Tan France, a fashion designer, businessman and star in Netflix’s “Queer Eye” came to speak to students about growing up, his overnight success and the show’s impact on the LGBTQ+ community.
Carlie Doll, a sophomore communication studies major, moderated the event. She began the night by asking about France’s roots. France grew up in a predominantly white area in the north of England in a “very strict Pakistani family.”
As soon as he could, France went to college hoping to major in sociology. However, France realized that sociology was not his true passion. “I had much more fabulous dreams,” said France. He dropped out of college without his parents’ knowledge and went to fashion school.
France realized that working in fashion was the path for him after working retail. “I was the guy folding clothes at Zara,” said France. Ultimately he realized he wanted “to encourage people to dress better.”
Doll asked France about his first fashion brand “Kingdom and State,” which he founded in 2011. France admitted that he created the business so he could receive a green card and live in the U.S. However, the business was not easy for France to keep up with: “It was hellacious ... I was working 14-hour days.”
All France’s hard work paid off when “Kingdom and State” caught the attention of major retailer Forever 21, which picked up the brand for a line. France was able to retire at 33.
When asked what he misses most while he is away from the other “Queer Eye” cast members France said, “Antoni.” France admitted that he did not like Antoni for the first couple weeks of filming. “I thought he was just too innocent and sweet,” said France.
France initially had no interest in being a part of Queer Eye and did not think he would be that important to the show, but he kept going because his husband wanted him to.
“You know how Jonathan Cheban is on the Kardashians? That’s how I thought I’d be,” said France about his expectations for “Queer Eye.”
France admitted that when he realized how large his role was, he was unhappy. “I cried every day for the first three weeks of the show ... I was gonna quit the show,” said France.
After deciding to stay on the show, France remarked how surprised he was at its popularity. “I truly thought some of the girls and gays would watch,” said France.
France recalled the moment he realized how big the show had become when Bon Jovi asked for a picture backstage for his wife at the Today Show.
Doll asked France about the “Fab Five,” the name given to the five men on the original show. “Queer Eye” is a reboot of a show from 2003 called “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
“Those guys were pioneers, they really did change the landscape,” said France. He elaborated on how much respect he has for the original Fab Five being open about their sexuality on television in a time when that was not the norm.
Doll segued into a discussion about the impact of “Queer Eye” on the LGBTQ+ community and how France feels about that.
“It has created allies across the world,” said France. France spoke about how he appreciates the support from fellow Pakistanis. “I never thought that this would happen in my lifetime,” said France.
Doll finally asked France what details he could share about the newly released season three of “Queer Eye.”
France spoke about how his relationship has developed with his co-stars throughout the filming of the upcoming season.
“Now I know those idiots so well,” said France. “This season is wicked ... you see me cry for the first time this season.”
In a bit of advice for college students, France advocated practicing self-love. “I brush my teeth in my underwear ... I spend two minutes telling myself ‘Yes, I don’t like my stomach, but I love my arms [and] my brown skin,’” said France.
In a question and answer session, France spoke about the inclusion of minorities in television. “There is not enough ... I feel very lucky to be in a position where I get to represent my community,” said France.