To admit that the original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was integral to my development as a gay man would be an understatement. The first iteration of the show, which aired in the Philippines in the mid-noughts, practically laid the foundations for my queer self-discovery.
I didn't know it yet, but the cultural lessons that The Fab Five taught scores of bumbling, bearded, bewildered straight men would stay with me for years, providing me much needed comfort and solace as I traversed a world not exactly built for someone like me. Lonely, overweight, acne-ridden, and awkward, I found as much kinship with the straight men as I did with the queer ones.
The hosts, on the other hand, were confident and put-together, in turns both masculine and feminine, their image far more complex than the gay caricatures that peppered pop culture back then. They were also, at least at the time, paragons of good taste, lifting men out of the ditch of masculinity quite literally with a flick of the wrist and a fresh coat of paint.
I was enamored with how these men, their hair coiffed and backs straight, were able to find their way in the world and so confidently understand that life could be better for everyone if only you could learn to take care of yourself.
The original Queer Eye would come to pass, though, its final season airing in 2005, and the memory of having watched it regularly together with my family would fade just so. It, however, had already made its mark.
Over the next couple of years, I would unknowingly begin to lean into the tenets of the show, slowly building myself up through obsessive research and work.
Loose jeans, socks, and sandals gave way to slim button-downs, tailored khakis, and brogues. I learned about midcentury design and began dropping names like Eames and Jacobsen in casual conversation just as I started decorating my room with sage-scented candles and a marble nightstand. I became particular about my hair and obsessed over things like pomade and toner. I began hosting elaborate dinner parties where my friends and I could talk about film and art over good cocktails and food I made myself.
And I also happened to come out.
Over the span of 10-odd years, I had become a changed person, an assemblage of ideas and experiences that I'd picked up from The Fab Five and beyond in order to better myself and avoid the ridicule and mockery that I knew all too well. And yet it didn't seem like it was enough.
Single and between jobs, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was unworthy of affection, and the life I'd built had become more a suit of armor than an actual part of myself. I felt alone.
Then entered the brand new Queer Eye, a fresh, reinvigorated and unabashedly corny salve for my millennial woes, flashing ever so brightly at the top of my Netflix queue, as if by fate.
While The Fab Five are now different – shinier, more diverse, and even sexier – the format remains mostly unchanged, comforting in its familiarity. Just as before, unsuspecting men are whisked away to have Tan teach them about tailoring, Bobby redecorate their apartments, Jonathan trim their beards, Antoni teach them to make salads, and Karamo give them a much-needed pep talk.
The new Queer Eye is still fundamentally a show about makeovers, but unlike its predecessor, it doesn't use The Fab Five's queerness as a gimmick. Rather, their experience of otherness as queer men becomes the beating heart of the show.
The Five understand what it's like to overcome adversity and to constantly challenge toxic masculinity, and they use what they've learned to help teach their wards, as well as their audience, that there is no greater joy than learning to love oneself unconditionally.
I found myself reeling as I heard the different men pre-makeover say things like, "You can't fix ugly" and "I don't think I'm handsome," almost like echoes in my own head, as The Fab Five earnestly told them otherwise. While the hosts' advice about grooming and dressing well is sound, it is their genuine belief that these men deserve all the love in the world because of their innate humanity that truly opened me up.
In Queer Eye's new world, I am allowed to take care of myself, look as good as I feel, and truly believe that I deserve good things. The new Fab Five are just as much about dismantling fears and holding each other up as they are about a well-fitting pair of trousers.
Where the original introduced me to the wonders of manicured masculinity, this new version chipped away at my defenses to let me know that maybe I am worthy of something good after all. While I don't need to be made over anymore, I still have a lot to learn.
All it took was a bunch of fellow queers to remind me. – Rappler.com