Queer Eye: So Much More Than a Makeover

Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot has brought with it a new kind of representation: real, healthy queer people using their unique experiences to help others. It shows us a side of the queer identity that we don’t often see, the tender and caring nature within all of us. Queer Eye has brought queer love into the mainstream in such an important way, both the original series that sought to make people realize that being gay was “normal” and now, the reboot, that teaches us that our beauty comes from within us; that we are all strong; that we are capable and worthy of loving and of being loved. From the first episode, “You Can’t Fix Ugly,” Karamo, Tan, Bobby, Jonathan, and Antoni have been telling both the people they makeover and the people watching that they are beautiful, and giving us tips that help us see the beauty within ourselves reflected on the outside.

It’s in the show’s nature to feel a little campy at first and it’s clear that the guys really embrace that. They over-act for the Hip Tips at the end of every episode, keeping it fun and light-hearted while still getting their point across, like how a French tuck can slim your waist and still look professional or casual, tomatoes should not be stored in the fridge, or a little product can go a long way in your hair. They don’t shy away from their queerness, choosing to make jokes about “five strange gay men walking into [someone’s] house” and acknowledge that their orientation is a significant part of their identity that they all refuse to hide. In season 3, Jonathan mentions how he loves to cut hair while wearing heels more than once, because it’s part of how he experiences his identity and he’s not afraid to express that to everyone. It’s all jokes and fun when they go through disastrous wardrobes and fear-inducing kitchens, and then they hit you right in the heart when they identify what is needed by the person they’re making over and they make it happen.

It takes on a completely different energy, however, when the person they’re making over is also queer. They have one in each season: AJ in the first, Skylar in the second, and Jess in season 3. There’s a certain level of comfort and understanding, even from the beginning, between the Fab 5 and their subject, and they’re able to get to the root of issues much more quickly and do even more good than with the straight and cisgender people that come onto the show. Bobby and Jess connected instantly over their shared struggle of having to leave home as teenagers, and not being able to settle anywhere since, and Bobby was able to use his own experience to help her feel like the place she lived was a home. Similarly, Karamo used his experience as a black, queer person to show Jess just how strong and amazing she is, and make her feel a little more at home with her own identity. It shows the rest of the queer audience that we aren’t alone in our struggles with our identity and all the complications that come with it; intersections between our identities, acceptance from our families, confusions about what that queer identity actually is and what it means to us.

The Fab 5 take the opportunity in every season to show us as many new ways to care for ourselves in more ways than putting on lotion or wearing pants that fit properly (not that those aren’t important too!), and, most importantly, they show us that we are all deserving and capable of love. Queer Eye really is more than a makeover, it’s a lesson in loving ourselves and using our resources to help others.

-Hawthorne, he/him/his