“We’re kind of like big gay superheroes,” says Bobby Berk, the interior design expert on Queer Eye, Netflix’s reboot of the aughties reality series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Spend an hour with Berk and the rest of the Fab Five—Karamo Brown (culture), Tan Friend (fashion), Antoni Porowski (food and wine), and Jonathan Van Ness (grooming)—and it becomes abundantly clear how seriously these specialists take their new gig. This time around, the show isn’t just about teaching clueless dudes how to wear a pocket square or make the perfect guacamole (though there’s plenty of that too). Says Friend, “It’s so important to make sure that we leave a lasting impression.”
To do that, the quintet has headed to Atlanta, where they set out to improve the lives of a group of men in the South. The goal isn’t to give them a makeover, but rather, as the gurus call it, a “make-better.” It’s about tapping into the subjects’ insecurities, playing to their strengths, and establishing a genuine, enduring connection with them. The bonding part of the equation isn’t always easy: In one episode, Brown, who is African American, and his subject Cory, a white police officer, have a tête-à-tête aboutstereotypes and Black Lives Matter. The scene is a compelling distillation of the cultural tension plaguing modern America: Fifteen years after the original Queer Eyepremiered, marriage equality is the law of the land, but at times the divide between red states and blue states seems greater than ever.
We sat down with the Fab Five to talk about how Queer Eye is breaking new ground and why they consider their subjects to be the real heroes.