Tan France Is Not Fazed by Hateful Comments: "I've Had a Lifetime of Training"
If your friends are all dressing exactly the same way this summer, blame Tan France. The Queer Eye star responsible for transforming Southerners' style on the hit Netflix TV show introduced a fashion trick to the world earlier this year—the French tuck—and now, men and women everywhere can’t stop trying it. To do so, simply tuck the front portion of your shirt into your bottoms, and let the rest hang loose.
It’s been the subject of countless stories, and there are theories about its origin, but don’t worry, France isn’t tired of discussing it. “It feels amazing to know that the information I'm giving on the show is actually translating into real life and people are using these tips,” he says.
France is one of five breakout Queer Eye stars responsible for transforming the lives of “heroes” (how they refer to the people being made over on the show), both aesthetically and spiritually. If you’re a fan, you likely already have loyalty for the rest of the team: Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Karamo Brown, and Bobby Derk. Shot in Georgia, the Emmy-nominated series recently premiered its second season (the third is already confirmed), and France, much like his castmates, has developed a fan base of his own—1.5 followers and counting on Instagram.
Where Van Ness is known for his grooming tips and punchy one-liners and Porowski’s call to fame is his questionable cooking know-how (plus those abs), France is recognized for his perfectly coiffed hair; tight, Barneys New York-style wardrobe; and ability to make just about anyone look good. He’s also a businessman, one who sold two fashion companies before committing to Queer Eye.
But France's intrigue and insight also have to do with his cultural identity as a gay, Muslim, British immigrant, born to Pakistani parents and married to a Mormon man. It’s his diverse background and global point of view that has helped him successfully enter the hearts—and closets—of the heroes he makes over. Sometimes. Other times, he's faced deeply rooted racism. France previously revealed that while shooting, two of the heroes he made over unheroically asked whether he was a terrorist because of his Middle Eastern heritage—but France used the remark as a teaching moment.
Below, France talks about overcoming hate, shirtless selfies, and the only way to dress for a job interview.
VIDEO: Queer Eye Stars Dish on Sudden Fame, Fan Reaction, and More for Entertainment Weekly
The French Tuck officially has a life of its own. Are you tired of talking about it?
No! I'm not tired of talking about it. I actively try to push it because I think it is a great styling tip. I had no freakin' idea it was going to become what it's become. They were talking about it on CNN a few weeks ago, and I thought, "That's bloody weird." I couldn't be happier about it. I was in New York for a week and a half and I passed hundreds of people who were doing it, and almost everyone stopped me and said, "Tan, I'm doing the French Tuck." It feels amazing to know that the information I'm giving on the show is actually translating into real life and people are using these tips.
Tell me about its origin.
I used to do it when I was probably 16, 17 with my school uniform. I used to tuck in my shirt. It's a thing. It's been around for years. I can't take credit for it, but I have been doing it since I was a boy and there's something about it that just makes you feel slightly more put together. I think sometimes you just want to feel like you've made an effort even if you haven't made the greatest effort.
With the success of Season 1, the cast of Queer Eye was thrust into the spotlight. What's it like to be famous?
I don't describe myself as that. I still feel like I'm just Tan from Salt Lake, so it is weird. It's only been four months. I don't know if anybody gets used to it. When I'm in New York, Antoni gets infuriated because he can get away with walking down the street 'cause he's one of thousands of white men and people don't notice him, but as soon as I come into town, he's like, "Tan, we need to get a hat, we need to get a beanie, you need to cover up 'cause I can't walk down the street with you." It's a lot, but it's lovely. The response from people has been amazing, but trying to walk down a street is not easy anymore.
The response to the show is overwhelmingly positive. Do you ever get any hate?
Thank god, no. I will get a silly message every now and then. It's so rare I get something mean. I thought that I would get it every day. The only thing that I got yesterday, when I posted about my Ariana Grande [Sweetener] sweatshirt, is that somebody said, "You're too old for that," but other than that, it's pretty great. I can handle that.
Are you a big Ariana fan?
Oh my gosh, that album. It's gonna be killer.
Does this mean you're styling her fiancé, Pete Davidson (whom you've worked with), for their wedding?
I'll say this, I hope he wears a dress and she wears a suit.
The Queer Eye shirtless selfie has become a thing. Is fitness important to you?
I work out six days a week, I try and eat very healthy. It's not because I want to look a certain way, it's just that I want to be able to live as long as possible. I like the way clothes fit when I work out regularly. When it comes to food, everything in moderation. If you've seen my Instagram, you know I love cookies, so I don't deprive myself of things. My workout routine is important. I've been doing it for 15 years, and I hope to continue doing it 'til the day I die.
What are the rules for posting shirtless selfies?
You'll see that Antoni and Karamo and Jonathan all post underwear pictures, which I think is great. I would love to be in a position where I feel comfortable enough showing that much of my body to the world. I am not. Even in the things I say, I don't give too much away, I don't give too much of myself to the general public. I want to have my regular life, too. So when it comes to my body, it's not what I want to push forward. I want to push forward my work.
This month, you're encouraging people to participate in the Men's Wearhouse's #GiveASuit Drive. Basically, people can donate professional attire to unemployed Americans through July 31. Why is this important to you?
We're encouraging men and women to make the best of what they have, to be the best version of themselves. [By donating], you can benefit somebody who doesn't have access to that and who does want to get back into the workplace. They're doing all that they can to dress the part to get the job that they want to live the life that they want. That's everything we promote on the show, so it's been the most organic partnership.
What are some important rules to keep in mind when dressing for a job interview?
I would rather somebody wear a suit of professional business attire if they are unsure as to what the dress code might be. I think [it's better to be] slightly more dressed up than dressed down, so do as much research as physically possible beforehand to make sure you're going to be dressed in a way that's appropriate for that interview. You can get a well-priced suit that has the fabric you like, the color you like, and have it tailored, which is a lot cheaper than you might think. Now, you can wear your suit with a polo, a T-shirt, sneakers—as long as it's clean and looks appropriate for the job. Also, nobody wants to see you chewing gum while you're talking to them or answering questions. It's not the most professional way to leave an interview.
There were tough scenes on Queer Eye. Tom, the first subject on Season 1, for instance, threw some derogatory comments your way, but you eventually developed a friendship. How do you keep your cool in those moments?
So often, we're quick to get angry and defensive. I've had a lifetime of training for this show. I've been called every name under the sun, so I've gotten used to, at an early age, learning that me retaliating so strongly isn't the way forward. The way I convince people to at least meet me half way is by educating them on who I am and just representing myself well. I think that's the reason why people respond well to me. I'm grateful to say that the public has responded well to me, not just the members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
More often than not, it's straight men who will stop me on the street to tell me how I've impacted them. That feels very special because I do make sure that I'm leading with kindness and openness, and even if somebody does say something offensive, I want to talk to them about why that is offensive, not scold them for saying something offensive. A lot of the times it's ignorance, and I don't want to combat ignorance with aggression. I want to combat ignorance with knowledge.