“Queer Eye” guy Tan France is working on an autobiography that tells a distinctive story about the son of Pakistani immigrants who was raised a Muslim in the U.K., moved to America, became a successful fashion designer, moved to Salt Lake City, became the star of a TV show and, finally, came out to his parents at age 34 — nearly a decade after he’d married a Mormon.
“I want to be able to share a story that hasn’t really been told before,” France said in a phone interview with The Salt Lake Tribune from the set of “Queer Eye,” currently in production in Missouri.
He never considered writing a book until publishers contacted him. “And I thought this was something I definitely would be interested in. Now we’re well in the thick of it.”
The book, “Tan France: Love, Family, Queer Eye, and What I Wore” (scheduled to be released on May 14), will reveal more about his personal life than he has to date — it will “definitely include some stuff that I don’t normally talk about.... I’m just writing exactly how I felt the last 35 years and what I’ve gone through to get to this point.”
“I mean, it's as personal as I'm willing to go. I still like my privacy. But I do think that this story is important for people who haven't seen representation like this before” — a gay person of color enduring discrimination en route to TV stardom.
And, even though the life of a TV star is “incredibly busy,” the writing is going well.
“Right now, it's not difficult because nobody's read it,” France said with a laugh. “Ask me again when the book actually comes out, and — depending on how people respond to it — I may find it quite difficult.”
Although initially reluctant to join the cast of “Queer Eye,” France feels it has turned out “better than I ever expected.” France (the designated fashion guru), Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Antoni Parowski and Jonathan Van Ness are the “Fab Five” — gay guys who remake someone’s life in each episode — and the show has become a pop-culture phenomenon more than a decade after the original “Queer Eye” ended its run.
Netflix executives have taken to introducing the guys to their children so the kids will think their parents are cool. “It’s a really strange feeling that we’re the gateway to keeping their kids impressed and happy,” France said. “It’s lovely, though, that the show resonates with people of all ages. But with the young’uns, that makes me so happy, because it shows that things are changing, times are changing and they’re a lot more open-minded.”
The seven months since “Queer Eye” began streaming on Netflix have been a whirlwind. France took “Saturday Night Live" star Pete Davidson shopping, and the entire “QE” cast took a quick trip to Hollywood this past weekend for the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. “Queer Eye” — which was named outstanding reality show at the Television Critics Association Awards in August — won three Emmys, for casting, editing and as outstanding structured reality program.
“It was shocking — truly shocking. I did not expect that we would win,” France said. “I went thinking, ‘Hey, it’s not going to happen. It doesn’t matter. So much great stuff has happened this year, it really doesn’t matter if this doesn’t go our way.’”
But things have been going his way quite a bit in the past few months. He recently filmed his first acting role — a small part in an episode of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” — which came about because he offered some unsolicited fashion advice when he and “Crazy” creator/executive producer Aline Brosh McKenna were waiting at a magazine photo shoot.
“I actually didn’t know who she was,” France said. “She couldn’t choose between two dresses. She wasn’t asking me, she was asking her team. But I couldn’t help but chime in and say, ‘Listen, definitely, you shouldn’t go with that. Go with this other one. And maybe just wear it this way. Maybe a belt. None of these belts is right. Send somebody out to get something for you. This is important. It needs to be right.’
“And then she said, ‘So, I’ve got this show called ”Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”’ And I was, like, ‘Holy crap! I love that show.’”
Shortly thereafter, he got a call asking if he was interested in being in the show.
(He can’t reveal exactly whom he plays or what he does in the episode, which is slated to air in November, but he’s playing a character — he’s not playing himself.)
“I didn’t think it was actually going to happen, but it did,” France said. “It was bizarre, because I’m not an actor, but I loved it. I had the best time.
“Who knows? Maybe I'll do another bit part now and then.”
France is fielding offers for more projects — including some that have come in just the past few days.
“It’s amazing how much comes your way when your show gets recognized by the Emmys,” he said. He can’t talk about any of the proposals yet, except to say, “In the next few weeks, a lot of stuff will come out. This has opened up a whole new world for me, and I love that it’s not stopping anytime soon.”
And France said children are still in the future for him and his husband, Rob.
“I don’t know yet when, because life got so busy — life got so big,” he said. “But, yeah, kids are definitely on the horizon in a couple of years.”