Tan France wasn’t supposed to be a Tv star.
But as of publishing, the fashion designer has over 183,000 Instagram followers and a number of giddy, straight spouses asking to take his photo to depict their wives at his local grocery store in Utah. “I can’t walk the street without somebody stopping me, ” he explains earnestly, still astounded that complete strangers would recognize him.( Perhaps it’s the hair ?)
France, who’d never held a undertaking in the entertainment world before, says he was reluctant to audition for “Queer Eye, ” a Netflix reboot based off the original Bravo series, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, ” that’s become an overnight culture phenomenon since premiering in early February.
But France went to the audition anyway. And now he’s a member of the show’s Fab Five — the stylish, sincere queer guys who bombard their “heroes'” homes and make over their closets, diets, and, genuinely, entire existences in just a few days.
The reason France ended up taking the offer, he says, had nothing to do with notoriety or luck. It was the series’ shooting locating, of all things, that sealed the deal.
Unlike the original, the new “Queer Eye” detected its heroes to “make better” in deep red, rural Georgia. For France — a British-Muslim immigrant to the U.S. with Pakistani roots — the opportunity to build bridges and befriend straight, southern Republicans was an opportunity he simply couldn’t pass up.
I sat down with France to chat about the first season of “Queer Eye, ” what it’s like representing lesbian Muslims on the world stage, and which member of the Fab Five he secretly loves best.
I’m so happy to talk to you. I went through season one of “Queer Eye” so quickly .
The response has been out of this world!
I don’t know if you know, but I’m the only one who hasn’t ever worked in the entertainment industry before. I never had any desire to do so. I had to be convinced to go audition for this depict. So for me, it’s been really shocking. I receive, on average, a thousand DMs a day.
Oh my gosh.
Yeah. It’s insane. It’s lovely, lovely, and I’m very grateful, but it’s insane. And then not really being able to go out of the house as much anymore, unless I’m either truly dressed up or have a hat and shades on — that’s been a major adjustment.
That’s wild. And for many Americans, you’re either the first or one of the first gay Muslims they’ve ever seen on TV. What’s that been like for you ?
I just am unapologetically myself, so it wasn’t something I was truly cognizant of until people genuinely started asking about it the past few weeks. And so I’ve been like, oh shit, perhaps I should be paying more attention to that [ giggles ]. People all over the world have been reaching out and saying, “I’ve never seen a version of myself on TV.” And that’s really powerful.
How comfy are you taking on that role ?
I don’t feel uncomfortable because I am who I am, and I don’t make any apologies for it. That’s the example for all of[ the Fab Five ].
But I’ve never seen myself as any kind of role model or trailblazer, and I still don’t. I don’t like that kind of responsibility because I don’t expect that people should live their lives a certain route because someone else lives their life a certain way. However, I do love devoting exposure to a community that really hasn’t had the representation it needs.
As a Muslim, how did it feeling helping Cory in episode three? He was a big Trump supporter. Was helping guys like him something you held before heading to Georgia to shoot?
It was something I thought about a lot before accepting the offer. And actually, it was the reason I took the present.
If the display had been filmed in New York or L.A ., I don’t think it would have been as tempt for me.[ The original “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”] was wonderful for its period. It moved the homosexual community forward and it gave us exposure we never had before. However, I didn’t want only the original version back. I wanted it to be more[ representative] of how we’ve progressed as their home communities.
So having the opportunity to work with a bunch of Republican people[ in the South] was the most seducing part of this chore for me. It wasn’t about attaining them “pretty” — that’s secondary. My undertaking on the show is produce sure I’m having very open, blunt conversations with people without concealing who I am.
Unfortunately, some of the conversations didn’t make it[ into the episodes ]. Like, Cory and I had a very lengthy dialogue in the car about Trump and the fact he doesn’t love gays or immigrants, and I represent both of those things.[ Trump’s] made some derogatory commentaries about the Middle East, and again, I represent that.
I read that Tom had at one point suggested you were a “terrorist”? But then he ended up giving you a amber rose ?
He sure did. You’ve watched the full[ first] episode … right?
So I had a driving scene in the car with Tom that didn’t make it[ into the final cut ], where we’re shooting the shit — just talking about everything while I was driving — and then it came up in conversation that I am Middle Eastern. He hadn’t realized I was Middle Eastern. So his first issue was, “You’re not a terrorist, are you? “
Yeah. That was really important for me to be able to address that in a certain route where he didn’t feel like he couldn’t asks that topic — and I told him he can’t ask that question again.
There’s a style of asking questions to find out what you’re wanting to find out without being so offensive. There’s a certain level of tact that’s necessitated [ pauses, giggles] …
Sorry, what was the rest of your question?
I asked about the amber rose .
Oh, right, yes! Sorry, sometimes I go off on a tangent and I don’t remember where I was going! So we had a really open conversation and he actually asked that question[ about being a “terrorist” ].
We ended up becoming really close. I love Tom. By the end of the week before I left, when the cameras weren’t around, he came over and said, “I got a rose for you, which is yellow — the color of friendship. And I want you to know that I wasn’t trying to be offensive by the question I asked. Now I understand you.”
He said, “I want to have these conversations with other people. I love knowing that now I have a Middle Eastern friend, an immigrant friend, a liberal friend, that I never guessed I would have had.”
Oh my gosh .
Tom was definitely one of my favorites. I also loved A.J. too .
I loved A.J. I mean, it helped that he was really attractive [ giggles ]. But he was such a sweetie.
That’s awesome. Well, those scenes with Tom sound so powerful. I wish I’d get to find them .
You know, here’s the thing: We’re not trying to make a political present. I guess we attain political statements by the nature of who we are. But I believe[ the amber rose scene with Tom] would have been style too heavy. Baby steps.
Sometimes, subtlety can stimulate the show accessible for a lot of people who may not have tuned in otherwise .
Exactly. And they can make their own presumptions. We don’t necessarily “re going to have to” ram anything down their throats.
So how about some fun topics ?
I know the Fab Five are all close with each other. But who do you get along with the best ?
OK, I will actually be honest with you. I love them all. When we’re together, we have the best period. I don’t know if you follow my Instagram or if you don’t —
I do .
I mentioned in a post that people seem to have really answered well to in my Instagram story: Antoni sat on my lap, and I[ said ], “It doesn’t matter how many chairs there are in a room, my lap is always Antoni’s seat.” And that’s true. It doesn’t matter what’s going on, if there are a lot of people around us, we are always so affectionate. We love each other very much.
There are differences between some of[ the Fab Five] because, for example, some of the boys like to go experience the night life and go to bars and clubs. And me and Antoni, neither of us drink alcohol. So it built it much better organic for us to build a bond rapidly, because when those guys are out going to bars and clubs, Antoni and I were cooking in each other’s apartments and watching “The Great British Baking Show.”
I now go on vacations with his family. We basically married the same person [ laughs ], so they get along really well. We’re all very, very close, but me and Antoni formed a bond like no other.
That’s astonishing. Can we talk about Antoni for a second ?
Everyone wants to talk to me about Antoni! You love him, I know. [ chuckles ]
I do! But he seems to be the most controversial Fab Five member. Is he only the talentless eye candy on the indicate, like some people have said?
OK, wait, Robbie, let me tell you this. Because you are now the third person in the last couple days who’ve asked a question this.
All I get all day is DMs from people saying, “Oh my gosh, Antoni won’t reply to my DMs; can you tell him that I love him? ” I’m like, “OK, get a grip, everybody. He’s not only a piece of meat [ laughs ]! ”
Maybe I am jaded because we’re so close, but I find him as the heart of the present. Truly. He’s got a way of connecting with our heroes — that’s what we call the clients we help — he has a style of connecting with heroes like none of us can. He’s so genuinely genuine.
And look, people can have their own sentiments with what he does with food. But in the first episode where he made Tom guacamole, he actually made a full meal. But we’ve only got time to show one thing! He’s actually an amazing cook. He cooked for me almost every night because our apartments[ when we were shooting on location] were right next door to each other.
For the record, I’m pro-Antoni .
Good! Honestly , no joke, he’s probably the best person I’ve met in my entire life. Like, he’s an angel sent down from heaven.
So, I’m already craving season two. Any news ?
OK, here’s the thing. Netflix doesn’t tell us anything [ chuckles ]. All we can say is, we hope it’s doing well. Instagram’s fucking blown up, so I assume that’s a good indication of how the show’s doing.
It seems like it’s doing great, but I don’t know if I’m merely being trapped in my own gay bubble.
[ laughs] You know what’s funny though? In Utah[ where France lives ], they have a the highest Mormon population. And when I’m out in the grocery store, one of my favorite things in the world to do is go to the grocery store. For a British person, coming to America and insuring the ridiculous abundance in a grocery store is fascinating.
And every time I’m there now — at least three or four times — I’ll get stopped by a man who I assume is straight and wants to take a picture with me to show his wife and kids. It’s always straight men! It’s always straight men.
That’s so funny !
I know, I love it.
That about cover-ups my topics, Tan. Is there anything you want to add ?
I’d love to go back to the relationship thing with the other sons, because you’re the only one who’s asked who I am closest with.
Of course .
I am the closest with Antoni, but I never expected that my colleagues and I would become my best friends. Of course, every now and then there’s going to[ be a fight ]. Actually, I like that we argue every now and then, because it’s usually about the hero and what we want to do that episode — we have those kinds of arguments. And that constructs for a better show.
But on the whole,[ the present inventors] chose five people who could be, and thankfully are, the closest of friends. And I think that’s why the reveal runs so well.
This interview has been condensed and edited in the interests of clarity .
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