Renowned for his love of the French tuck, Queer Eye’s Tan France was born and raised in the British town of Doncaster. However, the fashion expert has been more than willing to embrace the U.S. lifestyle since moving to the other side of the Atlantic. And in 2020 France revealed that he’d taken his love of all things American to the next level.
Now, France first came to public attention in 2018 as one fifth of the Queer Eye gang alongside Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk and Antoni Porowski. The Netflix show was a reboot of the mid-2000s series known as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. And it sees the Fab Five help a struggling individual, aka a hero, with their fashion sense, home design and general life skills.
Unsurprisingly, Queer Eye became an instant hit, attracting millions of viewers and picking up no fewer than three Emmy Awards. As well as improving the lives of its heroes, it catapulted its five experts to stardom. And France wasted little time in capitalizing on its phenomenal success.
Indeed, France published his memoir, Naturally Tan, in 2019. And that same year he joined Alexa Chung as co-host of another Netflix show. Yes, Next in Fashion gave budding designers the chance to showcase their work for a Net-a-Porter collection and bag $250,000 in the process. Sadly, the series didn’t take off likeQueer Eye and was canceled after one season.
Admirably, France was anything but bitter about the show’s abrupt end. He told Variety, “This is a one-season show, we don’t know what will happen in the future. But it was honestly one of the proudest things I’ve ever worked on. I love the show and Alexa so much. My focus is definitely on Queer Eye and moving forward with that.”
Anyway, France’s path to stardom was never particularly mapped out. The Brit began his career working for Bershka, a high street fashion brand. And following a trip to Salt Lake City he landed a regional manager position with a manufacturer of Mormon modesty clothing. In 2019 France told The Guardian, “I learned every facet of retail. I got contacts for factories, learned how to buy, ship and distribute.”
After returning to the UK over two years later, France developed his own Mormon-friendly clothing brand known as Kingdom and State. He said, “These girls were cute and wanted to be fashionable. I wanted to create a London look for them that just so happened to cover the areas of their bodies they had to cover as Mormon women. And that’s where it took off really well [in Utah], really quickly.”
So France ended up dividing his time between the United Kingdom and Salt Lake City to make the concept a success. And while in the Utah capital, he began working with the fashion influencers dubbed the “Mormon Kardashians.” His association with the Skalla family led to an audition for a new Netflix show, and the rest is history.
But the Brit’s life of glitz and glamor was in stark contrast to his humbler growing up in a working-class family. You see, his mother and father ran various local establishments over the years including taxi firms, convenience stores and post offices. And he rarely strayed outside his deeply religious community.
Sadly, France was forced to deal with the issue of racism from a young age. He told The Guardian, “I knew that having an adverse reaction was not going to achieve anything. Me calling them something back would achieve nothing. I knew if they were willing to talk to me, I could say, ‘What is your problem with Pakis [sleur for Pakistanis]?’”
A young France also had to cope with the realization that he was gay. But the star revealed that he took it all in his stride, adding, “I thought about this a lot. Was I scared? Was I panicking? And I wasn’t. I was always so matter-of-fact … I remember thinking, ‘OK, that’s a thing. I’m not going to try to change it. I don’t feel wrong.’”
And he continued, “I don’t remember any adverse feelings except, oh s**t, you probably need to figure out how to hide it. “We didn’t have out people in the Pakistani community, so I knew it was something hidden and not discussed. I also knew there had to be more, because there were plenty of gay men in the white community.”
Thankfully, France was able to find a kindred spirit when he took on a call center position in between his studies. There he met his first boyfriend, which gave him the impetus to come out. France told The Guardian that it came as a surprise to his family. He said, “They had planned a whole heterosexual life for me and it was just shocking to hear that plan was never going to come to fruition.”
Things with the call center guy didn’t work out, but France did end up meeting the love of his life during one of his U.S. work trips in 2008. Yes, he instantly hit it off with ex-Mormon Rob France over their similarly conservative childhoods as well as their teetotalism. The Queer Eye star joked to The Guardian, “I didn’t realize there were white people who didn’t drink until I turned up in Salt Lake City.”
What’s more, the pair agreed to give a long-distance relationship a try, something which France revealed wasn’t as difficult as many people might believe. He said, “It wasn’t hard work at all. It was the constant, the easiest thing in my life.” In 2013 the couple said ‘I do’ to each other following the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act.
France, who eventually relocated to Salt Lake City after getting his green card, couldn’t stop gushing about his husband during his chat with The Guardian. He said, “I still have the biggest crush on him. Every time I see him, I get this feeling like I can’t believe he’s mine.”
And France’s husband was also pivotal to the fashion expert’s transition from retail to reality TV having persuaded him to attend the Queer Eye audition. The star added, “[Rob] said, ‘You’ve been moaning for years and years that you have no gay friends. There’s going to be a room of gay men and you’re the most sociable person I know: just go.’”
Although he’s since become a household name, France seems determined to keep his privacy intact. He told the British newspaper, “Just because I am on a TV show does not mean people have access to every facet of my life. I never got into this as if it were my reality show.”
So why write a memoir, you may ask? Well, France once told Insider, “I like to keep my life very non showbizzy, but it felt like my responsibility to say, ‘I am a person with great privilege at this point. I am one of a very few of my people that has a platform like this, a global platform.’ And if I didn’t use my voice at all, I would feel like I was doing my people a disservice.”
But France admitted that he initially worried about how he’d be perceived by the outside world, and the impact the show would have on his relatives. He explained, “I didn’t want my family to feel the pressure of people around them thinking, ‘This is your son and he’s going around being very openly gay. Control him better.’”
Luckily, France’s family approved of what they saw. He revealed, “I asked if they were unhappy with how I behaved. Thankfully they didn’t see a difference. They said, ‘You giggled a little bit more, you cross your legs, your hand is a little camper than it is at home. But it was always there, you just control it differently.’”
However, the Brit still stresses about his on-screen persona. He explained, “I represent many marginalized communities. There’s the pressure of how to act as a man. There is also the pressure of how you are as an Asian man, and how you are perceived and how you should behave. How you are representing yourself as an immigrant in the States. – what you need to do to be the best immigrant you can be.”
And France admits that when it comes to representing the LGTBQ community, some feel he isn’t vocal enough. He said, “You’re not a good gay if you’re not representing at every moment. But only you get to decide how to present yourself to the world. And I get to be the version of gay I want.”
In fact, the Brit very nearly walked away from Queer Eye before cameras started rolling. He told Insider, “Then, episode three, I tried to quit again because I was too scared of the cameras and, again, the pressure of being part of this community so publicly … So yeah, there were many times after I accepted the job that I thought, ‘I’m not cut out for this.’”
Luckily, the fashion expert managed to overcome his fears. He explained to Insider, “I felt so much pressure to be Hollywood-y, show business-y, but I was the only one who had no show business experience. The producer of Netflix encouraged me to just be myself. That’s why I was hired. I didn’t have to put on this fabulous persona. I got to just be myself, which gave me real comfort.”
Of course, one thing France hasn’t been able to show is his more emotional side. Unlike the rest of the Fab Five, the fashion consultant has never blubbed on screen, although it’s not for the want of trying. He explained to The Guardian, “I physically can’t. I don’t know what it is. I sit there thinking, c’mon. It’s the one thing I really dislike about myself.”
Well, the TV star might struggle to shed any tears in public. But he was clearly overcome with emotion when he made an exciting announcement in June 2020. For seven years after moving across the Atlantic, France revealed he had finally become a U.S. citizen. So just how did he announce it?
You’ve guessed it: the new American took to Instagram where he told his millions of followers that he couldn’t be any happier. Alongside a photo of himself taking the oath at the citizenship ceremony, France declared, “For me, this is monumental. It’s something I’ve been working towards for literally 20 years, which makes this all the more emotional.”
So what was the first thing that France took full advantage of as a new U.S. citizen? Well, he told his followers, “And now, I will exercise my constitutional right as an American. Today, I will register to vote, and vote for the change I wish to see in our nation.”
In fact, France continued to advocate the importance of voting in several Instagram posts uploaded the week after he became a U.S. citizen. Alongside a link to the When We All Vote initiative, he wrote, “Want to see real systemic/policy change in your immediate community? Don’t know how your vote counts?? Please, please read this and vote!”
Of course, many Queer Eye fans will be wondering what France decided to wear for such a momentous occasion. Well, the fashion expert opted for a pair of blue cuffed jeans, a navy blazer and, perhaps surprisingly, some black sneakers. However, there was no French tuck to be found anywhere.
To add to that, France’s husband Rob was in attendance at the ceremony. The pair later posed for a happy snap with a U.S. flag in the background which was uploaded to Instagram. And Rob couldn’t contain his excitement about the occasion, writing “Finally” in bold in the comments section.
Now, France’s partner wasn’t the only person to respond in the comments section. Each and every one of the star’s Queer Eye co-hosts took to Instagram to send their well wishes. Culture expert Brown posted, “Welcome! Love you,” while interior designer Berk wrote, “So proud of you Tanny!”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most flamboyant member of the Queer Eye gang, Van Ness, opted for a more exuberant message. The hair stylist wrote, “There is no word or phrase I have strong enough to say how happy, proud, strong you are. I have no words strong enough.”
While Van Ness, Brown and Berk went for heartfelt sentiments, Queer Eye’s resident cook Porowski wrote something more humorous. The man renowned for his love of avocados replied, “I hope you realize you can no longer say things like ‘you Americans always.’” And other celebs also took to Instagram to congratulate France on the news.
Yes, comic actress and writer Mindy Kaling wrote, “Congratulations! We are lucky to have you!” And actress Joey King responded, “Oh my god, we are so lucky to have you!” While her fellow The Act star AnnaSophia Robb replied, “Wahoo! Just in time for the election too. Perfect timing, per usual, congratulations!”
However, possibly the most impressive name to leave a reply on Instagram was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Democratic congresswomen, who later that month defeated her New York primary challenger, ex-CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, wrote, “Congratulations! Our country is better with you as part of it.”
News of France’s U.S. citizenship emerged just a week after Queer Eye returned to Netflix for a fifth helping. Whereas previous series had been filmed in Kansas City, Georgia and Japan, its 2020 batch of episodes took place solely in Philadelphia. And in an interview with PhillyVoice, France claimed he was delighted at the change of scenery.
France told the site “I love thrift shopping. It was a very good selection in Philly. I actually prefer Philly’s vintage or thrifted items to the likes of New York’s because they don’t hike up the prices like they do in other major cities. If I’m not in a city that I know really well, I will usually go for a vintage shop before anything else because you’re going to find something incredibly unique.”
And although the fashion expert is now a U.S. citizen, he joked that there would always be a Britishness inside him. When asked about whether he’s the most judgey Queer Eye host, the star replied, “I’m the most vocal. The British culture is a lot more open about our opinions, and our feelings. And the American culture is a little more passive.”