‘Queer Eye’ Culture Expert Karamo Brown on How to Make a Difference & Tips for Creating Your Brand (Exclusive)
By Liz Calvario
If you watch Queer Eye, you can thank Karamo Brown for your tears during every episode. The 37-year-old culture expert gives viewers some of the most endearing moments on the new Netflix reboot, bringing real and important topics to the forefront, as well as taking the men on an emotional journey that, yes, involve tears.
Fifteen years after the original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy revolutionized TV, Netflix brought it back with a new Fab Five in a new area code. There’s Antoni Porowski (food & wine), Bobby Berk (interior design), Jonathan Van Ness (grooming), Tan France (fashion) and Brown, who are impacting culture one makeover at a time -- and receiving praise and acclaim while doing it.
"It has been a roller coaster of the best emotions ever," Brown told ET earlier this week about how his life has been since the show premiered last month. “The reaction on social media has been great, each of the guys get hundreds of hundreds of positive messages from people saying how we’ve changed their lives, how they are laughing, how they’re crying, how they feel inspired. Suddenly we’ve become authorities around the world which is great."
You may know Brown from his time on Real World: Philadelphia in 2004 and later on Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Inferno II. He took time away from the spotlight when he found out in 2007 that he was the father of a 10-year-old son, Jason, whom he had at the age of 15. Brown took full custody of his son and also adopted Jason’s half-brother a couple years later.
During that time Brown began working as a social worker and slowly made his way back on-screen, hosting shows like MTV’s Are You the One: Second Chances and The Young Turks.
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Now, on Queer Eye, Brown is helping the "heroes" become better versions of themselves and express their feelings -- a different approach from original culture expert Jai Rodriguez.
"I watched the original show and I was a big fan of it," Brown explained. "The original guys were a big inspiration to me. When I had this opportunity, Jai Rodriguez was the original culture guy, and is a friend of mine. But for Jai, he was a Broadway star and he exposed people to the theater the majority of the episodes which made sense to his category. But now with the apps and the technology, people have access to different cultures all the time. So for me, I thought, what about myself was true that I can bring to the role. and my background has been in social work."
"So my whole background has always been about fixing and helping people to connect to resources that help them be their best self," he continued. "So for me I thought, what can I do that is going to be true, that’s going to be lasting? And it was help fix the inside. I think that brings out a lot of the happy cries that people see and I’m happy about that."
Naturally, some episodes were easier than others, while others were a bit more difficult. In episode three, "Dega Don't," Brown got pulled over and had a heart-to-heart talk with cop and Donald Trump supporter Cory Waldrop, about Black Lives Matter and the negative stereotype around white cops.
“I'm so happy that that moment happened because I now have thousands of people who hit me up on social media, [telling me], I want to have those conversation with people. And now I feel like I can because I know that it probably won't turn into an argument or it won’t turn into something negative,” he shared. “It will only turn into something positive. And that makes me feel good.”
Brown also had a blast at the fire station in the final episode of the season, "Hose Before Bros," where they made over Jeremy Holmes, a kind man who wanted to give his co-workers a more comfortable work space. But, we also got introduced to "Superman," one of Holmes' handsome firemen.
"Anytime they want to do an episode at a fire station, in a fire house, sign me up!" Brown said with a laugh. "Superman, was the best guy ever. Such a great sport. Very sweet and very beautiful like a walking ken doll. Luckily the man that I’m in love with and have been with for the past eight years has a great sense of humor. Because after we shot the episode, I was like, 'My soon-to-be-hopefully-one-day-hubby is going to murder me for flirting with a straight fireman on TV. It was for work."
In all seriousness, though. the episode was eye-opening for Brown. "I have such a deeper respect for fireman knowing how much they get paid and how much they put themselves on the line," he expressed.
One "hero" he's hoping to connect with is A.J. from episode four, "To Gay or Not Too Gay," who recently got engaged.
"I am trying to get an invite to that wedding because I want to be at the A.J. wedding," Brown excitingly said. "I just have to let you know. I need to be there! I would love to marry them, even better. I’m trying to get in contact because he’s not on social media. So, A.J. let us know. The Fab Five want to be there and support you."
While the first season maybe over (we're hoping season two is announced soon!), one thing that truly made Brown extra proud was his sons' reactions to the show.
"This is the first show that my kids care about,” Brown revealed. “Every show I’ve been on, my kids pay no attention. They’re just like, ‘Who cares. It’s just dad’s job.’ And this is the first time that they [said], ‘Wow, we’re so impressed." He shared that he caught his sons watching Queer Eye without him.
"I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, that is the most amazing thing to me,’” he gushed. “They’re prideful of it and I think that shows where we’re at in 2018. That my two sons who identify as straight are proud of their gay dad and the show that he’s on that is about five gay men. And their friends are proud of it and watching it. It shows the growth of our consciousness as people and I’m happy!”
Lastly, we couldn't say goodbye without getting to know more about Brown, who answered a series of "From Fab Five to Fast Five Questions."
Celeb Crush: Male, Chadwick Boseman. I just saw Black Panther and every time he’s like, “Wakanda,” i’m in love. Meghan Trainor is my female crush because she’s just fierce.
Favorite Movie of All Time: Anything starring Tom Hanks because I love him. But my favorite one would be Forrest Gump.
Celeb’s Style You’d Like to Have: Tan France! He and I are the two on the show that are the most obsessed with fashion and there was not a day that I wouldn't come out of the house while filming and be like, “Do you like what I’m wearing?” and he’d be like, “Let me see, KK.” And he would look me up and down and he would approve. And that little Tan France stamp of approval gave me life every morning.
If I Wasn’t on Queer Eye I’d Be: A politician. It might be [a future goal]. I’m a big activist and really into politics and I feel like there’s so much that having a different perspective, like myself, can bring of understanding. That might be a goal in the future. Is this an exclusive if I run for office someday? It’s in the same line. It’s about helping people. My goal has always been to help as many people as I can. So if I can do that in politics and affect policies, then why not.
Favorite Quote: There’s one that I use on the show that my granny told me, which is, “Poop is the best fertilizer because it helps things grow.” So if there are bad moments in your life, do not be afraid of them because those are the moments that are going to help you be bigger and better.
Of course, we also had to get to some advice ourselves! In episode seven, “Below Average Joe,” Brown created comedian Joe Gallois’ website and image. So, here are Brown’s three tips for creating your brand!
1. Don’t fight the obvious.
“A lot of time the brand that people are going to respond to most is right there in front of you. What you’re doing everyday is your brand. That is exactly what you love. Don’t try to create something new because you’re trying to follow social media.”
2. Put it out there.
“Put it out there as much as you can and be clear about it. Don’t have the commas. Don’t say, ‘I’m a dancer, model, actor, this.’ Pick one! Know the obvious is right in front of you. The one that you love the most and then pick one because people like to get to know you for one thing first and then they want to get to expose the other parts of you. If you clutter them with too much then it becomes too much at once.
3. Have fun!
“If you’re not having fun doing what your brand is, the audience is not going to enjoy it.”