The INTO Interview

“Queer Eye” is Back to Save You From Pandemic Fatigue

It’s been a long time (most would say too long!) since the Fab Five graced our screens. In fact, it’s been a whole pandemic since “Queer Eye’s” last season, save a for a 2021 special. This season, the Fab Five headed to Texas before that entire state started to implode to give some folks a much-needed glow-up, with a focus on glowing up from the inside out, as always. But here’s what we really want to know: after two years of a pandemic, how have the Fab Fave been doing? What have they been doing? Since we last checked in with the “Queer Eye” folks, Tan had a newborn, Jonathan snagged a new Netflix deal for a TV adaptation of their podcast “Getting Curious,” and Neon the dog has come into the fold. The show, of course, remains as moving as ever, especially in light of how hard the pandemic has been on queer communities in the South.

We caught up with the Fab Five (though sadly Karamo was out sick) and managed to snag their attention for awhile, despite them being wholly distracted by a Times Square performance artist during the interview.

INTO: I loved the new season. I wanted to get a sense of sort of, you know, just on a personal level for everyone what it was sort of like to just be in Texas at this moment in time, it is sort of a place where so many queer/trans struggles being pushed to the breaking point, as well as bodily autonomy issues and reproductive rights. And I noticed you know, in one episode, Jonathan has to sort of like explain what nonbinary is. So I just sort of wanted to get a sense of what that was like for everyone.

JONATHAN VAN NESS: I want to be upfront with you. We are in New York City right now and right across the street this person is doing an interpretative dance and I am so distracted.

INTO: Mesmerized.

JONATHAN: I love her, she’s minding her own business. I think that’s actually a dance school, cause there’s like a ballet thing below it and it’s weird. But, note to self, I cannot, I’m so distracted, I can’t do press in New York City. 

BOBBY BERK: So the stuff with Texas: it was hard. It wasn’t easy. Because Texas has not always been not really the most accepting of places and very backwards with their laws. A lot of the really horrific ones, I mean, even more horrific than before, have happened since we’ve left. At the time, it wasn’t really at the forefront. It was, but not as much as it really has been lately. But I think that one of the things that’s been unique and great about our show from the start is that we go into those places that you wouldn’t expect us to be, and those places where we are a little uncomfortable, and I think that is what our show is about. Showing that we’ve got to go into those places, and we’ve got to be visible in order to teach.

JONATHAN: Oh my god. She’s model-walking all over the room now. I’m so sorry.

INTO: Like serving. I mean yeah that’s, that’s the problem with New York. It’s like there’s so much. As someone who is constantly distracted by, like, every single thing in life, I identify. But yeah, all of you sometimes have to be in education mode on the show. It’s a hard job educating people and historically, like queer and trans people are just put in this position of like, “you have to be the expert, and you have to sort of like stand for this entire community. “So, I’m wondering if there were things that you did like between the five of you to sort of decompress.

ANTONI POROWSKI: We didn’t do this as a group, although it’d be really cute if we did, but I—no joke—at the end of every week, and I’ve been doing this since Season One, I have to take a bath by the end of it, because,

BOBBY: Sometimes we do do it together and it’s great.

ANTONI: Well that’s true. But it’s like summer camp in a way, if you’ve had that experience as a kid. It’s like, you meet all these friends, you get really close to them, and then suddenly, it’s like, “Alright, goodbye!” And then like, what are you left with then? So I light a candle, I light some music, my dog creepily watches me as I take a bubble bath. And that’s what I do to decompress.

INTO: Neon the dog right? Yes. 

ANTONI: Yes, Neon the mutt. 

Queer Eye. (L to R) Tan France, Antoni Porowski in Season 6 of Queer Eye. Cr. Ilana Panich-Linsman/Netflix © 2021

INTO: I already love Neon. A star! But yeah, baths are definitely good. And obviously, the self-care component is important, seeing as that’s so much of what the show is about.

BOBBY: I do a lot of gardening, I was really into it. So once we got shut down in 2020, a lot of us actually still ended up staying in Austin because that’s where we were at the time. We were like, “We’re just gonna stay put.” I actually ended up being the neighborhood gardener. I, luckily, my Airbnb had a weed eater inside. And I went around taking care of the whole street’s yards when no one else could, and that’s the way I decompressed, yeah. 

TAN FRANCE: I don’t know if he got approval. 

BOBBY: I honestly did not! There were a lot of people who would open their window and look at me and then somebody would realize who I was and go “Oh.” That was my only way to decompress and not have anxiety, it was just because I love doing yard work I actually do my neighbor’s yard in LA, too.

ANTONI: Now that I’m thinking about your question, I really do think that—and I speak for myself, but I saw it on all of your social media and during our group chats—it’s like, 

JONATHAN: Just tell everyone you took naked pictures already, God!

ANTONI: But like leaning into the nice, little simple things, like making scrambled eggs for my boyfriend in the morning, taking my dog on a walk. 

BOBBY: I love it when you make your boyfriend scrambled eggs.

TAN: I was just going to say, that sounds like gay heaven.

INTO: Making Tan scrambled eggs every morning.

ANTONI: It’s like that a moment to actually be mindful about small little simple things. And it’s why a lot changed during the pandemic. A lot of these habits that I took for granted prior, I just had like a newfound appreciation for. Whether I was trying to master them or not, or just doing it the exact same way, but just to take my time with it just to like, breathe throughout the whole process. I’m never breathing. I’m just like rushing through everything. 

TAN: So me, I just, I baked probably way more, it was healthy. I may have diabetes. But yeah, I just baked almost every day. That’s my self care.

INTO: And you had a newborn!

TAN: I do have a newborn. My baby was born in July. So the first year when we got shut down, he wasn’t around and that’s fine. But actually the best version of self-care was, for me, finally having time to have a baby. We weren’t able to find the time, and it is a very lengthy process. 

JONATHAN: Yeah, I hear it takes like three months. 

TAN: To go through surrogacy? 

JONATHAN: No, to like make a baby. 

INTO: Yeah. Lengthy process. 

Queer Eye. (L to R) Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France in Season 6 of Queer Eye. Cr. Ilana Panich-Linsman/Netflix © 2021

TAN: So the pandemic afforded me time that I didn’t have been beforehand to plan my entire future with a new human. So yes.

INTO: it’s funny, because it’s like you need to take a break from work in order to have, to take on the ultimate form of labor, raising a child. But yeah, in the past two years, dogs and babies are where it’s at. Like nobody can survive without them.

ANTONI: And baby dogs. 

INTO: Baby dogs, absolutely. 

JONATHAN: You know where it’s also at? Running your fingers through Tan’s hair like this when we’re on camera. Oh Tanny you have the nicest hair ever!

INTO: What would you consider this season to be one of the bigger challenges, either in an episode, or just like an aspect of life in Austin, or an aspect of making the show this season. What was sort of something you each found difficult? 

BOBBY: I definitely think that filming in the middle of COVID was a huge challenge. Especially hen you’re a show that’s all about human touch, and connection, and, you know, self-love and being in groups, which is why I think it took us so long to be able to put it all together to come back to film. And so that was the biggest challenge. 

JONATHAN: Building a barn.

BOBBY: Yeah, building a barn was also quite a challenge and giving somebody an entire new home. But luckily, I have a great team that helps with that. 

ANTONI: I’m going to speak for you Tan, a little bit. I remember the beginning of the season when we were filming we had dinner or something and we were like freaking out because we both had talks with Jen Lane, who’s our lovely showrunner since day one and our Associate Producer on Queer Eye, we separately had chats with her about like how we felt like we’d sort of like lost our juice, like we felt like we’d said everything that we had to say, and so we felt like, “we’ve exhausted every single answer, every single question” and then she was like, “No, you’re both idiots.” Lovingly. “You’re just not as self-conscious, and you’re not in your own way anymore with analyzing everything. You’re just comfortable.” Watching the episodes right before they were dropped, it was so nice. I do see a new, increased comfort with all five of us where we’re just out of each other’s way and out of our own ways. And just being able to show up, I don’t know if that makes sense, but it was something that I was really nervous about and I was like, “Oh, like how are we going to do this?” But I think it’s just a testament to the fact that it doesn’t matter where we film or who we meet, like every story is just really personal and a little different. 

TAN: And we get to start all over again every week, which is nice. 

Queer Eye. Karamo Brown in episode 602 of Queer Eye. Cr. Ilana Panich-Linsman/Netflix © 2021

INTO: And the choice of people, has always been really interesting this season. It’s focusing on people who are like, there’s like maybe one ingredient missing. They have something they love, that they’re passionate about, that they’re excited about. And like they maybe have a sort of romantic situation, maybe not. But the missing ingredient is that confidence, and I think it like it’s just interesting to see how it really is kind of like this universal. Everyone could do with like, a better sort of like sense of self. Everyone could do with like, just like a skill, or something that makes you feel a little bit better. Like nobody is like that okay that like they can’t benefit from, like, learning how to cook something, or just like getting a space that makes you think differently, or like learning how to deal with your hair.

JONATHAN: Except Tan. Tan is good at everything.

TAN: I am a universal all-rounder.

INTO: Yes, Tan’s hair is just like, you know, no notes. 

JONATHAN: No notes from me. Even his individual hairs are so thick. I got one of his hairs from ruffling my beard and it’s so thick. 

BOBBY: You know he’s gonna use that and clone you. Lock you in a basement. 

INTO: It’s gonna be the Michael Keaton film Multiplicity, but with Tan.

BOBBY BERK: Wow,  what a throwback thank you for that journey. 

INTO: Never not thinking about that ridiculous movie but yeah. 

BOBBY: Never not thinking about Michael Keaton. 

INTO: He can do it, all it’s amazing. I guess to close out, I’m wondering what, at this point in time, gives you a sense of stability and excitement during all this. Like what makes you think: “Things are crazy things are chaotic, but like it’s, it’s going to end up okay.”

BOBBY: I mean I think the human connection part, and how the world has come together to help each other, you know. Obviously, some of this has created even more divisiveness than before. But to see the good in people that this is brought out gives me hope. 

JONATHAN: And supposedly the Olympics are still gonna happen, even though like, you know, China’s controversial and everything. 

BOBBY: There’s no way. 

JONATHAN: But I’m obsessed. No, we’re gonna figure it out.

ANTONI: I kind of feel like I’m repeating my answer from earlier, but I think, especially at a time like this, with everything just kind of being up in the air, it’s just a reminder to look at the things that we actually have to be grateful for. And often, it’s like, it’s just, it’s the small things that are already there that we don’t have to do, we don’t have to fix, or change, or buy. It’s just, you know, the people in our lives. Our families, our friends, our significant others, our pets, our plants, like whatever the hell it is for anybody. Like, often it’s just right there in front of us. And I think especially in the past two years, I’ve just become so much more grateful for the things I already have, maybe focused a tiny bit less on the things that I don’t have.♦

“Queer Eye: Season 6” is now streaming on Netflix. 

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