By Sarah Dahlberg
On season one of the recent reboot of “Queer Eye,” we learned Tan’s iconic French tuck. In season two, we learned lessons in acceptance, not just of others but of ourselves. In season three, the Fab Five—made up of Karamo, Bobby, Tan, Antoni and Jonathan—explore what it means to be unapologetically yourself and give advice on the mountains that often have to be climbed to get there.
“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” originally pre- miered in 2003. After a four- year run on Bravo’s network, “Queer Eye” returned as a Netflix Original Series in 2018. As Tan explains in the “Queer Eye” introduction, the original Five were devoted to fighting for tolerance, and the current Five fight for acceptance. Yes, acceptance of gay culture, but in this most recent season, the Five don’t have to prove themselves anymore, but rather push others to accept who they are with joy and self-love.
Season three is comprised of eight episodes detailing stories of losses and successes, repaired relationships, renewed confidence and empowering choices. When I recommend “Queer Eye” (often to anyone who will listen to me), I frequently have to explain that this show is not just a fluff-piece, reality television series pushing a political agenda. From the outside, most see it as such and therefore presume it to be too light and too superficial to be of meaningful substance. This assumption is wrong; “Queer Eye” has incredible depth, both in the key characters and in the stories that they tell.
The Fab Five are a diverse group, representing the LGBTQ+ community with spunk. Finding roots across the globe, with eclectic beliefs and personal backgrounds, this group of gay men – all in their 30’s and definitely thriving – takes their differences and creates a rich, authentic experience for the viewers. The boys don’t hold anything back, yet their relationships with each other are rooted in love. Infused with their quick jabs and humorous banter, this show portrays not a group of strangers, but a family. They love each other unconditionally and build off of each other’s strengths.
This love extends to the lives they touch. In the span of five days, the guys meet their subject, learn their habits, likes, dislikes, style and most importantly, the brokenness of their heart. With grace, the Fab Five turn lives upside down, forever changing the men and women of “Queer Eye.” These people are not cookie-cutter straight men, as were featured on the first few episodes of season one.
In season three, we meet a female prison warden, a camp director reconnecting with his son, two black sisters who happen to be some of the best pitmasters in Missouri, a groom anticipating his life as a husband and father, a young black lesbian coming to terms with her notion of family, a widowed father of two learning to live his life again, a never-been-kissed gamer trying to create community and an expectant father eager to build a life for his growing family. Within all of these stories are notes of challenge and triumph, heartbreak and redemption. In the course of the 45-minute episodes, the audience falls in love with the lives of these people, rooting for their ultimate joy.
In the episode “Black Girl Magic,” Jess Gilbo tells the Five at the end of the week: “I had it in me, but you all brought it out.” After a lifetime of feeling rejected, marginalized, and unloved, Jess took the time to love herself, to feel beautiful and sexy, and most importantly to allow the community around her to support her. These characteristics were always within her, but she needed the Five to help her release it. This seems to echo throughout the season.
The Fab Five are not a quick fix; they don’t come in for five days to film a show for entertainment’s sake. Instead, it’s a show of human courage and human transformation. Broadening horizons and deepening empathy, “Queer Eye” season three is a lesson in what it means to love unconditionally—both yourself and the people around you. It’s worth the watch. You won’t forget it, and you absolutely won’t regret any lessons you learn from the Fab Five.