The second season of Queer Eye puts the spotlight on new heroes such as a transgender man, stressing the importance of getting the correct identity card, and a mom, struggling with the identity of his gay son. By going beyond the woes of the straight guy, the show introduces unfamiliar lives, including joys and fears (and clothing conundrums), to its large fanbase.
Much like his role of going deeper into the issues of each hero, Karamo Brown, the 37-year-old “life therapist” of the show, sees the brave new season in a different light. For him, it really goes beyond LGBTQ issues by highlighting what makes everyone more the same than different. Esquire talks to Brown about the challenges of change, the most improved hero, and the Fab Five family.
ESQUIRE: One of the themes in season two is the idea that you can choose your family. How has your relationship with the group changed from season one to two?
KARAMO BROWN: We filmed the seasons back to back so our relationship has only gotten stronger with each day. What I love about each of the guys is that we all learn from each other and have such a good time. We teach each other how to be businessmen but also how to be goofballs.
ESQ: How do you handle situations when a subject is resistant to change?
KB: When someone’s resistant in life, whether it is on the shelf or in everyday conversation, the key is to not give up and let them know you’re not judging them. Secondly, you need to find a way to meet them where they’re at. Learn where they’re at by asking them questions that will give you a better perspective of their experiences and what they hope to gain from the conversation. Once you have that, keep going in and just keep allowing them to talk. Be a good listener.
ESQ: What do you say to people who feel that the show has become too forward in terms of putting the LGBTQ agenda out there?
KB: We are not putting an LGBTQ agenda out there, we are putting a human agenda out. Our goal is to help people see that we are more alike than different, whether that’s being a man or a woman or gender nonconforming, whether that’s being a certain race or a different culture.
People presume there’s an LGBTQ agenda just because we are being authentically who we are. If we were an all white cast, would they say we are pushing a “white agenda”? No, they wouldn’t.
ESQ: What was the best feedback you've received from a subject?
KB: The best feedback I received was from one of our heroes is that, because of the skills that I gave them and how I allowed them to move and work past their fears [and] issues, they are now able to sustain the outward changes that the other guys is giving us.
That’s what it’s all about for me making sure that the work that the other guys do can be sustained over a long period of time because this guy now knows that it’s OK to have a hard [issue] settled so that he can be the best person he can be.
ESQ: Which of your subjects would you say improved the most in terms of confidence and believing in themselves?
KB: In season two, I would say the person who changed the most and started believing in themselves would definitely have to be Sean. He is the young man who was only 17 years old, turning 18, and becoming the man he was destined to be.
He was very uncooperative and unsure of who he was. He recently sent me a message, telling me that he was so thankful of all the words I gave him because it allowed him to now feel comfortable in who he is and go out to own his life and his dreams.
ESQ: Your role encompasses a broader scope, and just maybe the most important in terms of addressing the bigger problems that your subjects have. How would you describe it?
KB: The actual title should probably be like “life therapist.” My background is inside social work and psychotherapy, so my entire job is to fix the inside. I want to make sure these men can get over the hurdles that have been blocking them from living and being their true authentic selves. It’s about fixing the inside while the rest the guys fix the outside.
ESQ: In one episode, you had a lie detector test, and in another, you had your subject create a mini movie. What is your process of finding solutions for your subjects?
KB: For me, the activities I do with our heroes are just physical representations of having them practice the lesson I’ve already given them.
The lie detector test was less about lying and more about helping someone see that being who you are and being authentic and being truthful can and will make you happy. That’s why it wasn’t necessary to show him the results.
The film in the proposal episode was to walk William through his anxiety and figure out why there was so much pressure in taking the next step in his life. I wanted to help him figure it out so he could plan the best proposal and become the best man for himself and his family.
ESQ: What was the most challenging activity you’ve done with one of the subjects to help them be more confident and courageous?
KB: I wouldn’t consider any of the activities challenging, but rather having an important cultural impact. The two I consider the most impactful would be my discussion with Corey from season one and my field trip with Skyler (season two) where we went to her his gender marker change on his license. I’m hoping these conversations I’m having will change the world for years to come.
ESQ: Your subjects learn a lot from you. What was the best thing you learned from any of them?
KB: The best thing I’ve learned from the heroes is that it’s never too late to continue to change and grow. It’s something that I’ve always known but it’s always great to have a constant reminder.