In 2003, Bravo graced us with a new reality makeover show. We were introduced to the Fab Five—a group of gay men who hosted the show, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” In an era when “Will & Grace” had been the sole TV representation of gay men since 1998, many still squirmed at the meer implication of queerness. “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” however, shone a spotlight directly on gay men—even if the premise was based on the stereotype of gay men being fashionable. Running for five seasons, the show was tremendously successful, so much so that in 2017, 10 years after “Queer Eye” finished airing, Netflix picked up a reboot of it, introducing a new Fab Five.
So, maybe makeover shows are not really your thing. Maybe you find them to be shallow and degrading, and some certainly are. However, “Queer Eye” brings something new to the genre of “makeover shows.” The Fab Five break down the walls of what we have seen in shows like this before, and they offer show participants so much more than haircuts and new outfits. The Fab Five focus on making the entirety of participants’ lives better, while preserving the essence of the person they are.
“Every person they work with, they are not just looking about what the right haircut for their face shape is; it is more like ‘What is this person covering up that needs to come out to make them a brighter, more self-actualized person?’” said Sasha Cagen, lifestyle coach and author of the book “Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics.”
Javiel Rios, a student at City On A Hill, said that a makeover is “something that changes the exterior of a person, but also the inside, and it affects the way the person feels about themselves.”
That is what “Queer Eye” does. And in addition to this, they help participants with something else along the way—like helping bartender Leo get ready for a parent-teacher conference, and helping Walmart employee William Mahnken propose to his girlfriend. There is something you can connect to in each episode because every person is treated as an individual, and each person is special.
Throughout the show, you also get a sense of the Fab Five as individuals, and you see them grow and learn from the people they meet. They focus on what is presented on the outside—fashion (Tan), culture (Karamo), grooming (Jonathan), food (Antoni) and interior design (Bobby)— and connect that to what is inside. In the season two premiere, we hear some of the Five talk about their experiences with religion. You witness some significant moments with Bobby especially, as he refuses to go inside the church because of the rejection he faced when he came out. We then watch as he opens up about this to the woman they are making over, Tammye Hicks, and finally watch him step inside.
Similarly, when the Fab Five get ready to meet Skyler, a trans man who just got top surgery, they open up on their lack of knowledge of the transgender community, and how willing to learn they are. You get a genuine sense of who the Fab Five are, as you get to know the show’s participants.
“I think ‘Queer Eye’ is special because I think they [the Fab Five] can make a lasting impact,” said Anya Edwards, a Boston Arts Academy student. “They actually have conversations with these people about their lives and what is holding them back from achieving their goals.”
No matter how firm you are on the idea of all reality and makeover shows being, well, trash, I would tell you to hop on Netflix and put on “Queer Eye”—you will find the Fab Five just as enduring and charming as I do.