How Queer Eye Changed My Life and Influenced My Personal Development Journey
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Today’s blog post is both a tribute to my favorite show on television as well as a sneak chapter of my new book, which is still unnamed and in the writing stages. Enjoy!
I was too young to watch when Queer Eye for The Straight Guy first appeared on television, but old enough to remember the reference when Netflix debuted their new Queer Eye series a few years ago. So one night, while folding laundry and already staying up past my bedtime, I hit play and spent the next few hours getting to know the five amazing humans on the screen.
I loved how different each of the members are from each other, but how seamlessly they blend on screen together. I love the chemistry and their knowledge about their craft. Most of all, I love how they helped boost the people they were helping, instead of treating themselves like heroes saving someone from their incompetence.
Earlier this spring a friend let me know that two of the cast, Bobby Berk (the interior designer) and Karamo Brown (officially his craft is “culture” but he’s definitely a life coach) were going to be speaking at a local university, so I was thrilled to get to go see them in person.
The biggest thing that stuck out to me was when Bobby said they are careful to not call what they do a “makeover show,” because they are not there to redo someone’s entire life as if they were not good enough as a person. In fact, they call their weekly person their “hero.” Their focus is to take an amazing human and give them whatever boost they might need to let their good qualities shine brighter, which allows them to be more confident in themselves. I loved this focus and immediately thought about how I could apply it to my own life.
A “Queer Eye DIY,” if you will.
If you haven’t seen the show yet, I encourage you to spend a couple hours watching Bobby, Karamo, Tan, Antoni, and Jonathan help people realize that there actually is hope for themselves after all, and that they are worth taking care of themselves.
But for the sake of time (and the fact that you’re reading right now, and not watching television), allow me to introduce them:
Bobby Berk, as I said earlier, does interior design. He’s less about knocking down walls and reorganizing your floor plan than he is about taking what is already in the bones of the house and making it a functional, beautiful space for the owner (this is the very essence of Queer Eye!). In the whole time I have been watching the show, he has only made huge demolition projects in a few episodes, and that was because it was absolutely necessary; like when he made a home more ADA accessible for the owner, who was now in a wheelchair.
Bobby’s designs are simple, streamlined, and easy to maintain. They are mature but playful, and always absolutely stunning. He creates spaces that look beautiful for any occasion, staged for television or not.
Karamo Brown’s title, “Culture,” is as I said earlier, a life coaching role. He helps people uncover fears, areas where they have been neglecting the care of themselves, and usually picks a task or special event to help them break through their self-doubt or improve in some way. I can think of when he took a mayor to the coolest public speaking class I’ve ever seen to help him break through his limiting beliefs about speaking in front of dignitaries and get confident in delivering his heartfelt toast. I think of when he brought a young woman who was afraid to express herself for fear of rejection to a special dance class. I think about when he brought a father and son down to the river to work through issues together while they painted a boat.
He uses creative means of getting people comfortable to talk with him and teaches them how to do self-reflection – and also, shows them that self-reflection isn’t as scary as they might have previously thought.
Tan France is the fashion guru. I had the pleasure of seeing him speak in person as well, and the show does not do his personality enough justice. Tan is straightforward, creative, and so kind that he can tell you your wardrobe is complete garbage but in a way that you know he’s just talking about the clothing and it’s not a personal statement about you. He is quick to talk about how confidence comes from knowing you are dressing well and presenting yourself to the world exactly how you want to be seen.
One thing I really like about Tan’s fashion advice is that he keeps wardrobe overhauls to a minimum. He gives everyone a closet full of new clothes, but keeps the styles similar and more of a mix-and-match capsule wardrobe, with a few statement pieces scattered through. It is definitely a talent to develop capsule wardobes that are unique to everyone’s individual personalities, but Tan nails it every time.
Antoni Porowski is the food guy. He is one of my favorites to watch when they initially go through their hero’s home, because he makes a beeline for the kitchen and investigates how they are taking care of themselves in the health and cooking department. As a member of the Queer Eye cast he is more quiet and reserved than the rest of them, but wow, does he shine once you throw a towel over his shoulder and put him next to a stove!
Antoni understands the role food has in bringing people together, and often will find some kind of connection to people the hero loves as a means to teach them a new recipe and new kitchen skills. He brings a new take on comfort food when he trains people on making simple, easy dishes they can share with their families and friends, and uses basic cookware and cooking skills so that everyone watching realizes, “hey, I can do that too.”
Jonathan Van Ness is the “grooming” expert on Queer Eye, and has some of the best one-liners on the entire show. Jonathan makes self care a treat rather than a chore, and my absolute favorite aspect of his focus is always highlighting the person underneath the hair. Every style he dreams up is easy to care for daily, and always looks fabulous. You know how sometimes when you leave the salon you feel like a million bucks but struggle to create the same “umph” on your own? Jonathan makes it easy.
I also love how he focuses on skin care for everyone, and does not really talk much about makeup. On other “makeover” shows I have seen in the past, they spend a whole section playing with makeup and talking about how to get the smoky eye just right for day time, or how to apply contour or highlighter. Jonathan has no time for that, and as someone who frequently forgets to put on any makeup whatsoever, I appreciate that.
Each Queer Eye episode takes place over the course of five days, but it’s a total crash course on the show. Since I am not currently able to put my life on hold to focus on upgrading my entire life in a week, and you probably aren’t either, I developed a five-week “Hero Challenge.”
Each week I channeled the influence of one of the Fab Five in one aspect of my life, and made simple changes to my habits to improve my life. The end result was amazing, so I wanted to share with you here!
The Five-Week Hero Challenge
As we discussed at the beginning of the book, developing the proper mindset is key to achieving success in any aspect of life. It is the mindset from which flows every other positive change in life, including how you present yourself to the world. With this in mind, Week One was affectionately titled “Life Week.”
I started off with some deep introspection. I sat down with a pen and paper and wrote out the things I truly want in this life, and experiences I wanted to have with my family. Without any judgment, I wrote it all down (and actually, this exercise was when I officially decided that I needed to write this book). I wrote down everything from writing another book, to taking my family to the castle of my husband’s Scottish clan, to visiting every National Park before my oldest turns 18, to paying off my mortgage early and fully funding our retirement accounts.
And then, I sat with that list and thought about what I was believing with my current mindset that was holding me back from achieving those goals. I recognized that I could create space in my morning to write this book if I woke up earlier. I realized that I could be making easy changes to our finances that would build our retirement accounts, and signing up for bi-weekly automatic withdrawal of our mortgage will help us pay off our home faster while paying less interest.
Just the simple act of writing out goals and figuring out what is standing in my way helped me achieve one goal, save literally tens of thousands of dollars for another, and made me more confident in our financial situation and ability to save for those dreams of mine.
Being the personal development junkie that I am, I know that applying these principles to my life in every aspect is the key to growth and moving forward. I can use this practice to overcome fears, recognize limiting beliefs, and find the motivation to continue exploring all the possibilities in my life.
Week Two is “Home Week”, and your goal at the end of this week is to have a home you are proud of and that is functional for you.
That being said, this week is less focused on design and more focused on getting rid of clutter. In early 2019, The New York Times published an article describing the findings of a study done regarding the effects clutter has on mental and physical health: “The findings add to a growing body of evidence that clutter can negatively impact mental well-being, particularly in women. Clutter can also induce a physiological response, including increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.” 8
When going through your home, I recommend having four items near you: a box of things to donate, a body of things to throw away, a box for items that belong in another room so you don’t get distracted, and a portable filing box.
As you go through each room, it is important to make decisions quickly. If you have children, get them excited to go through their own toys by imagining how happy other children will be to play with them. As you fill a donate box, either place it immediately in your car to take to whatever charity or thrift store you wish to donate to, or schedule a pick up for as soon as possible.
Why the reason for the filing cabinet? Because going through papers can be extremely overwhelming, and immediately placing something where it needs to be decreases the time you take with it. It increases speed and reduces stress, and that is always a good idea.
Once you have decluttered your home (I recommend a room or two a day until it is done), then you can think about the design part. What can you change about your home, either for free or inexpensively, that would increase your home’s function and add a depth of warmth and coziness that you find inviting?
We bought our home just over a year ago, and while we love it, it doesn’t have a pantry. Through the course of our marriage and the five homes we have lived in total, we have had exactly one pantry. I’m not sure why most designers seem to think you can keep a whole family fed if you give them three cabinets to use for food, but here we are.
Last weekend, we went to IKEA and spent a grand total of about fifty dollars to purchase two wooden crates and a rolling utility cart to increase our food storage. The crates fit perfectly under our coffee bar, and the rolling cart is the perfect size to go under our counter. This simple change freed up several drawers and cabinets, which can now be used more efficiently for food storage.
Of course, simple upgrades do not have to cost anywhere near fifty dollars. Thrift stores often have organizing supplies like baskets and boxes for sale inexpensively, and Facebook Marketplace is another great place to find small household items for cheaper than you might find anywhere else. We just happened to have chosen IKEA for this project.
Wherever you purchase them, the key is that everything has a purpose. Be sure to look at Bobby’s blog (www.bobbyberk.com) for inspiration. He does a behind-the-scenes post for the transformations he creates in Queer Eye, and I find his ideas and tips to be quite helpful when I think of designing within our own space.
Week three is “Health Week,” so grab your knife and towel, we are about to spend some time in the kitchen.
You can tell by watching Queer Eye that Antoni has just the best time ever when he is creating in the kitchen. Recipes are simple, but packed with so much flavor, and often the meals he creates are recreations of classic favorites.
Since you decluttered your kitchen last week during Home Week, the kitchen is probably easier to use, and you are not spending your time wading through excess food that might be stale, old, or expired.
The first thing to do, if you haven’t already, is meal plan. Meal planning saves you so much time, keeps you from driving through some fast food place in a rush, and reduces food waste. If you have no idea how to meal plan yet, go to a website like SuperCook.com and type in the ingredients you have in your pantry and refrigerator. SuperCook searches the internet and finds recipes using those ingredients. Voila, dinner is served!
Trying new recipes also means you might get to try out new techniques. If there is a cooking term you have never heard of before, do a search on YouTube to watch and learn those new skills.
We will talk more about sustainability in your food choices later in the book. For now, it is important to just switch things up and learn new recipes and new skills. Who knows – you might find some new family favorites!
Week Four is “Fashion Week.” Yes, yes, New York has their Fashion Week, and now so do you. Hopefully you were able to purge most of the items in your closet that no longer serve you the way you want during Home Week, but if not, now is the time.
Get out your “trash” and “donate” boxes again and clear out everything you either haven’t worn in a year, is no longer your style, or doesn’t fit you. Anything you might choose to keep that you are not currently using (example: maternity clothing) gets packed up and put neatly out of ready reach. We are building a closet that serves you now, in this moment, and organization keeps everything handy.
After you have fully gone through your clothing, make sure you have a core wardrobe left over of interchangeable pieces that you can mix and match for an entire wardrobe. This is called a “capsule” wardrobe, and you might have seen various examples of this on Pinterest with titles like “How You Can Make an Entire Wardrobe Out of These Ten Pieces.”
I am sure capsule wardrobes are completely wonderful, and I admire them, but I also thrive with splashes of color. So if you’re like me and the French-influenced black/white/grey look isn’t quite for you, make sure you keep items that you feel like your most confident self while wearing.
If you truly want to get creative, using an app like StyleBook can help you mix and match your wardrobe and plan new outfits using the clothes you already own – down to the jewelry! From the reviews I have seen, it takes awhile to upload everything you own (which makes sense), but from there it’s just a matter of creating your outfits. This can be extremely helpful if you have nice clothes but tend to dress in the same three or four things.
So much of my wardrobe has changed since I started watching Queer Eye, simply because Tan has caused me to think about how my clothing is a reflection of my personality and my view of myself.
Remember, clothing is how you present yourself to the world. Are you presenting the self you are proud to be? Does your clothing reflect your unique personality, or is it hiding it?
Finally, Week Five is “Self Week.” During Self Week, you begin implementing the mindset shifts you learned during Life Week, and the confidence you gained during Fashion Week, to begin caring for yourself in simple and powerful ways.
One of the most common illustrations for the importance of self care is the phrase “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” Taking time for to care for yourself ensures you are able to give others the best of you, because your cup has been filled.
This week, focus on daily habits that give maximum benefits. Make sure you are drinking enough water each day. Take your vitamins. Move your body or meditate for fifteen minutes a day (if I have time to write this book, you have time to move or meditate). Start simply, and work these habits into your morning and evening routines.
There are many things you can begin implementing during Self Week, so choose what will impact your life the most as you seek to present the best version of yourself to the world. Remember, you are making an impression any time you interact with anyone. Make sure your impression is intentional.
I am so grateful for the influence of the Fab Five, and I hope this challenge brings you a healthy dose of the joy and self love they give their heroes every week!
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