Fans of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have something to celebrate now that series creator, David Collins, has brought a reboot to Netflix! The new series, simply titled Queer Eye, is revamping the format with a few twists here and there to make something new to suit the zeitgeist.
When the original series aired, it was a completely new concept to television which helped to positively highlight LGBTQ culture in America. While it didn’t have a problem embracing cultural stereotypes, Queer Eye let the world see into a subculture it had previously been wary of.
That all changed with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which ran on Bravo TV between 2003 and 2007. The show was an instant hit and bringing it back 15 years later seems to be a wise idea. The new series is already killing it with critics and fans, but there’s still a lot people don’t know about the new series and the old one.
How well do you really know Ted Allen, Carson Kressley, Kyan Douglas, Thom Filicia, and Jai Rodriguez? And what about these new guys: Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, and Jonathan van Ness?
We dug deep and found these 15 Secrets Fans Didn’t Know About Queer Eye
15. IT WAS INSPIRED BY AN UNHAPPY WIFE
The original concept for the series was unique when it first hit the airwaves back in 2003. Not only did the series feature a group of gay men, it had them make-over straight men looking to improve their style . That just wasn’t the norm back then, so it begs the question: how did someone come up with this? Like most art, it was inspired by real life.
In the early 2000s, David Collins was at an art gallery in Boston when a woman in the middle of the party stated berating her husband, “Look at you! Why can’t you look like these guys?” She was, of course, referring to some stylish gay men. The guys immediately came to the fellow’s defense and started fixing his hair, tucking in his shirt, and exclaiming, “No, doing great! He just needs a little help! A little zhush, a little this, a little that.”
14. JAI RODRIGUEZ FAKED IT
When Jai Rodriguez was brought onto the show after the first two episodes, he wasn’t exactly the cultural expert the producers thought they were getting. His prior work put his expertise in theater acting on Broadway and a nightclub act. He didn’t possess the background in fashion and design that his fellow Queer Eye peers seemed to have naturally.
According to Rodriguez, he had to learn those aspects of his “character” on the fly.
In his own words, Rodriguez discussed his cultural credibility by saying, “I grew up eating off paper plates. I was not the Puerto Rican Emily Post that I was supposed to be.”
Regardless of his background of expertise or the lack therein, Rodriguez had little difficulty developing into the charming and charismatic cultural expert the Fab Five relied upon in each and every episode.
13. THE STARS OF THE SHOW HATED THE TITLE
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy had a lot of positive effects for the advancement of LGBTQ issues in America and one of the most prominent was the “taking back” of the word “queer.” For years, the word was little more than a slur directed at LGTBQ people. By using the word in the title – as the first word in the title no less – the cast and crew took ownership of it and made it their own.
While this was certainly positive, some of the cast members didn’t initially grab hold of the concept.
The word had a heavy political connotation in 2003 and people had difficulty saying it in a public setting. In an interview, Ted Allen recalled, “I watched Matt Lauer trying to wrap his mouth around the word ’queer.’ It was hard for people to say!”
12. THE ORIGINAL CAST MEMBER WHO WAS FIRED AND SUED THE SERIES
Fans know Jai Rodriguez was the culture expert on the series, but he wasn’t the show’s first choice. Originally, and for the first two episodes, that honor fell to Blair Boone, but he didn’t last very long. Boone was let go by the producers who told him NBC and Bravo had a “different idea of what they wanted to do with the ‘culture guy” and Boone didn’t take it very well.
He had quit his full-time job as an ad manager and writer at Metrosource Magazine to join the cast, which made his termination so soon after starting problematic. He sued for damages from Queer Eye LLC for breach of contract. He sought $3,000 per episode he would have appeared in for a total of $105,000 potential earnings. The two parties ended up settling the case before it went to court.
11. NOT EVERYONE THINKS A REBOOT IS A GOOD THING
It seems just about everything is being rebooted these days. There’s a new Charmed series on the way and just about every original idea conceived has been thrown at the remake/reboot machine in recent years. Now, thanks to Netflix, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has been targeted and not everyone is excited to bring back the groundbreaking series in 2018.
One of the biggest issues people have with the reboot is that the new Fab Five are different from the original, but that’s not all; the format has been tweaked for a new audience in a new age.
Fans of the original series may not embrace the alterations to the original format.
10. THE ORIGINAL SERIES THRIVED ON STEREOTYPES
For anyone who saw the original series, this one pretty much goes without saying. The original series not only put gay men on the front lines of media, it embraced the stereotypes commonly attributed to them for decades. The flamboyant, overdressed, always neat & tidy mannerisms depicted on television and film in a derogatory way for years suddenly became acceptable and the series helped change American culture towards acceptance.
The new series has taken this aspect of the first series and have flipped it around.
Focusing on areas of the country not traditionally supportive of LGBTQ issues, the new series has moved south to show that not every southerner fits the stereotype.
Not only are their targets a way of flipping stereotypes on their head, the new cast features a black man and a Muslim man, proving that not every gay man looks and sounds like those from the first series.
9. THE FAILED SPINOFF
Whenever a series makes a splash like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, it’s only a matter of time before the word “spinoff” gets thrown around. It took less than two years for the producers behind Queer Eye to greenlight a companion series they titled Queer Eye for the Straight Girl and you can guess how the format developed.
The series was different than its progenitor in that the folks who went about making over straight women weren’t all lesbians. In fact, they weren’t all women. The cast was made up of Robbie “The Look”, Danny “The Life”, Damon “The Locale”, and Honey who was appropriately named “The Lady”.
8. THE PARODIES
You know you have made it when other shows begin to parody yours. South Park took on the parody challenge soon after Queer Eye premiered in an episode titled “South Park Is Gay!” In the episode, South Park is overcome with a new metrosexual fad and the only one unwilling to embrace it is Kyle. The episode continues with the “town gays” heading to New York to kill the Fab Five and in perfect South Park fashion, lessons are learned and hilarious points are made.
South Park wasn’t the only series to jump on the parody bandwagon.
Comedy Central launched a parody series in 2004 called Straight Plan for the Gay Man. Queer Eye clearly had a lasting impact on American television culture. Now that it is being rebooted into the new series for Netflix, new parodies will likely soon follow.
7. CARSON ISN’T TOO EXCITED ABOUT THE REBOOT
Whenever a reboot comes around, the fans always ask the same question: will the original cast be brought back? Like most reboots, the answer in the case of Queer Eye is a resounding no. That’s not too surprising seeing as most reboots either omit the original cast fully or allude to them only minimally. When the new series was given the green light, the producers actually gave Carson Kressley a call to give him the good news.
Kressley let them know he wanted to be a part of the new cast, but they were adamant about moving forward with some new blood. Kressley believes there isn’t a way to “recreate the same magic”, but still wished the new production well. In his words, “wouldn’t it be great to ‘gay it forward’ and have somebody else get that amazing experience.”
6. BOBBY KNEW THE COP WOULD PULL KARAMO OVER
Queer Eye is a type of reality television, but it is still, first and foremost, entertainment television. For that reason, most of the series is scripted or at least guided via producers. That’s simply how reality television works, but that doesn’t mean they don’t try to make it look more realistic than it actually is.
In the third episode of the new series, “Dega Don’t”, Karamo Brown is driving the group along when they are pulled over.
Karamo is black and it’s the South, so things look like they are developing into a negative confrontation. It all works out, though, since the cop who pulls them over just so happens to be the guy who nominated his buddy for a makeover. Karamo didn’t know a thing in advance, but it turns out Bobby Perk, the design expert knew everything. He didn’t alert Karamo since that would have ruined the realism of the made-for-TV moment.
5. KYAN DOUGLAS’ TRAGIC BACKSTORY
Kyan Douglas was the popular stylist on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy who belies the stereotype of the gay hairdresser. Douglas was never flamboyant and outrageous, but instead presented a low-key persona fans embraced. Douglas found a great deal of success on the series, but his life wasn’t always a high like it was throughout the show.
When he was 13, an uncle committed took his own life, which is hard for anyone, but not the worst thing to happen to him. While working at a New Orleans restaurant, but during Kyan’s day off, three of his closest friends and coworkers were forced into the freezer and killed during an armed robbery. He was brought onto the scene to identify the bodies.
4. THE SHOW ONLY GOT MADE BECAUSE OF THE SUPER BOWL
Back in 2003, Bravo TV did something interesting with their programming schedule during the Super Bowl: they ran a series of gay weddings. Programming anything during the Super Bowl is a risky endeavor since most of America is glued to their television sets for the big game. Then again, Bravo TV’s audience doesn’t really skew towards football fanaticism so their wager wasn’t such a bad idea – and it worked.
TV executives always look for areas of success to build upon so Jeff Gaspin, president of the network, requested a gay-themed relationship show. Additionally, the pilot for Queer Eye was picked up to pair with the Boy Meets Boy, which was the relationship show Bravo developed for Gaspin. Boy Meets Boy failed to launch only airing six episodes, but Queer Eye exploded and it’s all thanks to some gay weddings aired during the Super Bowl.
3. KARAMO’S REALITY PAST
Queer Eye isn’t Karamo Brown’s first foray into reality television— he was a cast member on The Real World Philadelphia and a little series called The 5th Wheel, which was a dating show… for straight people. It’s a bit surprising to find out that one of the Fab Five from Queer Eye was on a dating show intended for heterosexual people, but then you are forgetting the basic rule of dating shows: they aren’t really real.
Most of the time, a contestant on a dating show like The 5th Wheel is appearing simply to get some screen time. That was certainly the case for Karamo, who was working to build a reality TV background and get some television credits to his name. His time on The Real World Philadelphia was also meant to improve his acting resume and, seeing as he landed a role in the new Fab Five, it worked.
2. TAN THOUGHT HE WOULD THE RUIN THE SHOW
The U.S. isn’t necessarily the most welcoming nation when it comes to Muslims, which is the unfortunate reason Tan France felt he might be the death of Queer Eye. When the producers offered him the gig, he said, “You’re out of your minds — I will ruin your show!”
It was actually Tan’s background that helped him get the job.
The producers wanted to cast someone who was different than the original cast and they couldn’t pass on a gay British Muslim immigrant.
It’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but with a modern twist. The original series may have run into trouble casting a Muslim man back in 2003 so soon after 9/11. Fortunately, the nation has moved on from its rampant Islamaphobia… or at least the demographic who enjoys the Queer Eye format has, so Tan embraced the offer and became an excellent addition to the series.
1. KARAMO DIDN’T KNOW HE HAD A SON
We already mentioned Karamo Brown had appeared on a heterosexual dating show, The 5th Wheel, but it may come as a surprise to learn he had a son… it certainly came as a surprise to him!
Brown only learned he had a son when a stack of legal papers was delivered on his doorstep demanding back child support. The orders came as his profile skyrocketed due to his time on The Real World Philadelphia and Brown thought he was being Punk’d.
He eventually made contact with the son he never knew he had and began a relationship with the then 15-year-old boy whose mother had kept him secret from his father. Brown has embraced his son and even adopted his half-brother so the siblings wouldn’t have to be apart. The three now live together in Los Angeles and by all accounts, they couldn’t be happier.
Do you have any other Queer Eye trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!
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