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'Queer Eye' is still breaking new ground, 15 years after its debut




(L-R) Kyan Douglas, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Thom Filicia, Antoni Porowski, Carson Kressley, Tan France, Jai Rodriguez, Karamo Brown, and (front) show creator David Collins attend the premiere of Netflix's
(L-R) Kyan Douglas, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Thom Filicia, Antoni Porowski, Carson Kressley, Tan France, Jai Rodriguez, Karamo Brown, and (front) show creator David Collins attend the premiere of Netflix's "Queer Eye."
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
(L-R) Kyan Douglas, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Thom Filicia, Antoni Porowski, Carson Kressley, Tan France, Jai Rodriguez, Karamo Brown, and (front) show creator David Collins attend the premiere of Netflix's
(L-R) Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, and Karamo Brown are the new "Fab Five" on "Queer Eye."
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images


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It’s been 15 years since the world was first introduced to the show, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," and its hosts, the “Fab Five.”

Carson, Ted, Jai, Kyan, and Thom were experts in fashion, food, culture, grooming and home decor who swept into the lives of schlubby straight men and whipped them into — at least temporary — stylish shape.

The Bravo incarnation was a fun, frothy reality makeover show with a heart, but it rarely dared to address the real challenges facing the LGBT community at the time. The reboot on Netflix is here to have fun, too. And a new team of fab ambassadors — Jonathan, Karamo, Tan, Antoni and Bobby — bring plenty of humor and exuberance while ushering in new transformations.  

But this time around, "Queer Eye" also has ambitions to address more serious topics such as  discrimination, marriage rights, and violence against marginalized groups in America. And the show's setting has moved from New York City to Georgia.

Creator and executive producer David Collins is the man behind both the original iteration of the show and the new Netflix version. He stopped by The Frame to reflect on the original show and how it fits into the current zeitgeist's craving for honest conversations about serious subjects.

Interview Highlights

On changing from big city to small town narratives:

Each of the little towns becomes a story behind each of our heroes, so we get to see where they live and how they live. And we realized it’s one thing to take the guys in Gucci or Tom Ford in New York City, but let’s see what happens in all the little mom-and-pop shops in the towns and make things a little more accessible.

On the show’s casting process:

We definitely get nominators. All kinds of folks say, My husband really needs it. My brother really could! A lot of girlfriends. The casting process is one where we’re really looking for authentic stories, for true stories. So we kind of dig through and find the stories of the deserving heroes, the ones that really feel like they can have an amazing journey along the way. Casting is probably the biggest and most intensive work.

Why right now is the perfect time to bring ‘Queer Eye’ back:

Honestly, it’s great to connect to this conversation again, which is lifting each other up. Love, compassion, gratitude for all the things that we do have – I think that’s kind of the cool part of this story. The original conversation — back almost 15 years ago now — opened the door for a place to have [say], Hey, look — gay, straight, man, woman, black, white ... it doesn’t matter. We’re all people. We all wanna be loved, we all wanna be connected. That conversation doesn’t really have to ever end … Folks really seem to be connecting, not so much even with the makeover, but to the conversation — looking each other in the eye and listening to each other.

I grew up in Ohio, a little Southern Baptist boy who definitely struggled with my sexuality and coming to terms with it. But what happened for me, as I grew and went to college and in my early career, was that all my buddies were straight guys. They didn’t care if I was gay, I didn’t care if they were straight. I realized that it was perhaps because I was on the coast, or I was living in New York City or L.A., so that was an early impetus for me to say, Wow, wouldn’t it be great if my relationship with all of my best buddies who happen to be straight guys could transcend into the world? Have a conversation that’s like, Oh, yeah man, you’re just a guy? I’m just a guy too, how about that. Yeah I’m gay, you’re straight, so what?

On the way 'Queer Eye' offers a safe space for families to discuss sexuality: 

One of the proudest moments in my career, back then and this time around, was there were so many beautiful emails. The majority of the ones where parents would write and say, We were watching "Queer Eye" ... and our 14-year-old son turned around and looked at us and said, “Hey I’m gay.” It was because they had a comfortable environment and a safe place to have that conversation. I get shaken up because I think about me, that little 14-year-old boy back in Ohio and how scared I was and the shame around who I knew I was going to be. So, for me, those emails and stories where moms and dads and grandparents and the kids felt comfortable to come out and have a simple conversation ... That same conversation is happening now. It’s even better this time, it’s even bigger because we’re able to have those conversations even more clearly and more directly.



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