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‘Queer Eye’ star explores Pakistani, gay identity for heritage month celebration

Tan France, a member of the “Fab Five” on the Netflix show “Queer Eye,” discussed his intersectional upbringing at Lisner Auditorium Sunday night.

Updated: April 1, 2019 at 10:22 a.m.

A member of the “Fab Five” talked about intersectionality, his time on the hit Netflix show “Queer Eye” and his future plans at Lisner Auditorium Sunday evening.

Tan France talked candidly about his life growing up Pakistani and spilled secrets about his “Queer Eye” colleagues. The event was presented by the Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration and South Asian Heritage Celebration to kick off the month of celebrations.

If you weren’t able to snag a ticket before they quickly sold out, here are some highlights from the event:

1. The intersectionality of his identity

France said he went his entire life searching for stories of the South Asian gay community. He said he saw no representation on TV and in the media of people like him, so when Netflix reached out to him to audition for “Queer Eye,” he saw it as an opportunity to “be that narrative.”

“I really wanted to do this so I can show a version of us that is just normal,” France said. “Take away my sexuality, forget that I am gay for a moment. It’s nice to normalize South Asians.”

Not only did France touch on being Pakistani and gay, but he also spoke about making his family proud and pursuing his own dreams. France dropped out of school pursuing psychology and enrolled in college to study fashion despite his parents’ wishes. France said he proved his career choice and made his parents proud by striving to be the best at what he did.

“Doing what your parents expect of you isn’t the only way to make them proud,” France said. “That is a way, but in my opinion, that’s an easy way. I wanted to live my own life but still manage to show them that I am a worthy child.”

2. Being an ‘influencer’

France said the thing he is “most grateful for with this job” is that he gets to influence so many people. But he added that he will never consider himself a role model because he doesn’t represent the whole community – he can only represent himself.

“The thing about ‘Queer Eye’ that makes me so proud is that I get to just be authentically me,” he said. “Just by me being visible, just by me being myself, knowing that that has impacted so many people across the world blows my mind.”

Like most influencers, social media has had an impact on France’s life but he said he has a “love/hate relationship” with it. He said he loves it because it allows him to interact with fans of the show but he hates the trolling he sees online.

“If you go into social media thinking ‘I want to use this as a positive platform,’ great,” France said. “If you’re going into it thinking there may be something juicy that I want to iron out, iron them out in your regular life – not online.”

3. What’s next for Tan France

France’s book, “Naturally Tan,” will come out June 4. He said it’s hard to tell his entire story on a 44-minute show with many other stories to tell, so he “wanted to be able to control how” his narrative was told through his book.

“I really articulate what it was like to be raised in a community where you’re one of very, very, very few,” France said. “My book gave me the opportunity to say it my way. It’s the thing I’m most proud of.”

The third season of “Queer Eye” was released on Netflix March 15, but that’s not the end of “Queer Eye” episodes. There are four special episodes that were shot in Japan in January and February coming out later this year that producers opted to shoot in the location because Japanese people “don’t emote the same way as we do,” France said.

“They’re not the kind of culture that really embraces talking about your emotions,” France said. “We are all about emotions on this show. We knew that clash was going to be insane, and my god, it was. In my opinion, they are the best four episodes ‘Queer Eye’ has ever shot.”

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