Tan France is the fashion guy on the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (now just called Queer Eye), the current first season of which takes on Atlanta. Tan, who secretly enrolled in a fashion school before telling his British-Pakistani folks about it, fearing they wouldn’t think it proper enough. (He ended up designing for brands like Kingdom & State and Rachel Parcell, Inc.) He is the one with sprightly silver hair and an aversion to “jorts” or too much plaid, while also urging an allegedly ugly man to show more of his face because he ain’t really ugly.
In light of the fact that the original show’s “positive stereotype” of a premise is back, I asked him some potentially fashionable queries.
Do you think queers have better taste?
No, I don’t. I don’t think that just because we are gay, bi, whatever, that we have a heightened skill set. But we do have a disproportionate amount of people in the creative fields, especially fashion, styles, and grooming.
What is fashion to you?
Fashion to me is clothing that is in vogue, current, and trendy, and usually at an inaccessible price point. It’s a way to express who you are. However, more so, style is what expresses who you are. I don’t think it’s important to follow a trend… I’d rather someone wear a style that’s appropriate for them—the age, proportion, body shape, as opposed to being a slave to a fashion trend. However, fashion to me is incredibly important because it’s been a part of my whole life.
Who are your idols?
Someone once asked me, “Who would you be starstruck by?” The people that I would probably get starstruck by in the fashion crowd are Anna Wintour, Victoria Beckham, and Dolce and Gabbana. Those are the kind of people that would kind of blow my mind. [Tan added that if he ever met Beyoncé, he’d express his love for her in a very uncomfortable way.]
What was your favorite movie of 2017?
Call Me By Your Name. I cried so hard. It was one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen in a long time and not because, air quotes here, it’s a “niche story.” I could care less if it was two gay men. It was because it was so beautifully done. I loved it because it wasn’t a gay movie, it was a love story.
Which Democrat should run for President next time around?
I don’t know American politics. I haven’t been in this country long. Michelle Obama, that’s the person who should run this country. When she speaks, I want to give her everything I own.
This Sporting Life
With gays so visible at the Winter Olympics, maybe heteros can now come out as style queens and do a show called Straight Eye. In light of the fact that gay doesn’t equal unathletic, I asked some LGBTs for their experiences with sports.
Actor-writer-performer Becca Blackwell: “As a former bulldagger of a certain age, sports gave me a place where I could wrap a Budweiser bandana around my head so the ’Genuine’ was right across my forehead. And gave the grunts of my lifetime. I promise I have retained my athletic thighs and ass.”
Funnyman Bruce Vilanch: “I used to like to do snow angels with my friends, but once I had them on their backs, nature just took its course.”
Comic/writer Frank DeCaro: “I was the proverbial picked-last-in-gym kid, which always hurt. But when I looked back on it now, I realize those kids weren’t really being mean so much as exhibiting rare moments of good judgement. I was TERRIBLE at team sports. I never saw the point. I still don’t. It wasn’t until my high school offered badminton as an elective that I was able to get an ‘A’ in phys ed, Now, of course, I LOVE going to the gym. But only if I’m the most ancient, least fit person in the place. I hate working out with old, fat people. When I hear someone at the gym use the words ‘chubsy wubsy,’ they better mean me.”
Raconteur-performer Justin Sayre: “I’m actually a great skier, which may be shocking, but it’s true. I also choreograph figure skating routines in my head. That way the music is always better.”
Actor Gideon Glick: “Given how out and proud I was in high school, I managed to emerge relatively unscathed. Gym class, however, was a different story. Being forced to play basketball was a cruel feat and I 100% got laughed at. I can occasionally get into watching a game, but we’re not a sports household. Watching sports doesn’t make me cry. Watching Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy at the Olympics, however, did. God, does representation matter! Look at what Wakanda has done! I cried watching Adam Rippon skate. Yes, because he was excelling, yes, because of his athletic prowess, but mostly because he made it beautiful. He was elegant and smooth. He didn’t aspire for the quad, he aspired for beauty. He made me as an artist, gay man, and failed basketball player, very proud.”
Phyllis Newman On Her Subways to the Tony
The sport of re-mounting relatively obscure musicals is taking center stage again, now that Subways Are for Sleeping is being revived at the York Theatre Company. The 1961 Broadway musical—about a society of homeless people living in the New York subways—was written by Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green, suggested by an Edmund G. Love book.
Phyllis Newman, then married to Green, won a featured Tony for playing now desperate beauty queen Martha Vail, singing the elaborately funny loser’s lament “I Was a Shoo-In”. In a phoner, Newman told me she worked on tweaking the new production’s script, which included some shortening and sharpening. Meanwhile, said Newman, “I have to look at a 22, skinny, dark haired, wonderful girl [Gina Milo] doing my song. It gives me a little pain–she’s really good, though. Very pretty and she’s good, I hate to admit it.”
It’s a plum role, having even grabbed Tony gold over Streisand’s uncomfortably single (and hilarious) Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get It for You Wholesale. “Winning the Tony,” added Newman, “was a very big deal, especially when Barbra Streisand was my competition. We still kid each other.”
Newman said that to this day, Streisand will invite her to concerts, then point her out in the audience and pretend she doesn’t quite know who she is. (“Did she win? Nah, I don’t know.”) “Whatever comes out of her mouth,” said Newman, “she acknowledges it and we joke about it after. I can say, ‘Whatever happened to you?’ She’s funny, she’s good about stuff like that.”
As for the show’s original tweaking period: “Adolph was going to hell because they couldn’t cure it. I was going to heaven because our scene—Orson Bean‘s and mine—worked like gangbusters and stopped the show, so it was a mixture. I auditioned five times to get into the show. The last time I came in a towel and a blond wig and was humiliated—for your own husband’s show. [Producer David] Merrick hated me, I don’t know why.”
But she said when Merrick saw her perform the part, he was thrilled—“except the night of the Tonys, I sat next to him and he said, ‘I voted for Barbra.’ He really was mean. It wasn’t an act. He was a great producer, though.” They don’t reference you in Valley of the Dolls for nothing.