), and Jonathan Van Ness (grooming) as the new Fab Five and the show is shot in Atlanta instead of New York (where the first show was stationed). Netflix released the first season consisting of eight episodes and released it on February 7. Due to the overwhelming success of the first season, a second season has been announced and are bringing back the entire cast. While the show makes us both laugh and cry simultaneously, there are some behind-the-scenes secrets that have a “wow” factor all on their own.
Here are 21 amazing things you may not know about the Queer Eye reboot.
He’s the handsome Fashion expert on the Queer Eye reboot, but the thing is, he didn’t WANT to actually be on the show at first because it was too scary. Like a lot of us, Tan France hated being photographed or basically anywhere near a camera (it gives me anxiety just thinking about it right now) but when the casting director gave him a call, he knew he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Unlike the others, Tan didn’t audition for the show itself (at first), but instead was “discovered” thanks to his social media presence.
“The first day I cried because it was so terrifying for me because I was the kind of guy that didn’t really like to get his photo taken,” Tan said in an interview with ET. “I thought that they weren’t going to cast me because I made it very clear to the person that told me I told this job, ‘You’re out of your mind. Do not give me this job. I get uncomfortable getting my photo taken.’ I went to the audition because I thought I would make some gay friends. I never thought that I would get the job.”
Of course, we’re thankful he did end up getting the job because the show wouldn’t be the same without Tan.
Just like the original show, the Fab Five pluck one hetero man and change his life for the better (in a single show, of course) and they tend to go for much more than a “superficial” makeover.
“The Fab Five address a wider range of issues including racism and religious differences,” National Post writes. “Recent reviewers say the show does a good job of teaching heterosexual men how to display emotions and develop self-acceptance. By so doing, Queer Eye becomes ‘an antidote’ to contemporary forms of toxic masculinity that narrow men’s self-expression to aggression and anger.”
In this series, the reason why the men are considered “heroes” is because they’re actually very open to these life lessons taught to them even though some express hesitation. It takes a lot of courage to step out of your comfort zone, especially in front of an audience of millions, which is why the nickname given to the guests on the show is extremely apropos to the show itself. While the show sometimes hiccups along the way in dealing with particular topics, that’s normal of any show in its first season of shooting. Nonetheless, it’s an emotional rollercoaster to watch both the cast and their “heroes” growing along the way.
As pointed out by Elle Décor, Bobby Berk, the man considered the most “reserved” of the Fab Five, is a hugger, which surprises some people. Berk is the designer of the group, a man who has his own line of furniture called Bobby Berk Home. According to his official website, Berk’s line has been “epitomizing hip, minimalist urban luxury, Berk’s designs reflect a stylish and youthful spirit that perfectly fits any cool, relaxed lifestyle.”
Berk has actually been a guest on numerous programs on HGTV, NBC, Bravo, and CBS as a “design specialist” so he’s actually been around a while before nabbing a spot on the newest Queer Eye reboot. If you take a look at his Instagram and Twitter, you’ll notice that he really as a master at his job and his photos will give you numerous ideas for decorating your own space instead of spending hours a day surfing Pinterest.
“People that are happy in their homes, it spills out to the rest of their lives,” Berk says in a Tweet on the official Queer Eye Twitter account.
“A common thread that holds every human together is that we just want to be loved,” Bobby says in one of the trailers for the first season of the show. And he’s very right.
So it’s really not any surprise that some of the Fab Five stay in contact with their heroes over social media. Especially Jonathan Van Ness, who is the groomer on the show. When asked about any preconceptions he had about since coming on the show, Van Ness gave a very detailed and lovely explanation about the changes they help the heroes with to Vulture during an interview:
“I want to say something gorgeous,” Jonathan started out. “I think coming into this [show], being authentic is something that’s really important to me. Coming into a makeover show, I knew that a lot of whoever we’d be working, they wouldn’t be getting into these problems overnight, so how are we really going to fix it? I didn’t even know how much time we’d have with them, but I just really didn’t want it to be disingenuous and I really wanted to move the conversation forward. There are two who I still chat with regularly on Instagram and they both have, even now, long-lasting changes. Especially Neal [one of the heroes]. He was, like, legitimately depressed. That experience did boomerang him, and he has continued to get so much cuter. His hair is still looking so cute.”
Once they became stars (some overnight), of course, the public was dying to know who they were dating or married to. All eyes were on France, who happens to be a Muslim immigrant from England who now lives in Salt Lake City with his husband of eight years, a Mormon Cowboy named Rob France. France actually revealed to the NY Post that Rob’s religion actually is what drew the couple to each other.
“It made it easier to date someone who had similarities to me,” Tan said. “I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke. We practice some of our religions’ practices. We don’t’ practice them at all. We practice what works for us.” The couple has walked the red carpet together before, but you don’t see him as much on Tan’s Instagram account, most likely because he wants to respect his husband’s privacy, especially with his newfound fame, which can be difficult for most couples who never had to deal with fame before, especially sudden fame. Though, they have found that fame does have its perks. Apparently, Tan ran into Jon Bon Jovi while doing the Queer Eye press tour.
“I didn’t try for this life, but having Jon Bon Jovi stop me and say, ‘Tan, can I have a photo with you’ blew my freaking mind.”
It’s always interesting to hear about how cast members all felt about each other when they first met, and usually, that happens at around a second or third audition when producers are casting a TV show. Well, in the case of the Queer Eye Fab Five, it went a little differently. As we know by now, Tan was actually discovered online and asked to attend an audition, so what was it like for the rest of the cast?
Apparently, the cast didn’t actually meet each other before showing up to a “massive and intense two-day casting audition” in Los Angeles.
“It was like speed-dating,” Bobby Berk said. “We’d go in groups of five from table to table with various executives and just rotate until they found who they were looking for.” And while that sounds horrible for dating and ESPECIALLY horrible for casting a show, it was necessary so that the show could live up to the original Queer Eye.
“The original Fab Five were trailblazers,” Karamo Brown told Variety. “They have all reached out to us and say they can’t wait to see the show. And that feels good for us because even though we’re creating our own legacy, it’s good to know that that the guys whose shoulders we’re standing on are supporting us.”
If you’re a huge fan of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones (and a massive fan of humor in general) you’ll know exactly who Jonathan Van Ness is from his Funny Or Die web series Gay of Thrones, which is a hilarious show starring Jonathan, who recaps GOT episodes while doing a celebrity’s hair. Jonathan tends to recap in a hilarious way and tends to give the show’s characters interesting nicknames. And yes, for those who don’t know, Jonathan WILL be coming back to do the recap on the final season which will drop in 2019. As for who he wants to see sit on the Iron Throne?
“I really, really, really love Khaleesi, but I also would mind, like, Lena Dunham [whom he calls Yara Greyjoy] coming back and just really killing it,” he told Vulture. “It would be so unexpected right now because she’s so beat down, and I just really love a survivor story. And I feel like Christina [Daenerys] might be too obvious for George [the author], you know because we just love her so much.
“And also when you think about what happened to the Starks, would that just be so befitting to spend all this time thinking that it’s all about Jon and Christina but it wasn’t, it was Lena Dunham the whole time.”
During episode three of the series, the Fab Five’s hero was a cop from Winder, Georgia named Cory Waldrop, who was a former Marine. Thing is, at the very beginning of the episode, the cast gets pulled over unexpectedly by a cop while Brown was in the driver’s seat. Everyone in the car was super nervous because the scene was severely tense. Turns out, the cop who pulled them over was Henry, Cory’s best friend and the man who nominated him to be made over by the Fab Five. After Henry revealed himself, Brown was relieved and gave the officer a huge hug. “You can’t do that to me! You can’t do that to brown people!” he said half-jokingly as he hugged the man.
“We had no idea,” Brown told BuzzFeed. “When we have the driving scene in the morning, we all fight over who is going to drive. That morning, I was adamant that I wanted to drive. I’m glad that that happened because then it allowed a conversation to happen that probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been in the driver’s seat.”
Turns out only Bobby Berk knew that the scene wasn’t really, just in case.
During that tense third episode, Karamo was able to get real about what it’s like being an African-American man living in the states in this day an age when he spoke to Officer Cory about how his son was scared to get a driver’s license in fear of being pulled over and harassed by police officers. In his contract, Karamo has a stipulation that the show must hire gay African-Americans to be on the crew.
“If the person coming behind you doesn’t have access to open the door, and you don’t prop the door open to let them come in behind you, then you’re doing them a disservice,” Karamo told A&U Magazine. “I’m all about being a representation and living my dreams. I make sure that in my contract they must hire two to three gay African Americans to be on crew. I’ve done that now on the past three shows that I’ve been on and that’s important for me.”
He wants his community to know that they too can make their dreams come true and that he’s going to fight for those who don’t think they can. Karamo isn’t the type to shy away from being open and honest about his background and the issues he faces that people of color don’t.
If you didn’t know, Karamo actually made TV history back in 2004 when he starred on the fifteenth season of MTV’s The Real World back when the cast was in Philadelphia. Karamo, then a young man from Houston, Texas, became the first openly gay African-American man on reality television.
“That’s paramount,” Karamo told A&U magazine. “If you don’t see yourself, you don’t know what you can do. That’s just the unfortunate truth with many people in our community. We have been told that we’re not good enough, that we are less than.”
Karamo was speaking about other people in the gay, black community and how momentous the moment was for not only reality television but for the gay community as well. Karamo never “took no for an answer” when it came to breaking into television and it appeared to have worked out extremely well for him in the long run. He had made the decision to be true to himself and be openly gay when auditioning for projects. “I often think about the frat culture. I am in a frat and I remember so many times when I was going to college how so many people told me ‘you can’t join a Balck frat, you’re openly gay, that’s not allowed’ and I was like [expletive], that is allowed. And I am going to do this and be openly gay.”
Most of us know EXACTLY how important our hair is to us (I’d say this is usually for women, but it’s more common for men as well these days) – for some, it’s almost our trademark. Jonathan is adamant on self-care when it comes to looks and always makes sure he knows of a hero’s hair care ritual before starting out.
“I’m definitely a bit of a perfectionist and I love doing hair, literally,” Jonathan said to Vulture. “But the idea of being an expert and telling someone how they need to be because that’s what I’ve been doing doesn’t’ feel organic to me. I really want to know how much time you’re going to spend on your hair in the morning because I don’t want to give you some experience on camera that makes no sense for you, because why would you do that for the sake of a transformation? I don’t want to do transformations on people for the sake of a visual. I want to do it because it makes sense. That was something coming into this experience that was a challenge because a lot of people want really bombastic things for the sake of doing it, and I’m kind of like, ‘But does that make sense for that person?’”
If you’re a fan of the show, you’re well aware that the Fab Five is all about body-confidence when it comes to their heroes. The positivity that surrounds the show is what makes it so addicting to binge watch in the first place. When Jonathan actually first auditioned for the show, he didn’t’ think that he “looked” the part.
“Even though I’m a hairdresser and I love doing hair, I feel like I don’t look like a groomer,” he told Vulture. “When I think of how a groomer would look in relation to the first version of Queer Eye, I feel like I don’t fit in that box.”
Jonathan was, of course, talking about Kyan Douglas, who was the hairdresser in the original Queer Eye. “I love him [Kyan], but, you know, my aesthetic is soft lines and I have really long hair. If you have body hair, I’m like, “Have your body hair. Have it sticking up the top of your shirt.” I’m really about body positivity and self-love, and I will definitely push the boundary with a pink midriff-baring top. So I just feel like I didn’t necessarily like what a classic groomer looks like, so I didn’t think that I would get it [the part]. But I really wanted to be involved in it because Queer Eye was just something I loved so much.”
We all know that the entire cast works extra hard to make an entire episode work (and to make their hero look as amazing and feel amazing as humanly possible), but there are some cast members that have to work more hours than the rest. And that person happens to be Bobby Berk, the decorator of the Fab Five. Bobby understood that he was going to have one of the toughest jobs going in because he had to work longer hours.
“All of my friends in design have been texting me saying, ‘Oh my God. You have the hardest job.’ I’m like, ‘Don’t you know it’,” Bobby told Architectural Digest during an interview. “While my Fab brothers often had three to four days off a week, some weeks, depending on what we were building, I worked seven days a week. I do have to do some pre-design work on these. There’s no way, especially in Atlanta, that I can just make all that happen in a week. I have to pick the direction we’re going for and order the main pieces of furniture.”
That’s basically completely understandable since Bobby has to be there from start to finish with the space he’s working with while the others just basically have to deal with the hero themselves.
As with a lot of reality TV programs, we know that not EVERYTHING tends to make the cut in the final episode. But unfortunately, this happens a little bit with Antoni Porowski, whose RECIPES really don’t make the final cut in the series. And some of the plates he made that were rejected sound absolutely delicious. On the show itself, Antoni teaches the heroes how to cook. Or, in reality, how to make accessible meals. Usually, they’re told ahead of time about the hero’s dietary restrictions and things along those lines. And, of course, sometimes, recipes don’t really make the cut.
“[Tom, from episode 1] told us he had lupus, so I knew that we had to take a little bit more of a dietary, health and wellness, self-care approach,” Antoni told GQ in an interview. “It didn’t make it to the episode, but we made a really beautiful lemonade with charred rosemary and thyme. There’s so much that you can do with food. I think it was more reactive, figuring out what that person needed.”
It was a little more complex when it came to Tom, which is why it probably didn’t make the cut. “With Tom, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a dietician or a nutritionist, but MS is in my family. It’s an autoimmune disease.” So it was clear that Antoni knew what he was doing with Tom, just that everything really doesn’t always make the final cut.
Usually, if you have worked together for a while with people, you develop a close-knit bond that goes beyond expectations, expectations that you had before the filming begins. Unlike the original Queer Eye, this Fab Five have managed to go beyond their designated roles.
“That was really, honestly, our only goal,” Bobby said to AD regarding going on their assigned roles in the group. “Again, we didn’t want the show to just be skin deep. We didn’t want it to be superficial. We didn’t wanna look like we were just glorifying gay stereotypes: ‘Oh, we do hair, we do houses, we cook.’ We were more than that. Yes, that’s our job, but we wanted to really show a deeper side of us and a deeper side of the gay community."
“We wanted it to be about making them [heroes] over on the inside as well. I think that’s one of the things that Karamo really brings to the table that wasn’t there in the first round of Queer Eye. Of course, not to knock Jai [original Queer Eye cast member], because at the time, in 2003, the culture category was exactly where it needed to be. Karamo was a counselor before, so he really takes the 'culture’ category to more of a self-help place.”
As we’ve said before, it’s Bobby that really has the toughest job (well, for the most part) just plainly because he has to work more days than the other Fab Five. And this is because most houses take longer to prep than others, which presented some major challenges when it came to putting together everything in a short amount of time.
“I was really lucky that I had a great art department,” Bobby told AD. “My art director had worked on Extreme Home Makeover. The contractor that we used in Atlanta had worked a lot on shows, so she understood time frames. We would have sometimes 20, 30 people in a little bitty house, getting that together.”
However, there were some spaces that took a long time to work with because the hero was, well, a hoarder. Take Episode 5 “Camp Rules” for example.
“I would say my biggest one was Bobby Camp. Should it have been on Hoarders or Queer Eye,” Bobby told BuzzFeed. “Usually we can get in there and clean things out really quickly, but that took a full day and a half just to clean. With six young kids and a job, it’s completely understandable that keeping a tidy home is the last thing on your mind.”
If you work with someone long enough, chances are, you’ll either develop a strong friendship with them which may replace the “crush” you had on them in the beginning. In this case, when Vulture interviewed Jonathan, he was asked if he thought any of his cast mates were attractive (even I can answer that – BIG FAT DUH).
“I think everyone on the cast was super cute,” Jonathan said. “Bobby has a really funny video of me from our second week in the trailer curling my hair with seven fans on me, trying to get my hair looking kind of okay in 117 degrees. I also have psoriasis, so my psoriasis flared like really hardcore when I got there because it was like the change of temperature and my skin had never experienced that humidity and it was electrically painful that entire time.”
We’re pretty sure that everyone one of us who has ever worked with someone cute can identify with part of that situation. Though, what’s amusing, is that vision somewhat changes over time the closer you get with someone who you have to work, well, closely with, which is exactly what happened with the Fab Five. But, you have to admit, they all are pretty dang cute.
It’s not really unusual for someone to “profit” off their gains whenever they appear on a reality show and have a house or property made-over. It happens all the time in reality TV. And, it just so happens, it happened in the first season of the new Queer Eye. For example, AJ, the gay man who lived in Atlanta and works as a civil engineer, happened to sell his place right after the Fab Five got their hands on it.
“He put it [his house] on the market the next day!” Bobby told Architectural Digest about one of their most famous heroes. “About two weeks after we filmed that episode, I texted him, “Hey, how’s the house going? Does it feel like home yet?” He texts, “It sold already.” I was like, “What?” His boyfriend Andrey had a house, so AJ moved in with him and they put the condo on the market.
In other good news, AJ Brown and Audrey (a.k.a Dre) actually got married as well. He broke the news at Netflix’s “FYSee” event to an audience along with the Fab Five. It was France who broke the news to the crowd when an audience member asked how things were going with AJ and his fiancé, and France corrected the audience member by referring to Andrey as AJ’s husband and pointed him out in the crowd.
Karamo does a LOT of things both on the screen and off in terms of good deeds, and one of the good deeds he does is extremely close to his heart. Karamo actually runs an HIV Awareness Organization that helps fight HIV in the gay community.
“6in10.org is an HIV awareness organization with a dedicated mission to eradicate the 6 in 10 HIV statistic plaguing gay and bi Black men; by providing tailored mental health support through viral campaigns and community engagement.” Their website reads.
“Too many of my boys are still being diagnosed,” Karamo said of the Black community. “I feel that times have changed and we have so much education and so much knowledge, sometimes being rammed down our throats. So why are things not changing?”
Karamo keeps the organization close to his heart because a lot of his friends have been diagnosed with HIV so he keeps on fighting the good fight. “I’m negative,” Karamo says about himself. “But I have friends from both the gay and hetero communities who are HIV-positive. One thing that has always upset me is the fact that people in our community tend to ‘shade’ men who are open about their positive status.” He goes on to say that those in his community need to stop judging others and bring on the support in order for people to start doing something about the virus.
Okay, so we know that some things don’t really stick with us right after they happen. Say, you’re getting a haircut that you think you really want, but after it’s done and the hairdresser turns you around to face you at the mirror, you actually hate the style you’re gazing at. This happens to be the rare case with some of the heroes. This happened to be the case with Joe Gallois, a comedian who appeared in Episode 7 of Season One. Karamo had actually taken the time to build Joe a website so he could get more gigs, but Joe wasn’t too happy with that.
“My most challenging episode is one that kind of flies under the radar, which is Joe Gallois,” Karamo said to BuzzFeed. For me, [the show] was all about being comfortable and breaking out of your shell, Neal [another hero] was resistant, he was a little more comfortable because he had [Tan] and he could relate. But Joe could not relate to any of us.”
“He was just like, ‘I’m scared. I don’t wanna do this. I would rather be living next to my mom and dad for the rest of my life.’ And for us to get him out of that in such a short time, and to see him blossom and get a girl, it was [great]."
“But he took [his website] down! He said, ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready for that point in my career! I was like, ‘I’m building you this because, in a matter of months, millions of people are gonna see you and flock to your website.’ And he took it down.”
Of course, Tan had some major issues being photographed and filmed at the beginning, but what you may not know is that Tan actually has a very successful clothing line. Or, to be more accurate, Tan HAD a successful clothing line before he sold it off before he hit the age of 25.
“I always knew I want to be an entrepreneur and have many family members that were,” he told Out. “I just didn’t know exactly where I was going to find happiness.”
Tan then started working at a company and did operations for numerous popular clothing brands. “I wanted to diversify my experience, learning everything from design to delivery to wholesale.” Eventually, he started his own business called Kingdom & State, which sold women’s wear apparel. He sold his company by the age of 33, which actually enabled him to begin his work on Queer Eye. The show is now shooting him to the top at an alarming rate. “Clothes are a lot more powerful than what we give them credit for and they can change the way you feel and act, which could ultimately help you succeed in your career and life.” And, frankly, we couldn’t agree more with him.