As the first American television program to feature an entirely openly gay cast, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy broke many societal barriers, one sass-laced makeover at a time. However, while watching the mostly white cast coax straight men toward metrosexuality may have been radical for 2003, the show was hardly intersectional. In fact, it wasn’t until the following year that Karamo Brown, a cast member on 2004’s Real World: Philadelphia, became the first openly gay African-American on reality TV.
Now, Brown is back as one of the new fab five on Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot, premiering globally on February 7. In the intervening years, RuPaul’s Drag Race has become a cultural phenomenon, legions of LGBT Bravolebrities have increased reality TV’s queer landscape exponentially, and no one even says “metrosexual” anymore. Accordingly, Brown, now a seasoned TV host and advocate, says Queer Eye has been retooled as a makeover show for our times.
“The cast is more diverse now. We have a Muslim Pakistani, two of the cast members are married, and I’m a father,” Brown says. But the demographic changes aren’t limited to the cast. The show’s abridged title, says Brown, eschews the gay/straight binary. “We’re not just dealing with straight men,” he says. “That’s why it’s just ‘Queer Eye.’ We are helping men and women from all backgrounds be better.”
As the resident culture expert, Brown’s duties differ especially from those of his predecessor, Jai Rodriguez. “Jai’s background was in Broadway, because in the early 2000s, a lot of straight men didn’t see the point of going to a show and exposing themselves to the arts. But I think we’ve come away from that,” he says.
Instead, Brown, the son of an activist, doesn’t shy away from bringing his passion for civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement to his role. “There’s an episode where I’m interacting with a white southern cop who openly voted for Trump,” he says, “It first I was like, ‘Ahhhh, I can’t talk about helping you get made over.’ But we went into the conversation in a respectful way, and actually he and I have become the closest of friends because we saw each other and heard each other.”
Ultimately, Brown says, his job is about finding common ground. As a trained social worker, he uses his background to help his subjects engage with universal issues. “You’ll see us engage in conversations like, ‘Why are you holding back? What is holding you from being your greatest self?’” he says.
When it comes to being his best self, Brown – also a health and fitness buff – leaves a little room for indulgence. A longtime L.A. resident, he’s happily stuck in the aughts when it comes to yuppie juice crazes. “I am so about the Jamba Juice craze,” he laughs. “I remember when I first got to L.A. it was the thing everyone was walking around with. I don’t know what happened, but sign me up for a berry blast any day.”
Here’s where else you’ll find Brown living his best life in L.A.
Cup of Joe: I don’t drink coffee… Crazy I know, I know. But my favorite juice spot is Jamba Juice. Not sure if all the drinks are 100% healthy but they taste so good in the morning or after a long day at work.
Power Lunch: My favorite spot to have lunch is Granville in Studio City. It has a great outdoor and indoor seating area which is great for meetings. Plus, the food is delicious and inexpensive, especially if you are footing the bill.
Cocktail Hour: Chaya Downtown Los Angeles has to be my favorite spot to get after-work cocktails. The bar staff are all super friendly and its right of the subway in case you have one too many and can’t drive home.
Retail Therapy: My favorite place to shop would be the Grove. It has great clothing shops and a cute farmers market that is open daily.
Field Trip: I love visiting the Hollywood Bowl to enjoy the concerts. There is nothing like being in an outdoor amphitheater with friends listening to music under the stars.
Date Night: My favorite date night spot is the Yamashiro Hollywood. It’s located on top of the Hollywood Hills, which allows you to see the entire city while eating with your loved one. Plus, I am a big fan of Asian food and their menu is divine.
Don’t Miss: If you are in LA for a short period of time I would suggest you don’t miss Venice Beach. Out of all the beaches it’s the most lively and exciting. People are performing, there are cute restaurants and beautiful people everywhere. I would suggest going two hours before sunset so you can have your fun then sit on the beach and watch the sun go down.
Hidden Gem: One of my hidden gems in the city is the California African American Museum right across from University of Southern California. It not only houses some of the most beautiful African art but they also throw events there daily, such as poetry readings that feed your soul.