Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk and Antoni Porowski.
Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk and Antoni Porowski. Austin Hargrave/Netflix

The famous five bring an eye for style to Australia

After a long, drawn-out battle involving a $100m postal vote, last year Australia finally legalised marriage equality, meaning people could marry whoever they damn well pleased.

From more than 12.5 million responses, 7.82 million people voted yes to same sex marriage equality, making up 62 per cent of the overall vote and this was considered a "landslide", although those 4.87 million people who went out of their way to vote "no" didn't sit right with many.

But, it's a start, and while numbers and stats paint one picture, the popularity of a television show that revolves around five gay men putting their magic touch on the lives of people who need it paints another.

So much so, that out of everywhere in the world, the Fab Five and stars of Queer Eye (sans For the Straight Guy) chose our country for a stopover last month.

"We hear that you guys are loving the show, it's rating really well in Australia, so it just made sense that we'd come out and show our love for the Australian fans by making sure that we're here to support them too," fashion expert Tan France says.

Bobby Berk, design expert, adds to his stylish comrade's sentiment.

"I don't think we had a tonne of coverage in the States about the fight that happened but we know it passed, which is a great thing," he says.

"One thing that's so great about the show is that it's not necessarily pushing an agenda, it's just pushing love and acceptance.

"You know, who can't get on board with that?"

The Queer Eye guys in Yass, NSW.
The Queer Eye guys in Yass, NSW.

If you're unfamiliar with Queer Eye, it stems from the original show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy which ran from 2003-2007. The premise of the original show was for straight men to undergo holistic transformations, spurred along by the Fab Five who specialise in different areas - fashion, grooming, design, culture and food. It was a smash hit, winning an Emmy and even a spin-off, but all good things must come to an end.

Last year Netflix announced it would be reprising the show with the same concept, but a new cast. Antoni Porowski, food and wine expert; Tan France, fashion expert; Karamo Brown, culture expert; Bobby Berk, design expert; and Jonathan Van Ness, grooming expert.

The first season was received better than Netflix could have ever anticipated, with the Fab Five becoming international superstars almost overnight. Their online followings skyrocketed and their faces were all over media publications, television screens, billboards and websites. Their faces became internet memes, their infectious wordings became instant catchphrases and people everywhere were talking about how episodes of Queer Eye made them laugh and cry within minutes.

They became an instant part of popular culture but, also, role models for people struggling to come to terms with who they are, people who feel they're on the outside or even just people who need a smile slapped across their fabulous dial.

 

There are plenty of jaw-dropping makeovers on Queer Eye.
There are plenty of jaw-dropping makeovers on Queer Eye. Courtesy of Netflix

"To me I feel like there's so much negativity, not just in the press but on TV in general," Bobby says.

"There's certain things right now that are so frustrating, that bring us down.

"We really wanted to be a beacon of hope.

"We wanted to show people that giving self-love not only to yourself but to each other can really change the world.

"And I think that's what's so important about the second coming of Queer Eye.

"Teaching people we can't be defined by political affiliation or anything like that, we only need to be defined by how we treat our fellow humans."

As mentioned, the "For the Straight Guy" was lopped off the end of the show's name to allow the Fab Five to broaden their horizons.

In season one they helped a young gay man come out to his mother.

The guys make over a woman in season two of Queer Eye.
The guys make over a woman in season two of Queer Eye. Courtesy of Netfilx

 

In season two, now streaming on Netflix (small spoiler alert), they makeover a mother and a recently transitioned transsexual man.

Their physical transformations are in some cases downright gobsmacking, but more so are the transformations in people's attitudes, especially people who had previously given up on themselves a little.

Each man has his own objective on the show, and some people have joked about how vastly different some can be in difficulty - for example Bobby will transform an entire home structurally and design-wise, while Antoni teaches a fast food-addicted man how to make guacamole.

But Bobby doesn't see it that way.

"My job is in no way any more important than any of my other brothers," he says.

"I might have a job that's a little more time-consuming just because of what it is, but it's in no way the hardest job.

"I would say Karamo has the hardest job, because every week all four of us, besides Karamo, know for the most part what we're doing.

"Karamo is the only one that after actually meeting the guy, he has to say, 'Alright, what can I do to help this guy on the inside?' So to me I might be running around and doing more shopping or helping my design team do building but I definitely don't think I have the hardest job.

"He's got to be real creative every week."

Then there are those involved with the awkwardness of changing someone's appearance, Tan and Jonathan, who each week are faced with telling someone their look isn't working.

But again, Tan doesn't see his job as being difficult or a sensitive area, more so he feels lucky to be able to connect with someone while their guard is down.

"Actually I think I'm one of the luckiest on the cast," he says. "I think I have the lovely job of being able to see them in their underwear and that opens up a vulnerability like you'd never believe.

"I get to speak to them on a very personal level and, when you are standing in your underwear in front of me, that means I can pretty much ask you anything.

"If I've seen you naked, I can ask you anything.

"So I think I've got an easy job when it comes to having a conversation that a lot of the other boys I think want to have too.

"I take a look at someone's body, I see how I'm going to dress them and that opens me up to a wealth of conversation.

"So I feel really lucky to have that as my category."

Netflix new reboot of Queer Eye, stars Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness and Tan France. Picture: Supplied/Netflix
Netflix new reboot of Queer Eye, stars Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness and Tan France. Picture: Supplied/Netflix

Another thing that makes people so connected to Queer Eye is the fact that, despite the men working on one human at a time, the people watching feel a sense of residual motivation.

They might be telling their subject to put effort into how they dress, how they look, how they come across, how they are affecting their loved ones - in short, telling them to look after themselves - but that message rubs off on viewers.

It forces viewers to look at their own lives, apply those same principles and potentially learn something along the way - simple grooming tips for the everyday man or tips on how to dress simply but stylishly from Tan.

"Find a person whose style you admire, for example, a celebrity," Tan says, beginning a crash course on how to dress if you feel your style is left wanting.

"That's the best piece of advice I could give to someone who doesn't really know about style, they don't feel comfortable with style, they've never been one to make an effort with their clothes, I say find someone you connect with then use that as your reference point when you go shopping.

"So let's say, for example, if your style icon is Justin Trudeau, whenever you go shopping, think 'What would Justin Trudeau buy from the store? How would he style this up?'

"That would be a good starting point."

The Fab Five's overwhelming positivity and genuineness on and off the show has resulted in an equally overwhelming public response.

There hasn't even been much reported on homophobic responses or bigotry.

The primary criticism has been that the Fab Five, all stylish, attractive, fit and obviously fabulous, are a perpetuation of a gay stereotype that suggests all gay men are blessed with these attributes.

Bobby and Tan are having nothing of it.

"To be really honest I feel that those saying we perpetuate gay stereotypes haven't seen the show," Bobby says.

"Because we're anything but gay stereotypes. For example Jonathan, that gay stereotype of a groomer, Jonathan is not like that. He's so organic, he's bohemian, he's into meditation.

"He's all about grooming however makes you feel the best.

"And Tan is the same way with fashion. "He's not trying to keep people in Gucci and Prada and this and that, he's saying wear what makes you feel comfortable. Just be the best you."

In addition, Tan says the cast, which is not only obviously five gay men but also ethnically diverse and, if they feel like it, androgynous, is one of the most diverse on television, connecting with a huge subsection of society.

"This is one of the most diverse casts I've ever seen on not only a national show but international show so we represent more of the community than has ever been seen before," he says.

"So I think that anyone who says that has not seen the show."

As anyone who has seen the show knows, these guys are no pushovers. If they believe in something, they won't be walked over.

But they're also kind and tender, empathetic and understanding and always open to lending a helping hand or a word of advice to anyone who might need it.

"For me, accepting who you are is all about stop listening to what other people have to say," Bobby says.

"Stop listening to what people tell you about who you should be and how you should be it.

"On the show we're usually trying to help people who have drifted away from who they are as a person and so we try to get them back to who they really are and make them the best version of that person.

"Just be yourself.

"Nobody can be a better you than you, so don't try to be anybody else; just be you."

Queer Eye is available to stream on Netflix now.


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