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Tan France championing ‘Queer Eye’ to film in Utah

Tan France, author of “Naturally Tan” and star of the Netflix series “Queer Eye,” addresses students in the Rebecca Lockhart Arena at Utah Valley University in Orem on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.
Gabriel Mayberry, Utah Valley University

OREM — Tan France, a style guru on Netflix’s hit makeover show “Queer Eye,” made a stop at Utah Valley University Tuesday to talk to students about self-acceptance, friendship, and, yes, how to sport a “french tuck.”

France, one of Salt Lake City’s most notable residents, appeared in front of a crowd of hundreds of students laughing, clapping and cheering during his talk.

France said Utah’s tight-knit community reminds him of the one he grew up in. Born in Doncaster, England, and raised by Muslim Pakistani parents, France thought it was best to hide he was gay from an early age to prevent bringing shame to his community.

“As my mom would say, I was a little bit off,” he joked.

Even though he told his family he was gay, his decision to be discreet about his sexual orientation weighed on his decision to take a role in “Queer Eye.”

“I started to get approached for “Queer Eye.” I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should do this. That might be really unwise because people might start to know. If the show becomes a thing, maybe people will know that I’m gay,’” he said.

France, who authored a memoir titled “Naturally Tan,” took the role thinking only gay people and “woke” women would watch it. He was wrong. The reboot of the 2003 show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” became a global phenomena and went on to win four Emmys. Season five will be released this year and is set in Philadelphia.

In each episode, France, the fashion expert of the Fab Five, is tasked with creating a new wardrobe for a man or woman on the show. But guests on the show receive more than a makeover. The guests receive much-needed TLC and advice from hairstylist Jonathon Van Ness, chef Antoni Porowski, culture expert Karamo Brown and design expert Bobby Berk.

France said throughout the course of the show he’s become more comfortable with himself and who he is and refuses to tone down how gay he is.

“You get to be as straight as you want, why can’t I be as gay as I want to be?” he asked.

When France receives hateful comments online, he thinks about the kids who might be watching the show.

“It’s the kids that I really think about, especially in countries that aren’t in America,” he said. “There are countries that have it way tougher when it comes to being open and seen, and representation is not what it is here.”

“If it helps one kid think, ‘I get to dream a life that I never thought possible,’ it’s worth it. That’s why you’ll see me be extra fabulous wherever I go.”

During his talk, France asked the audience, “I’m Pakistani, are there Pakistanis here?”

Only one woman raised her hand and he leaped from the stage to give her a high-five.

In another instance, France gave UVU’s student body president Taylor Bell fashion advice on the proper way to tuck his shirt in known as a “French tuck.”

Students reacts to an address given by Tan France, author of “Naturally Tan” and star of the Netflix series “Queer Eye,” a in the Rebecca Lockhart Arena at Utah Valley University in Orem on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.
Erik Flores, Utah Valley University.

In the last four seasons, the cast has traveled to transform lives in Georgia, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Australia and Japan. Does “Queer Eye” have plans to film in Utah?

“I’ve been fighting for this for so long,” he said. “It looked so likely about a year ago ... within two weeks of us making it happen, it moved to Philly. But I’m still championing it,” he said.

France shares a home in Salt Lake City with his husband, Rob, and has lived in Utah on and off for more than a decade, according to the Associated Press.

“I fly home to Utah as much as I possibly can. Sometimes I fly home for like 18 hours just to see the mountains again,” he said.

He said he’s stayed in Utah because his friends, who are Latter-day Saints, are some of the best people he’s ever met.

Efforts to bring France to campus began about a year ago, according to UVU student Maddie Miskho, who serves on the school’s governing body, UVUSA, as the vice president of academic senate.

“The thing that’s so great about Tan is that he has such a diverse background and such a diverse list of interests,” she said.

Miskho said France is a relatable figure to the campus community.

“There are people that feel they are a minority in the community or LGBT-plus community that look up to him,” she said. “People that don’t identify the same as him — they still look up to him.”

During his talk, France had advice for LGBTQ youths about coming out, but not without addressing parents first.

“Accept the fact that your kids aren’t ever going to be exactly who you want them to be,” he said. “Listen to your kids and understand that your kids need you more than you might think.”

For youths uncomfortable with coming out, he advised confiding in one person at a time could make it “easier and easier” to come out to the next person.

“Find one person in your life that you can tell as soon as possible,” he said, adding that he did so when he was 16.

France’s other projects include “Next in Fashion,” a fashion design competition series, which was just released on Netflix, and his web series “Dressing Funny,” where he’s dressed comedians like Hasan Minhaj, Pete Davidson, Ali Wong and John Mulaney.

“It might be some of the most fun TV,” he said of his new Netflix series.

He looks forward to shooting more episodes of “Queer Eye” and the release of the fifth season.