There's a reason why it's nearly impossible to get through a whole season of Queer Eye without at least getting misty-eyed. When Queer Eye, which originally aired on Bravo from 2003 to 2007, returned in 2018 on Netflix, it accomplished something that not many current reality shows have done: it changed lives for the better.
Out went the premise of helping clueless, straight men get a makeover and a revamped home. Instead, the Netflix version focuses on having the Fab Five use their expertise to transform "heroes" of all genders and sexualities into the best version of themselves, instilling confidence in both the participants and the audience.
TV Guide checked in on some of the "heroes" the Fab Five helped throughout the first three seasons, who shared how a week with Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, and Tan France changed them for the better and revealed what we didn't get to see on screen.
Editor's Note: This story was originally published June 12, 2019 and doesn't include any contestants from from the most recent season.
A.J. Brown, the first gay man to become a hero on the show, recalled to TV Guide that he was "totally freaking out" before hosting his friends and family at the end of his week on Queer Eye. "I was actually having a mental fit about what how I was going to host and come out to my stepmom all in the same moment." In the episode, we learned that Brown regretted not coming out to his late father and wanted the opportunity to have a closer bond with his stepmom by telling her that he's gay, as well as introducing her to his partner, Drey.
For Brown, waiting for that day felt nerve wracking, but his stepmother immediately showed her love and support upon their heartfelt conversation. "[It was] a moment that will remain a memory and help me appreciate the courage I had to follow through to the end," said Brown. Looking back, Brown is so thankful that the Fab Five facilitated that life-changing experience. "I owe the Fab Five a great big thank you for being by my side and helping me cope with being out!" said the hero. "For that, my life will never be the same. From this experience I walked away with the courage to be myself and love myself because I am uniquely made and I would be doing myself and the world a disservice continuing to hide who I was on the inside."
"I really didn't know what to expect. I figured the guys were going to bash my wardrobe and tell me how to apply lotion to my dry skin but they did so much more than that. They literally changed my life," said Cory Waldrop about his expectations before appearing on Queer Eye. Waldrop became one of the most memorable Queer Eye heroes after his episode in the first season, where he had a heart-to-heart with Brown how police brutality affects people of color, particularly Black men like Brown.
In a previous interview with TV Guide, Brown discussed the importance of that conversation, saying "I heard one finally say, 'You're right. There are some really bad ones, but there are some good ones'.... That accountability was powerful for me." Waldrop, who says he is still a Republican, carries on with the community efforts he started before the show. "I was and still am the officer that rides around and spends time with citizens, including the kids," he said. "I like handing out gifts and other goodies to the children and making sure they are taken care of. That's one reason I am the public relations officer for my department."
Though the episode focused on intense, emotional moments that tugged heartstrings, Waldrop assured TV Guide that his time on Queer Eye also involved lighthearted, hilarious experiences fans didn't get to see. "Karamo was teaching me how to feed my wife oysters. We were literally in a restaurant feeding each other. Just picture a gay black guy feeding a white guy oysters in a restaurant in rural Georgia," recalled Waldrop, who will be retiring from the police force soon to open his own restaurant in Athens, Georgia. Since his episode, he's kept in contact with the Fab Five. "I thank them for changing not only mine but my family's lives. They are great guys and I truly love them," said Waldrop.
When Bobby Camp, a religious family man who appeared in the first season of Queer Eye, was first nominated for the show, he was "a little concerned that my family's faith and the Fab Five might be a challenge for all of us. To his surprise, he not only bonded with Bobby Berk over their history with the church, but also formed a strong bond with another Fab Five member in a way that viewers didn't get to see. Camp said that Brown "spent a good amount of time trying to help me improve my job situation. We searched for job opportunities and discussed what I need to work on in interviews and my resume -- still looking, by the way."
And while Camp cites Brown his "biggest influence" during filming -- particularly because Brown opened up about the challenges of fatherhood and faith -- he still took the other's advice just as seriously. France and Van Ness' tips redefined Camp's everyday routine. "The Fab Five changed my day-to-day life mostly in the area of self care," said Camp. " I realize that how I think of myself each day matters. It's important to take even just a few minutes a day to make sure that I am happy with the guy I see in the mirror. Sometimes that's hair or skin care. Sometimes that's buying a few new clothing items that Tan would be proud of that fit and have color and patterns. Sometimes that's believing that I have value."
As far as what's new for him after the show, Camp shared that Berk's help came in handy when their landlord decided to sell the house shortly after the show wrapped. "Apparently a house styled by Bobby Berk has greatly improved value," he said. "We were a little shocked, but it was a blessing in disguise." The family has since moved to a roomy new house in the same neighborhood. Luckily, their new home also gets to show off Berk's hard work. "We took everything that wasn't nailed down and were able to incorporate a lot of Bobby's design in our new house. It also gave us an opportunity to open our house to having the kids' friends over more. We also discovered a world beyond ourselves that needs to hear a story about queer people and church people and love and compassion and forgiveness and grace."
"Thank you for caring for me and my family and giving me the courage and passion to be a better version of myself," Camp said, addressing the Fab Five. "Thank you for coming into my family's life and being joyous and kind. Thank you for helping my family see the queer community the way God sees you. Passionate, creative, funny, hurting, created in God's image. We are so grateful to have been involved."
Tammye Hicks (better known as Mama Tammye) was the first woman to appear as the hero on the show. While she nervous that they'd come in and throw the baby out with the bath water, she grew close to the Fab Five while filming the episode, and they helped her "put broken pieces on my life together". This experience included a scene with France that got cut out of the episode in which she and France met with "a professional hat designer in honor of my mom, a church hat lover, whom I had recently lost to cancer." Hicks saw "how I mirrored my mom in so many ways. The moment was very impactful not only for me, but also the hat designer, who messaged me after the show aired to tell me that that experience healed him from a deep depression that he had been suffering."
In her episode, Hicks' goal was to help her church by rebuilding its community center and turning it into a welcoming haven for everyone, including her son, Myles, who is gay. Hicks said the redesigned space has become a central part of her community. "The community center is serving children in after-school and summer activities. It is serving the community with food pantry services and various training activities," she said, adding that she has since retired from teaching and is keeping busy with "public speaking and supporting organizations that serve the needs of people."
Hicks learned from her time on the show that while her passion is to help others through her church, it was vital for her to take time for self-care, a lesson that Van Ness taught her. "The Fab Five changed my day-to-day life by teaching me to value myself while valuing others," she said. "The most important tip that I took away from the show is to spend at least 30 minutes a day on self care."
Mary and Deborah Jones, also known as Shorty and Little, gave fans some serious food FOMO with their episode. Much of it focused on their famous BBQ sauce, which had even Porowski trying his hardest to find out the secret ingredient. And it was thanks to the Fab Five that the sisters finally shared their sauce with the world.
Not only was it a huge milestone for them to make that dream come true, but they had an overwhelming amount of orders after their episode hit Netflix, selling over 11,000 bottles within the weekend of it airing. While it was exciting, it was a lot to deal with, but the Fab Five left them with a tip that helped them handle their sauce's increased fame. "After the show we've had an overwhelmingly massive amount of love and support. So learning to delegate and ask for help has been a much utilized tool since the show aired," said the sisters.
But no matter the challenges that come with the new phase of Jones Bar-B-Q, the sisters couldn't be more thrilled with the love their sauce has received. "We really appreciate the massive amount of love and support we've received on the sauce. And all the love and feedback has been amazing," said the heroes. And in case you were wondering if there'll be more sauces coming out, you're in luck. "[We] made an additional sauce -- coconut pineapple!"
Jess Guilbeaux, the first lesbian Queer Eye hero, touched fans with her harrowing story of being rejected by her adoptive parents for being gay. "It wasn't until it was time to film that my heart and mind began processing exactly what was about to happen," Guilbeaux told TV Guide.
"The Fab Five have changed my life in so many ways, and the changes just keep coming by watching them pursue their dreams and passions unapologetically on social media," said Gilbeaux. "They are so authentic and themselves that it just bleeds into everything they do. I love seeing them touch people in ways that nobody expects them to through their different ventures. The most important tip they've given me is to never stop working and to be myself in everything that I do. That's all I need to do to succeed."
In her episode, she shared that after enrolling in college, she had to withdraw due to piling student debt. Now, things are looking up for her. "I am back in school pursuing my degree in computer science and should be finished by the beginning of next year!" she said.
Since the Fab Five's visit, Guilbeaux has been focused on the future. "I hope to take after [the Fab Five's] knowledge and wisdom and create an environment of love and acceptance in the world," she said. "We need more positivity and I think, through Queer Eye, I have learned the right tools to do just that. I want them to know that I aim to open up the floor for discussions that need to happen about intersecting identities and what it means to navigate the world as a strong, black lesbian woman."
Joey Green, a single dad who wanted to better his life to become a good role model for his son, was "scared that I might be a little too rough around the edges" for Queer Eye. "The idea of a fashion industry super star looking through my 'hand me down' wardrobe and offering advice or sharing my daily grooming habits with a health and beauty guru was pretty terrifying," he said. Ultimately, while Van Ness did come in with some tough love, Green said he needed and appreciated it. "I wish the scolding I got from [Van Ness] would have made it [into the episode]," said Greene. "I deserved that scolding. I think a lot of others could benefit by understanding the importance of sunscreen [and] 'No such thing as a base tan!'".
Green credits the Fab Five, particularly Berk, for helping him commit to his transformation by centering his son. "I had to accept that I was forcing [my son] to make the same sacrifices that I made, when he maybe shouldn't have to, which meant I needed to be the one to change," said Greene, who works at an outdoor education center. "At camp, we teach our campers to care for themselves, others and the environment. I was teaching my son that caring for myself was not as important as the other two."
The Fab Five's visit taught Greene a lot about himself. "Obviously, I have the daily reminder on my wall to do it 'Today, not someday.' I guess the biggest change I feel daily is that I should do things that I want to do even if no one will notice or care," said Greene. "If I do something bad and don't get caught I will always know I did something bad, and I understood that. I learned the same is true when I do something I enjoy or that is good, even if no one else notices or cares; I know. I love the exfoliating shower scrub, and I love having cool, rugged new clothing. So, I guess my fears of beauty and fashion were unwarranted."
Since we've seen him last, Greene's been promoted to Program Manager at the camp, which is a full-time, year-round administrative position. He's making the most of his redesigned cabin, and still feels the Fab Five's impact daily: he's added a rock garden to the flower beds Berk installed, installed a dutch oven to the cast iron Porowski got him, and luxuriates in the shower as Van Ness taught him. Looking back, Greene said "it would have taken me at least another year to get even close to the upgrades they added to my world," and added that he'd be more than down to spend the day with the Fab Five again.