Everyone and their mother has a favorite from Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot, or so it seems. Even non-watchers likely felt the new Fab 5’s infectious glow as it radiated through the culture, spawning a delicious online conspiracy regarding food guy Antoni’s cooking ability and a recently viral SNL cameo by fashion expert Tan France. True to the show’s tagline (“The original fought for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance,” France narrates in the trailer), where the first incarnation was radical, the reboot is radically mainstream, permeating every corner of the post-Ellen zeitgeist.
By the time we catch up with France, he’s (understandably) grown weary of the rumors surrounding Antoni. “My answer is 100% he can cook,” France says. “He and I would make dinner on Wednesday nights; we spent more time together than anyone else, since he and I both don’t drink.”
Guacamole-gate aside, France says the response to the show has been nothing short of breathtaking. “My response to the reaction to the show has been shock,” he says. “We were expecting it to be a relatively slow burn. But the fact that it just blew up immediately and became a thing so, so quickly… I don’t think any of us could have anticipated that.”
But there were signs early on that the squad had something special; out of the dozens of contenders at the live audition, the five eventual cast members just happened to form a kiki. “On day one [of the audition], Karamo, Bobby and I started chatting and by the end of the day we were thick as thieves,” France says. “By the end of the second day, Jonathan and Antoni joined our group, so we felt we would be friends without a doubt even before getting the job.”
Besides chemistry, France owes the show’s mass appeal to its ability to adapt to an ever-evolving and ever-globalizing culture. “[The original] was the first time we saw real gay men as opposed to actors, which, for 15 years ago, was revolutionary,” he says. “But our show is more global, I think. It’s about more than making you pretty.”
That well-roundedness is exhibited not only in the diversity of makeover subjects—ranging from Trump-supporting cops to LGBT-identifying men of color—but also in the Fab 5 itself. France, born in Britain to strict Pakistani Muslims, says the show’s representational power is multiplied by its inclusion of races and creeds in addition to sexualities. For instance, episode two, France’s favorite, centers on Neal, a burly programmer of Indian descent. “For people in our part of the world, that was shocking—seeing a Pakistani and Indian on TV working together.” he says. “People were like, ‘I can’t believe you got away with that. Not only are you a gay man working with a straight man, you’re a Pakistani helping an Indian, when we’ve been at war for 60 years.’”
France himself is a kind of walking testament to the rapid currents of social change; while his architectural, slate-gray hair and cosmopolitan accent may read “big city,” he is in fact based in Salt Lake, City, Utah, where he settled after founding his clothing label Kingdom & State. “I’ve lived in many, many places. But truly, Salt Lake is my favorite place,” he says. And while more known for its megachurches than its fashion temples, France and his illustrator husband—who happens to be a Mormon—wouldn’t have it any other way. “I have no desire to move to L.A. The people are the nicest people in the world. Life is just easy here.”
Here is where you’ll find France being his most actualized self in Salt Lake.
Cup of Joe: Publik Coffee Roasters.
Power Lunch: Zao Asian Café.
Cocktail Hour: Bar X (Ty Burrell owns this place!).
Retail Therapy: Fashion Place Mall, which has a Nordstrom and Crate & Barrel.
Field Trip: Hiking up Black Mountain.
Date Night: Tokai Sushi.
Don’t Miss: Temple Square.
Hidden Gem: Cliff Lodge rooftop pool and spa. It’s outdoor and surrounded by the most beautiful mountains.
Main image: © Paige Soviet