‘Queer Eye’ star aims to ‘educate through exposure’

Feb. 13 (UPI) — Netflix’s new version of the makeover docu-series Queer Eye is intended to help people be their best selves, while also increasing acceptance of the LGBT community.

The eight-episode series follows a team of miracle-workers known as the Fab Five who enthusiastically try to brighten the lives of men throughout Georgia who are stuck in ruts and want help changing their appearances, homes, lifestyles and perspectives. The experts are Antoni Porowski (food and wine), Bobby Berk (interior design), Karamo Brown (culture), Jonathan Van Ness (grooming) and Tan France (fashion).

The original show was based in New York and ran on Bravo 2003-07.

“Being in the south changes the dynamic completely because, as much as we want to think that the world has changed, actually, in America, now, today, in 2018, things are backsliding a bit,” Brown told reporters during a recent roundtable interview in Manhattan.

“We see that there are still people ignorant to women having equal rights, to LGBT people being included in conversations and for us to go into these spaces where these people were like, ‘I don’t agree with your lifestyle.’ And you can see that in the show, sometimes people would say at the end, ‘We had never experienced gay men or we never would have invited gay men.’ They felt like that was an OK comment because of the culture they live in and we all know you should never say, ‘I would never invite someone in because of…’ whatever label you have on them.

“But we were still able to combat that with love and say: ‘You know what? Even though this is the South, you can learn and we can learn from you,’” Brown continued.

“I’m an immigrant,” France said. “I’m from the Middle East. I come from a religious background, so, for me, it wasn’t just showing them new clothes — let’s get you the best pair of jeans. It was education through exposure. I wanted them to see that we are just as much a member of this community as anybody else. So, for me, it was really important that they experienced a person that they wouldn’t have ever probably had the opportunity to, so, I hope that opens some eyes.”

While the series primarily shows the consultants making over straight men, one of its most memorable episodes focuses on a young man looking for support as he prepares to come out to his step-mom and introduce her to his longtime boyfriend without looking or acting “too gay.”

“We have spent so much time putting our fellow brothers and sisters in a box and needing to define them and I think we’ve all seen, as time goes on, there is less of a need to define things,” Van Ness said. “And AJ — if he wants to wear a cute, little baby, tucked-in sweater with his ‘schoolboy nerd’ look, as his best friend said, and that’s who he really is, babe, then you shine like that. I’m not here to tell you who you need to be and I think we really experience that on the show.”

“Just loving people for who they are, where they are, meeting them where they’re at and if you can give them a little baby tip to choose something better, that’s great, but it really was like a an exercise in connection.”

Queer Eye is streaming now on Netflix.