LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Tan France On The Importance Of Keeping An Open Mind, Pride, And The Future Of 'Queer Eye'

"My proudest moment has been this show."

When it comes to worldly folks, there's few like Tan France of Netflix's Queer Eye.

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The lovable fashion expert, quite simply, represents everything considered taboo in Donald Trump's America. France is the trifecta: he's an immigrant (having been born in England and now setting up a home base in Salt Lake City), he's Muslim (coming from parents of Pakistani descent), and he's gay (having married husband Rob France in 2007). The salt-and-pepper-haired icon is about as diverse as they come, and is spreading positivity on a worldwide platform.

A Plus caught up with France at a launch party for Travelpro's Platinum Elite Collection, and got to discuss all of these aspects of himself and why he's proud to share them with viewers all around the world. France — who urges travelers to keep their packing "simple and concise" with a wardrobe "as versatile as possible" — opened up about traveling the South, what he has learned from Queer Eye, the No. 1 piece of fashion advice everyone should listen to, and if there will ever be a day when we won't need Queer Eye to fight for LGBTQ tolerance or acceptance.

Photo Credit: Netflix

A PLUS: What is the most life-changing trip you’ve been on? Why was it so meaningful?

TAN FRANCE: The most life-changing trip was actually to New York. I was 17, it was my first trip out of England, it was my first trip out of a small town in Yorkshire, and it was the thing that made me decide I was going to live in America for the rest of my life. I made it my goal and it took me 12 years to finally get a visa. The city felt so alive, I felt really well-treated in the U.S., and I thought that people were really connecting with the fact that I was English. My experiences here were so different from back home in England. I never felt special back home and, I know this is lame, but it felt so nice to feel that in a place like New York. The city itself, I thought, was incredible. And it is incredible. I'm here all the time because I love it.

"Queer Eye" filmed in Georgia. What’s your favorite thing about traveling around Georgia in particular?

My favorite part of traveling around Georgia ... I'll give two things: the food and the people. They go hand in hand because the people usually preparing food for us are the nicest people in the world. I'd always heard about Southern hospitality when I was in England. I'd hear people reference it but I didn't know just how hospitable Southerners were. They really are the nicest people. So kind, so welcoming, and they always want to feed you, which is lovely.

Photo Credit: Travelpro

Does that mean you have a favorite Southern food?

Mac and cheese, like a fancy mac and cheese. I like the one that's baked. I don't like the box one. Actually, I do love some Velveeta in there, too.

With it being Pride Month, what makes you the most proud and what does Pride mean to you?

My proudest moment has been this show. Being able to represent immigrants, Middle Eastern people, and gay people on this show feels really powerful. That's what I'm most proud of.

To me, Pride means a celebration of how far we've come as a country and as people. Around the world, there are still so many places [where LGBTQ people] don't have the rights we have. The fact that we can get married and the fact that we have children … every time Pride comes around, I'm reminded of why it is so important that we celebrate because it was a mammoth task.

Photo Credit: Austin Hargrave / Netflix

It's your job to teach others on "Queer Eye," but what has been the biggest lesson you've learned on the show?

What I learned from the people that we were helping is to not be as closed-minded as I probably was when we first started the show. When I first met Tom Jackson in the first episode — he was truly the first episode we shot, every other is out of order — the first thing I thought was, "Oh, crap. I'm in over my head. He seems like he's going to not be receptive to me, he's Republican, he's probably going to be really closed-minded." I couldn't have been more wrong. He was one of the most welcoming people I've ever met. Each week when we shoot with a new person I'm always surprised at how loving they are even though we were so different. Our political opinions were so polarized but we managed to find a way to love each other by the end of that week. I never expected that.

That's so interesting. The common belief is that conservative people are all closed-minded and liberal people are all open-minded. It can actually be the complete opposite.

I think we on the Left are so comfortable saying the Right are close-minded that sometimes we need to also be open-minded to bridge those divides.

Photo Credit: Netflix

What's your No. 1 fashion tip that could apply to absolutely anyone?

Know your size and know your body. Don't dress for the body you don't have. The reason why I'm saying this is — while I've always found it to be true — it happened literally a few days ago with a friend when I was helping him clear out his closet. He had all these clothes for the body he wants to have and that makes no sense because, in the meantime, you're not going to feel great about yourself. Why do that to yourself? Dress for what your size is right now and you're going to feel so much more confident.

I've read a quote of yours that is a great summation of "Queer Eye." You said the original fought for tolerance and the current one fights for acceptance. Will there be a day when we don’t need "Queer Eye" to fight for anything?

I'll give you two answers to that question. The first answer is no, because I really love my job. [Laughs] 

The real answer, though, is yes. I pray that one day we live in a world where the show is seen as archaic because [LGBTQ people are] just as welcome in this world as everybody else.

Queer Eye is currently available on Netflix — don't forget the Yass special on YouTube — and you can check out Travelpro's Platinum Elite Collection here.

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