Queer Eye Is Back to Make You Believe in Makeover Shows Again

The Netflix reboot of the early 2000s cult fave is the positive antidote to harmful trash like Revenge Body we needed

(Photo: Netflix Canada)

Think of it as the anti-Revenge BodyKhloé Kardashian’s makeover show that promotes a singular beauty ideal (skinny and fit) and guides the people being made over to change their appearances by losing weight. Queer Eye—the show that premiered in 2003 and followed five gay men making over a straight man in New York City—is all about appreciating all your amazing qualities. Instead of focusing on what’s “wrong” with people and how to alter those things (*cough* lose weight, get fit, shop a lot *cough*), the Fab Five embolden the men they’re advising to see all the reasons they’re bomb to begin with—and then help them elevate their lives with a totally achievable makeover, from jeuging up their home décor to tweaking their wardrobe and teaching them actual doable grooming, cooking and general life tips, of course.

Well, we can give our worn-out OG Queer Eye for the Straight Guy DVDs a rest because there’s a new Fab Five in town and they are EVERYTHING. That’s right, the makeover show that makes over more than just their heroes’ (that’s what they affectionately call their makeover-ees) outward appearance is back with eight brand-new episodes, a fresh fivesome, a new headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia and a new home where you can binge them all sans commercial breaks, Netflix. (Notably, this is ‘Flix’s first foray into the world of unscripted television.)

I could go on but we’ll let the Fab Five speak for themselves. I sat down with the new cast (Montreal-born Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown and Tan France, who cover food and wine, interior design, grooming, culture and fashion, respectively) and creator of both the original and the reboot, David Collins, at an NYC press junket earlier this month and got all the deets. Here, the scoop on why the Queer Eye Netflix remake—available to stream now—is exactly the uplifting, positive, delightful beacon of hope the world needs right effing now.

(Photo: Netflix Canada)

1. It’s the perfect time to keep this conversation going 

Since its first incarnation 15 years ago, Queer Eye has been a cult favourite and if you’ve seen even one episode, you know why. It peddles the kind of boundless positivity that was as inspiring in the early aughts as it is in 2018 (along with heavy doses of unabashedly delightful entertainment and emotion in equal parts). And while the outcome of the series may be similar, the mission has changed since the first go-around: “The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance,” the voiceover says in the show’s trailer. This sentiment, along with the importance of the Fab Five’s own diverse backgrounds, was repeated several times when we chatted with the group.

“Can you imagine Carson (Kressley), or Ted (Allen), or Kyan (Douglas) talk about their husband, or their boyfriend, or their kids back then? [The world wasn’t] ready for that. In 2003, we were barely ready for what happened on the show then,” said the show’s creator when discussing how times have changed. “And now, Karamo’s got two kids, Bobby’s been married for 15 years, Tan’s a gay Muslim man married to a Mormon cowboy (laughs). It doesn’t get more diverse and interesting than that.”

Karamo agreed. “Where gay men were when the original show started is not where we are now. People need to be exposed to that and that’s really what’s important…. I’m a single gay dad raising my sons, and you would never have seen that when the original show happened. And so when I’m connecting with these men, I’m also saying ‘I understand what you’re feeling like as a father, and why you feel like you’re not adequate enough, and why you feel like you’re failing at home because you’re working so hard,’” Karamo continued.

“Those are things that the old Fab Five could have talked about, but it wasn’t the time. Now it’s the time.”

Tom Jackson, Karamo Brown and Bobby Berk drive in a car in a scene from the remake's first episode

Tom Jackson, Karamo Brown and Bobby Berk (Photo: Netflix Canada)

2. It will tap into your emotions like you never thought possible 

Sincerely, if you have a pulse, you will cry. If you have a soft spot for retired Southern dads with some backwards views but hearts of gold and an eagerness to learn, you will need an ambulance to be called immeds, like I did. I’m referring to episode one in which the guys makeover Tom Jackson, a thrice-divorced, small-town Georgia man who secretly wants to reunite with his ex. You will adore him and how he bonds with the Fab Five. And when he learns to use his little colour corrector stick (green in order to reduce some of the redness on his face caused by his Lupus), I dare you not weep.

The cast say they got just as emotional filming the show as viewers will watching it. “I would go home some nights and just bawl. I never in a million years expected to really, truly connect with these guys, and be heartbroken when we had to leave,” said Bobby.

Antoni echoed that emotion when talking about the authentic relationships they built with the show’s heroes: “The Fridays and Saturdays were really tough when we ended [our time with the men], because you’re saying goodbye to these people. What you see in that episode is actually what happens,” he said.

“And to have them tell us how we’ve changed their—I’m choking up a little bit—but it’s true, to have them say, ‘You know what, I had my thoughts about what it was like to be gay’ and to see that change, and to see this vulnerability in these grown-ass men, it never gets old,” continued Antoni.

(Photo: Netflix Canada)

3. It will inspire to elevate your own life in legit accessible ways

Overhaul your entire wardrobe at the chicest NYC boutiques? A dream, but not very realistic. Thrift for gently used duds in your town’s vintage shops? That’s way more feasible for real people spending human dollars. “A big difference between the last show and this one is they had access to stuff that most of these people we’re helping do not have access to, in fact, they’ve probably never even hear of the damn thing,” explained Tan.

“We have the luxury of being able to use what they have access to, and so this show is a lot more accessible. They know that they can go back to their vintage store, for example, so it’s showing people how they can relate what we’re teaching them to their real lives.”

4. Its new southern home base is a revelation 

Moving the show south was no accidental decision. “We knew New York (where the first series was based). You take a guy to Tom Ford and Gucci and you can probably clean them up, right? Heading down south was able to make us realize that things were much more accessible. Really exploring the good, old fashioned mom and pop shops,” explained the show’s creator.

“We’re based in Atlanta, but the cool part is each episode is set in a small town in Georgia.  So, we went into those small towns and shopped all the stores like the locals—the local vintage shops, the mom and pop shops, and also the big brands like the Targets and the Walmarts and the various grocery stores, that we all shop at in our lives.”

(Photo: Netflix Canada)

5. It delves into difficult, eye-opening conversations about topics like race and gender roles

One of the most inspiring parts of the Queer Eye reboot is how much the Fab Five and the eight heroes learn from each other. “I was surprised about how much the heroes each episode really had a lot of questions, and were very much wanting to have a dialogue,” said Collins. “The Tom Jackson episode (episode one) is hysterical because he literally was like ‘Who’s the husband and who’s the wife?’ And you realize that that’s a real question, it’s legit. He wasn’t asking that because he was trying to be funny. He was asking it because he literally thought that.”

Karamo also spoke about how his own views evolved along with some of the heroes as their bonds formed. “This time around, we’re engaging in culturally relevant conversations that weren’t had before. I mean, there’s an episode where we are with a white, southern cop who had Trump and Pence signs all over his house (Cory, the man the team makes over in episode three). And for me as a Black man, the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t ‘Let’s make you better!’, it was like ‘Cops are killing Black people,” he explained.

“And the thing was, we had the ability to address these culturally relevant issues in a way that didn’t turn people off because we’re open and we listen, and in turn, they listen to us. That mutual respect is so great.”

Karamo continued, “I think that people who would normally be turned off from watching a show about five gay men are going to feel proud to see, first of all, themselves represented in some of the heroes that we deal with, but also to see that we’re not attacking them for their views, we’re open to them.”

The show’s creator also spoke about the evolution of Karamo and Cory’s relationship and the difficult, yet fruitful, conversations they had about race relations in America. “In episode three, Karamo having a conversation with a republican, white police man who he ultimately ends up finding out he would been best friends in college—it’s crazy when you break it down. And for Cory, hanging out with a gay man was one thing, but a gay Black man was another other story. That was beautiful what happened there,” Collins added, referring to the bond that Karamo and Cory built. “That was beautifully surprising in a good way.”

(Photo: Netflix Canada)

6. It’ll give you hope about the world and make you realize how similar—not different—we all really are

When asked why now is the perfect time to reboot the series, the fab five were united. “It’s an opportunity to find our similarities,” said Antoni. “It’s so easy these days to figure out how different we are—north from south, and republican from democrat, that whole conversation, and this is something that actually brings us together, [through] these universal truths, these things that we all actually share. We all want to show off for our partner, for our loved ones, for our family members, for our dogs and our cats.”

Jonathan agreed, mentioning the current political climate in the U.S.: “Whenever there’s a new republican administration, we need to bring Queer Eye back so that everyone can remember that we are all people just doing the best we can for the people that we love, and we are more similar than we are different.”

Bonus: you *will* get abs from laughing so hard 

The Fab Five isn’t just here to make you reconsider how naturally fierce, funny and loved you are, they’re *also* here to deliver the LOLs. And while the group of IRL besties (they met during casting but bonded immediately, recalled the show’s creator) are each as charming as can be, grooming expert Jonathan will have you rolling on the damn floor laughing, trust. A 15-minute roundtable interview often felt like a stand-up show, in the best way possible. For a preview of his hilarity on the show, take a scroll through his Instagram feed and thank us later.

Related:

The 2 Dope Queens HBO Special Is the Self-Care You Need RN
What’s Coming (and Going) on Netflix Canada in February 2018
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