The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - SALLY COATES

After a long, drawnout bat­tle in­volv­ing a $100 mil­lion 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.

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?”

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 faces be­came in­ter­net memes, their in­fec­tious words 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.

“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.

In sea­son two, now streaming on Net­flix (small spoiler alert), they make over 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 de­sign­wise, 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, ‘All right, 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.

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.”

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.


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