Fifteen years ago, the original Fab Five burst onto the scene in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy with their style, enthusiasm, and great ideas for elevating your lifestyle, whatever your orientation. Queer Eye in 2003 did more than just make it “okay” for even the most staid of heterosexual guys to think about fashion, grooming, and entertaining. It planted a flag for the whole LGBT community.
Fans of the original Queer Eye Bravo series have been lauding the new Netflix reboot. But, what do the original Fab Five think of the new kids on the screen? And how do they think their groundbreaking series has changed the country fifteen years later? Let’s take a look!
Timing is Everything
With a virtual culture war raging throughout the United States (and even much of Europe), the need to reinforce acceptance in a positive way may be the reason fans are loving the Queer Eye reboot so much.
Interior designer Thom Filicia, who still runs a successful firm in NYC, thinks this plays a big part in the new show’s popularity. He told BuzzFeed:
“It’s been a little bleak. “I think there is a strong reaction to the show because it has a great lineage, a great history, and I think that people are ready to feel good about things again.”
Former grooming guru, Kyan Douglas, agrees.
“The underbelly of racism is so clear for anybody who decides to see it and homophobia and transphobia. This new Queer Eye is the antidote to all that in some ways — it’s like, thank god there’s still some queer people in your living room.”
Visibility and Relatability
One factor that launched the original Queer Eye into prominence was the relatability of the cast. Even though they came across as perfectionists and were sometimes over-the-top, the show addressed issues that any modern American can relate to. How do I create a better life for myself and those I love?
Longtime foodie, and currently the successful host of Food Network’s Chopped, Ted Allen noted the importance of setting an example that nearly anyone can relate to:
“I think that when a conservative family sees this group of five happy, successful, accomplished people devoting themselves to helping somebody who’s a bit of a mess, it humanizes us.”
And Carson Kressley, the original version’s somewhat flamboyant fashionista added that setting an example for LGBT youth is also important:
“Even though we have made great strides in our community with marriage equality and many more advances in trans rights, at the end of the day, there is still a lot of homophobia and a lot of people that have not been exposed to gay people.
“It doesn’t matter what era we live in — visibility is so important because … little queer kids need to see flamey people like me and Jonathan [Van Ness].
“It’s okay to be any kind of person you want to be; it’s okay to be who you are. I think that’s why it’s important that it’s back.”
And that’s an important lesson to learn for any kind of kid who struggles with feeling different. Kressley hits the nail on the head.
More Diversity and More Sensitive Issues
One thing that stands out in the Queer Eye reboot is the diversity of the cast and the issues they address. New cast members include Tan France, a British-Pakistani Muslim, and Karamo Brown, an African-American. Brown was the first openly gay Black man in the history of Reality TV. He’s also a dad.
Douglas told BuzzFeed News that he appreciates the diversity in the new cast:
“I love that the cast is more diverse…that the people that they’re making over are more diverse… I think it’s a great show.”
And talk about blowing away stereotypes. In the reboot, the Fab Five makeover a gay man who was just as much a mess as any straight guy saved by the original cast. Who of us wouldn’t benefit from a little expert tjuzing, after all? Most importantly, they show this gay man how to accept himself.
Additionally, Rodriguez said he likes that the show can explore more sensitive issues than the chipper original. He told BuzzFeed that changing times mean the new cast is “allowed to tackle issues we were not really allowed to delve into.”
Rodriguez also adds that the social tone fifteen years ago meant that as gay men, they otherwise had to remain beyond reproach to be accepted.
“We were superheroes who were meant to be perfect. They never showed us flawed; they never showed us making mistakes. This new version isn’t like that. Sometimes they’re in tank tops and shorts. They’re just relatable, they’re easy breezy; they’re not the gays that are better than you — they’re the gays who just want to help.”
In the original show, the Fab Four were expected to be style icons, living the high life always. Rodriguez adds:
“Our show, if you remember, everything was designer, high-end. I had to wear a blazer in every episode.”
The Legacy of the Original Queer Eye
Kressley also talked about the influence the show has had over the last decade and a half. He said he’s been approach by young people who said the show made it so much easier for them to come out:
“To this day, it is the gift that keeps on giving. I get goosebumps. That is a real blessing. Very few people get to work on a show that’s that impactful. That is the power of being out and being visible and also of being yourself.”
Allen echoed that sentiment:
“I’ve already had hundreds of gay people tell me it made it easier to talk about these issues with their parents, and I know that’s happened, I know that’s happened a lot.”
Rodriguez stated that he’s pleased that the original show’s popularity did so much for the LGBT community:
“My biggest takeaway is that over the years thousands of people have come up to me and said they could come out and it was safe because their parents loved us.”
Filicia added that working on the show was just plain fun:
“I think it’s a really positive, wonderful thing to have been a part of.”
It certainly was. Thanks for making everything the world better, guys: from the way we groomed our hair to the way we have learned to accept others exactly they way they were meant to be.
And for fans of the reboot already jonesing for more — good news! Netflix has just renewed for Season 2!
Featured Image via Thom Filicia Instagram