'Queer Eye' Fashion Expert Tan France Talks Emotional Journey & Wardrobe Must-Haves (Exclusive)
Queer Eye is back, and this time it's headed to Georgia!
Back in 2003, Bravo debuted Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a show where five gay men, known as the "Fab Five," gave a heterosexual male a makeover, transforming his wardrobe, redecorating his home and giving him grooming, lifestyle and food advice.
Now, 15 years later, Netflix is rebooting the reality makeover show with a whole new "Fab Five" and relocating the series from New York to Georgia. The show embodies the same structure, transforming one man's life per episode with the help of Antoni Porowski (food & wine), Bobby Berk (interior design), Karamo Brown (culture), Jonathan Van Ness (grooming) and Tan France (fashion).
ET chatted with France, the show's new fashion expect, about how the Queer Eye reboot continues the LGBTQ conversation about acceptance, the eye-opening experience he had on set and, of course, his fashion tips and rules to live by!
“What I think the casting people did [best] was cast people that were super friendly and got along right away," the England-born fashion expert recalled. "I thought it was going to take some time to warm up but really, the five of us who ended up being the Fab Five, before we were cast, we were texting and calling each other and started our own Fab Five group, even before we got the job."
France never intended to become a reality star, revealing that he didn't audition for the show and instead was sought out because of his social media presence.
"For me, it kind of just came out of nowhere," he explained. "I feel like it was a lottery. I got super lucky. I am very, very grateful."
"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," France shared about his experience. "I thought that they weren't going to cast me because I made it very clear to the person that told me I got this job, ‘You are 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 a job."
"So the first day I was terrified and I thought, Oh, no, I'm not cut out for this," he added. "Until the last day, when I felt that this job was made for me! And I truly feel like I was made to help the men on the show and really impart my ideas and my wisdom to help them better their lives."
And the journey has been nothing but special for France, who expressed how important the project is for him and the four other guys who have forged and maintained relationships with the "Heroes," the men they makeover, after the show.
Additionally, France expressed that the new Queer Eye also touches on accepting those that are different than you, more so than the original series.
"There are many differences between the original show and our show," explained France. "Before I used to watch the show and it was definitely not giving too much information about [the Fab Five's] lives. In the original show, they would makeover the guys, but you never really knew anything about their lives. You didn't know if they were in relationships, they were just gay. But that was all America was ready for [at the time]. It was great that they were looking to be tolerated, but I want more than that. I want the audience to accept us like they were our own friends, our own family."
"We're not just caricatures of what a gay man is or what people think a gay man is," he explained. "We are now in a position where we can get married, we can adopt, we are regular members of society, and this is different. With this show, you really get to understand who we are. You get to hear that I'm married; a few of us are married. You get to hear that I want children. It's a very different show to the original show and it really is about accepting every part of us, not just that we're fabulous gay men."
The reboot also features a more personal fashion segment, with the Heroes getting everyday affordable looks. While the original fashion expert, Carson Kressley, had all of New York and high-end brands to work with, France uses local and chain stores.
"There are so many differences between Carson and I. Firstly, he was bloody hilarious and I am definitely not. That guy made me laugh every second, he’s so funny," France said. "But his style is so different to mine. He was a stylist for brands where he would do campaigns. And he had access to stores that I didn't have access to in Georgia. So, his way of dressing these men was very stylized and it was a version that wouldn't be right for the men that we were helping."
"It was perfectly appropriate for New York, it was definitely appropriate for the time. Sometimes it was very, very loud, but that was Carson’s charisma, that was the way he brought out some of himself in the outfits that he would put men into," he added. "That’s where it’s different with me. I’m trying not to give them my style. I’m trying to give them the best version of their style and also by using the resources that are available to me in that town. A lot of the times, Carson had access to the whole of New York. I have access to a place called Dallas, Georgia, where all they’ve got is a Target. That’s the only real place they have to purchase clothing. So that’s where I have to go. There’s a really big difference between the original fashion segments and these fashion segments. Let’s work with what you have and make the best of that."
France's process also includes beginning the week with the Hero and making the best of what they already have.
"For me, I don't go, ‘Let me walk into this person’s home. I don't care who they are, I'm going to put them in a Dolce & Gabbana suit and I really want them to have a pink shirt.' It was none of that," he explained. "It was a case of, ‘I need to know what you do for a living, what your closet already looks like. I want to know what you love, what you hate in your closet and build from that.' It really is a process of making sure that we are making the best of what they already have."
With that comes uncomfortable discussions about clothes, their bodies and how they feel about themselves.
"When you’re talking about people’s clothes, you’re also talking about their bodies. That opens up some kind of vulnerability," he said. "You find a way to connect with them that their friends don’t manage to find a way. They may have surface level conversations; I get to ask them, ‘Tell me about your waist. Tell me about the hair on your arms, are we wanting to cover it?'… They’re vulnerable and they talk about things that are so [important] to them. It helped build that relationship with them. And I’m sure if you had to talk about your most personal parts of your body with somebody, that really helps to bring down a few of those walls real quick."
Overall, the experience for him is heartwarming, as well as eye-opening.
"I thought that some of these men would struggle with us, I’m at least an immigrant and I'm gay. That's a lot," France expressed. "I really didn't know what to expect, but by the end of it they truly did accept us as if we were their kin."
“I hope people get a moment of joy and happiness when they are watching the show,” France expressed. “It’s a super positive, fun and entertaining show no matter what language you speak, no matter where in the world you are. It’s a really fun show, and I hope people find positivity and they find it heartwarming because that is what we aimed to achieve.”
While fans will have to binge-watch Queer Eye to get some of France's tips and tricks, he did make sure to share some "Rules to Live By" and fashion must-haves.
"The main must-have is a capsule wardrobe. I think it’s really important that everybody, men and women, have a few items in their closets that are their go-tos. No matter what the occasion, they have something in their closets that they can go to."
"So for a man, a straight-fitting suit that’s a dark color or a neutral color that they can wear to a wedding, a funeral, a party or whatever occasion, but it fits well. A great pair of black shoes, a pair of brown shoes and a sneaker, but a sneaker that they’re able to wear in many different ways. The best fitting pair jeans that you can find, it doesn’t have to be expensive, preferably not a boot cut. A boot cut does not look great on most people. A great button-down white shirt, a white tee, a black tee and a nice sweater. With that, a man can come up with about 10 different looks; no matter what’s going on, he will always look appropriate."
As for his rules:
1. Know your proportions: "I think it’s really important to know what your best assets are and if you have any areas in your body that you’re not totally comfortable with, hide those parts and try to detract from that area. So for example, if you’re not really happy about your mid-range or you have a bigger waist, I will layer and that will help hide the areas that I don't want people to look at to detract attention from those zones."
2. Don't be a slave to trends: "I know that’s such a cliché to say, but I think it’s so true. I don't care about a trend. If something is super-hot that season, but it looks hideous on me -- I want to be able to look back in 10 years and think, Oh, I looked appropriate and I looked good, and hopefully classic. So don’t be a slave to a trend."
The first season of Queer Eye is streaming now on Netflix!
See more of the Fab Five in ET's Denny Directo's interview below!
‘Queer Eye’ Is Back, and This Time It’s Personal (Exclusive)
'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' Being Rebooted for Netflix
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