Like many others, I’ve found myself with an abundance of time during lockdown. Compared to my previous hustle and bustle, I’ve felt like a retiree at the ripe old age of 23. At first this was a luxury, and it still is really, to wake up everyday and decide what I want to do. I was fired two weeks into lockdown, so gave myself some time to wallow. I Netflix-binged, ate everything in sight and rediscovered reading. But my wallowing began to last for longer than the week I had planned. My days consisted of long chats with friends, baking, fretting about rent and tax and job applications - hundreds of forms, paragraphs and company specific declarations that chipped away at my motivation and self-worth, one by one.
I knew that I wasn’t alone in this, that there were thousands across the UK and the rest of the world that were feeling the economic side effects of coronavirus. I watched movie after movie, comparing myself to the protagonist - how did they get that job in advertising? Why was he in such a high position when he never went to work? Was it safe to go and work in a supermarket? My future, or seeming lack of it, was on my mind constantly and it's a pretty exhausting state to be in. I found that I was tiring of movies, or series or speaking to anyone. I couldn’t be bothered to bake, and particularly do the washing up. The deserted streets outside reinforced this feeling that I was alone: community, friendship and laughter were gone, dried up, unless electronically transmitted in pixels across a screen.
Queer Eye is a makeover show with a twist
But, it was those clever pixels that brought me to Netflix’s saving grace. On my girl’s group chat, a discussion began on the latest season of Queer Eye. I’d never heard of it - in my busy past life I’d mostly watched reruns of Gilmore Girls or Seinfeld. It’s funny now, when I think of how they described it. “Wholesome af,” one friend said, “it’s the ultimate spoon full of sugar.”
After watching it I couldn’t agree more. For those who aren’t familiar, Queer Eye is a makeover show with a twist. The original concept, filmed back in 2003, featured the ‘Fab 5’: a team of gay experts, giving single men advice on everything from culture to hair colour, in order to have better luck with women. However, the 2018 reboot recruited five new guys, and a whole new attitude.
The Five consist of fashion expert Tan France, grooming queen Jonathan Van Ness, culture whizz Karamo Brown, interior design magician Bobby Berk and food curator Antoni Porowski. Each week, a person in need is nominated to be taken over and bolstered. With a fun upbeat soundtrack, plenty of quirky dance transitions and a team with crazy amounts of chemistry, Netflix is on to a winning format. Seven Emmys and multiple Critics Choice awards, in fact.
With every episode I was lured in with the snappy intros, meeting the guest’s friends and family. Learning about their lives, their trials, errors and successes, loving the surprise entrances to kidnap them on stag dos, team meetings or family dinners. The diverse range of stories and backgrounds was life-affirming, demonstrating the variety of paths taken and situations to recover from, as I watched all of these people come together in the realisation of one thing - they knew they could be doing more.
The diverse range of stories and backgrounds was life-affirming
That’s not to say that people aren’t happy - and this is the important distinction that I am so happy was made in this program. Some were ecstatically happy living the way they were, but they knew there was room for improvement, with some hard work and hard truths. The idea that we can always learn more, improve and build on what we have is so important. I guess that’s why it’s not a ‘regular’ makeover show, because if you need a makeover it usually suggests that there’s something wrong with how you live now. That you’re ugly, or boring, stupid or whatever - that something needs ‘fixing’. When that’s just not the truth at all.
Instead, the Fab 5 are there to boost. With kisses, cuddles and energy like you’ve never seen, they stampede into people’s lives, sprinkle their glitter and get to work with the polishing, putting in real elbow grease in working through issues - like the ultimate tangle teezers. The problems are big problems too - we’re not dealing here in getting dates. Instead, the show tackles hugely important social issues that are more relevant now than ever. From body confidence to racism, adoption, disability, homelessness, feminism, the environment, sexuality and religion, the Fab 5 face it all. They bolster and lift people up, to a place where they feel ready to face what’s holding them back, while giving them the self-confidence that comes with a funky new hairdo and a pair of awesome shoes.
They bolster and lift people up, to a place where they feel ready to face what’s holding them back
Watching during lockdown, I also couldn’t help but draw parallels in the discussions within Queer Eye and the issues I was educating myself on during the Black Lives Matter protests. In one of Karamo’s classic DMCs in the car, I watched as he had a frank discussion with police officer Cory. He explains the fear he has whenever he gets pulled over by a cop, and begins a conversation about the lack of communication between the police and the Black community. I couldn’t get over how relevant the conversation was, when it happened again, two seasons later. Karamo took Jess, this episode’s star, to a dance studio to discuss Black culture. Here she confided her confusion around the expectations within different communities, and how she didn’t feel ‘Black’ enough or ‘White’ enough. Through speaking to the dance group, who had all been through similar experiences, Jess was able to work through her emotions and feel accepted.
The content, psychology, frankness and relevancy is so potent within Queer Eye, showing how astute the cast are in dealing with people. This is not just a game, or a fun upbeat TV show. There is education, substance and skill at the heart of everything the Five do. In lockdown, I learned from the Five, about the importance of self-care, patience and determination, and I’ll keep learning from them. So to me, as they advocate for love, peace, confidence, joy, human rights and PRIDE - there was no greater way for me to celebrate Pride Month and feel like myself again, than with Queer Eye.