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'This Is A Moment, Honey': 'Queer Eye' Gurus Jonathan And Antoni On The Show's Magic

Jun 20, 2018
Originally published on June 20, 2018 8:18 am

Grab the tissues — the Fab Five are back with a second season of Netflix's Queer Eye.

For the uninitiated, Queer Eye is a makeover show where five gay men with different areas of expertise (fashion, food, grooming, interior design) have a week to help change the life of one person, who they refer to as a "hero."

The show is based on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which aired on Bravo in the 2000s. But the Netflix series has moved beyond the original, which focused on men. Season two opens with a hero named Tammye Hicks, an active church member who talks about how she came to accept her gay son.

Cast member Antoni Porowski (food) says, "That was really an episode where I think the tables were turned. I feel like with a lot of the heroes, we tend to try to bring out parts of them that they want to discuss, and we sort of help facilitate that. With Tammye, it really switched and I feel like she called us out on a lot of our stuff and really brought a lot of things to light."

Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness (grooming) tell NPR about the heartwarming Tammye episode and how they respond to the show's critics.


Interview Highlights

On why Porowski was especially moved by Tammye's story

Porowski: I'll kind of leave it as I've had a problematic relationship growing up with my parents. Things are a lot better right now, but it's definitely been a work in progress, and unconditional love from a parent is not something that I take for granted.

And to see somebody like Tammye, who is so embedded in her religion — it's something that's very important to her — and was able to realize it wasn't the Bible, it wasn't religion; it was the way that she chose to look at her son being gay, and how he was or wasn't accepted into the church. And for somebody to sort of have that humility and realize: No, the problem is me. It's the way that I'm looking at the situation. The facts are all the same, it's just the angle at which I'm looking at the situation — specifically, her son being gay. That's something that really touched me.

On a common struggle for the show's heroes

Van Ness: So much of what [Tammye] struggles with so many moms and women, and men actually — a lot of men struggle with that thing that Tammye did, which is just nurturing other people to a point where you lost sight of taking care of yourself, and equating self-care with selfishness. And so I was really excited for Tammye for that because it's like that whole airplane adage — like, you gotta put your little mask on first, because if your little mask isn't on, how are you gonna help me get my mask on? ...

And so I'm like, "Tammye, giving so much of yourself all the time, you won't have much left to give if you don't nurture yourself a little bit." And I think that's something that we all struggle with because I think most of us want to do the best that we can, and I think a lot of us struggle with people pleasing. I know I do. And sometimes, you know, saying, "No, I'm going to do this for myself," is very difficult.

On whether it was hurtful when some viewers started questioning Porowski's cooking abilities

Porowski: It was at first, especially because as soon as the show came out it was like this explosion of love and nothing but praise, and then suddenly you see like one bad thing, and it's like, Oh my gosh. I mean luckily for the bad, it's very troll-y, blog-y; for the most part no publication that I really deeply respect very much. But it's still — if I'm going to be taking the good, I have to take the bad with it as well. ...

Van Ness: That whole cooking-gate thing, that was really painful for me personally because I ate your gorgeous oatmeal all the time. I ate your gorgeous smoothies all the time. I ate your gorgeous fajitas all the time. ... And when anyone brings it up it makes me want to — like, next thing I know my finger is going, my neck is going, I'm having a whole thing. I'm like, "Do you want a menu? What do you need from me to make you understand how good he cooks? What do you need?"

On why the reboot has been such a hit

Van Ness: People are so hungry for something that's not so divisive and not so mean. ... I call it the British baking effect, like the British baking show effect, because I watch this show like morning, noon and night, all the time. It's like my all-the-time palate cleanser from the news. We just want to feel good about something, and I think that Queer Eye I has a little bit of that magic.

On adjusting to their newfound celebrity

Van Ness: We just had Pride in L.A. last weekend and I was on this float just living my best Pride life, but I was kind of hidden on this float just kind of waving and popping out. But then this boy on an intercom on the float started being like, "Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye." And ... people would literally point and start shaking and crying to a point where I was like, "Oh my God." ... This is how people were reacting to Meghan Markle. When they would see me, it's like an imaginary person would like punch them in the stomach and they would just start pointing and crying. Not everyone, but a lot of people. And I was like, "This feels like Meghan Markle! This is a moment, honey!" ...

Porowski: There's something so weirdly overwhelming about it. One thing I did that has managed to really dissipate in a big way, and I'm really happy about, is like the whole impostor syndrome. Like: Oh my God, I tricked everyone into thinking I can cook and actually be on TV and present myself and make complete sentences without like mumbling and jumbling my words, like I just did. So that part I sort of got over. But then it's like God forbid I accept the fact of what's going on right now. Like, what would happen then if I actually — my voice quivers thinking about it, it's sort of like letting yourself enjoy it which is a hard thing for me.

Kevin Tidmarsh and Andrew Jones produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, grab the tissues because the Fab Five are back. "Queer Eye" on Netflix is a makeover show where five gay men with different areas of expertise try to change the life of one person, a person they refer to as a hero. It's based on the Bravo show "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy," but the Netflix series has moved beyond the original mandate. One hero this season is a woman named Tammye Hicks.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "QUEER EYE")

TAN FRANCE: For everything you do for the community, my gosh, you deserve some self-care.

TAMMYE HICKS: And you're going to make me look like a diva?

FRANCE: Oh, my gosh. You don't...

BOBBY BERK: Just like...

FRANCE: Mama, you don't even know.

HICKS: Oh, diva. Oh, diva.

FRANCE: You don't even know.

HICKS: Are you serious?

FRANCE: Yeah.

GREENE: All right, so two of the cast, Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness, joined me from our studios in New York. And I asked Jonathan why he thinks people have been flocking to the show. He says it has something to do with the current political climate.

JONATHAN VAN NESS: I call it, like, "The British Baking Show" (ph) effect...

GREENE: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN NESS: ...Like, because I watch this show, like, morning, noon and night, all the time. It's like my palate cleanser from the news. You just want to feel good about something. And I think that "Queer Eye" has a little bit of that magic.

GREENE: So it's taking on tough issues head-on but doing it in a way that brings us together and lets us actually tackle stuff together.

ANTONI POROWSKI: And I think we don't do it in a pushy way. I mean, it's not something where we come in and we're like, we need to talk about your Trump banner on your front lawn.

GREENE: Now, one thing you notice is that it's not just the heroes who show their vulnerability. So does the cast. And in Tammye Hicks' episode, Antoni reacted to hearing how Tammye initially disapproved of her son being gay because of her religion but later came to terms with it.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "QUEER EYE")

POROWSKI: She saw the individual. She saw the person that her son is, and she changed her mind. She says that it was a religious experience, but she made that choice. Not all parents do that.

GREENE: And I asked Antoni what he meant.

POROWSKI: That was really an episode where I think the tables were turned. With Tammye, it was really switched. And I feel like she called us out on a lot of our stuff and really brought a lot of things to light. I'll kind of leave it as - I've had a problematic relationship growing up with my parents. Things are a lot better right now, but it's definitely been a work in progress. And unconditional love from a parent is not something that I take for granted.

And to see somebody like Tammye who is so embedded in her religion - it's something that's very important to her - and was able to realize it wasn't the Bible, it wasn't religion. It was the way that she chose to look at her son being gay and how he was or wasn't accepted into the church. Whenever I see a parent showing unconditional love for their child, I have a very soft spot for all the moms out there.

GREENE: Was there any discussion in the edit about, like, how much you wanted that to be in there? I mean, presumably...

POROWSKI: There actually...

GREENE: ...You know, your family would, you know, see this.

POROWSKI: Yeah, there was. With me - it's tricky because it's an opportunity to have people relate. But at the same time, I do want to try to maintain some kind of, like, privacy and respect for my family. Families are tricky. I come from a really dysfunctional one. I haven't shied away from saying that. But I still have love for every single one of them. And it's something that I think we're working on, and everyone's doing it in their own way. And it's something that I'm learning in an exponential way. It's this - like, the growth curve is very steep. But I'm kind of figuring it out. And - yeah.

GREENE: Last season, you guys made over a gay man. And this new season, two of your heroes, as you call them, are "Queer Eye" firsts, I think. One is a transgender man. Another is a woman. Was it important to you guys to break the mold?

VAN NESS: Yes. I think inclusivity and getting to spread the love as far and wide as possible was something that was, like, really important to us. Tammye's story especially - like, so much of what she struggles with, so many moms and women and men, actually, struggle with - nurturing other people to a point where you lost sight of, like, taking care of yourself and equating self-care with selfishness. And so I was really excited for Tammye for that because it's like that whole airplane adage. Like, you have to put your little mask on first because if your little mask isn't on, like, how are you going to help me get my mask on?

POROWSKI: Right.

GREENE: (Laughter) Then you can't help the children put their masks on.

VAN NESS: Exactly.

POROWSKI: I love that adage.

VAN NESS: And so in, like, giving so much of yourself all the time, like, you won't have much left to give if you don't nurture yourself a little bit. And I think most of us want to do the best that we can. And I think that a lot of us struggle with people-pleasing - I know I do. And so sometimes, you know, saying like - no, I'm going to do this for myself - is, like, very difficult.

GREENE: Are you guys part of a cultural moment?

VAN NESS: Yes, it does feel like we're having, like, a cultural moment. Being in a group of people that has, like, become known for helping people and, like, wanting to lift people up and, like, be kind and be loving, none of us are really saying that we're, like, all the way experts. Like, I think that we're just as much students and just as much learning as anyone else. And that is, like, such a fun opportunity to, like, say like - hey, I've been doing this for a long time, but I don't know everything. But I'd like to, like, teach you what I know so far. And, like, let's go on this little journey together. And like, that feels like a little cultural moment that's different.

GREENE: OK. I need you guys to be honest before I let you go. Do you really get along, the five of you, as well as it seems? I mean, you, like, squeezed into a pickup truck...

POROWSKI: We're holding hands as we speak.

GREENE: ...Driving everywhere. Really?

VAN NESS: Well, no - well, OK, I'll get honest.

GREENE: OK, great.

VAN NESS: I'm going to get so honest right now.

GREENE: You hate each other is what you're about to tell me.

VAN NESS: No, no - no, actually we really do love each other. I would say the only time when, unequivocally, like, the four of my little baby cast mates just really are, like - they're just not here for me. And when it's 7 in the morning or, like, 6:45 and I have had my...

POROWSKI: Just for the record, he's talking about me specifically because he just gave me a little...

VAN NESS: And I've had like...

GREENE: OK (laughter).

VAN NESS: And I've had my second venti, honey. Sometimes I'll get a little bit vocal. I might start scream-cry-singing a little bit of Kelly Clarkson at 6:45 a.m. And I don't think that's asking too much for your friends to just listen to your Kelly Clarkson song and just let you have your moment and not...

POROWSKI: You just wake up more quickly than I do. And it takes me time.

VAN NESS: Not only do they shut me down, but they have the nerve to, like, jump like they're scared of my voice because, like, if I'm right behind your head and start singing and you're not ready for it...

POROWSKI: Again, read they as Antoni. It was one incident.

VAN NESS: It happened one time, and I'm not over it.

POROWSKI: It was one time. I was sitting in the front seat, and he started busting out Kelly Clarkson. And I just did this thing with my shoulders where I, like, lifted them and I crunched a little.

VAN NESS: OK. First of all...

POROWSKI: And he reminds me to this day - to this day.

VAN NESS: And also, can I just tell you that it was that "Hamilton" remix of "It's Quiet Uptown" that I was singing?

POROWSKI: Oh, that's what it was.

VAN NESS: And it was gorgeous. It's so pretty.

GREENE: (Laughter).

POROWSKI: It wasn't not gorgeous. But some of us just need a little more time to wake up.

VAN NESS: I was on pitch, honey.

GREENE: (Laughter).

VAN NESS: But no, truthfully, we really do love each other (laughter). And it feels universal between the five of us. It's like, no one's going to say something about one of my brothers in front of me that, like, I don't like.

POROWSKI: Right.

VAN NESS: And, you know, not like in, like, a mean, like, diva way but, like, this is my family, and, like - they're just my family. And we're really lucky for this.

POROWSKI: What we do on the show is kind of what we do in real life. It's really, like - it's all support, all positivity.

VAN NESS: Unless it's 6:45 in the morning and I had, like, three coffees and "The Hamilton Mixtape" is on and like in someone's - yeah.

POROWSKI: One time - it happened one time.

VAN NESS: It was just - but for the most part, we're very much love.

GREENE: Just the once. It was just once.

POROWSKI: It's good that you don't hold resentments.

VAN NESS: She doesn't.

POROWSKI: That's what I like about you.

GREENE: Oh, guys, this has been really fun.

VAN NESS: Thanks for having us.

POROWSKI: Thanks for having us.

GREENE: Best of luck with the second season. Yeah, let's talk again sometime.

VAN NESS: Yay.

POROWSKI: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL THINGS (JUST KEEP GETTING BETTER)")

BETTY WHO: (Singing) Oh, yeah. Things keep getting better. Things keep getting better.

GREENE: Two members of the "Queer Eye" cast, Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski. Season 2 is on Netflix right now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.