I didn’t know what the show Queer Eye was about until I saw everyone talking about it on twitter last year and then I decided to binge watch the two seasons … wow was that an experience. I sobbed in almost every episode and fell in love with the Fab 5 and it’s been wonderful getting to know them better since then. It was also very surprising to see a gay South Asian person on such a mainstream popular show and he quickly became my favorite and I’ve really wanted to know more about Tan. So I was so so excited when I got approved for the advance copy of his memoir and I think it’s awesome that I’m able to review this today, the premier of Season 3.
Tan has always come across as the more reserved one among the Fab 5, so I definitely was expecting to get a better read on him through this book and I wasn’t let down. His narrative style is witty, sassy and charming and this is a memoir you won’t mind finishing in a single sitting. He is also quite self deprecating, pointing out his own flaws and owning them while also being very forthright about some of his own opinions. Peppered among the anecdotes from his life are some of his signature fashion tips and I definitely loved them. Some of his advise felt out of place within the context of the chapters (or the book) sometimes, but I think we can’t expect anything different from a designer/stylist.
Despite the lighthearted way he tries to convey his story, there are many things he dealt with which are painful and heartbreaking to read about. Especially the racism that he had to encounter for being one of the few people of color in a small town in England, and how the little things like walking back home from school were a lesson in survival were both unpleasant to read, but unsurprising because I think much has not changed since then in some places. His particular mention that brown people can’t run in airports (even when you are late for your flight) just hit me hard because that’s so true and unfair. There are many such observations that he makes about what brown people can or can’t do and it’s painful to realize that we have to keep all this things in mind just to live our lives peacefully. Though I live in the US now, I grew up in India among people who looked like me, so seeing myself represented in media or other aspects of life was never an issue. I realized the importance of it only after moving to a different country, so his issues about representation since childhood felt so much more profound and I think this is such a harsh reality for most of the people of color who live in the west. He is also quite forthcoming about a very painful episode in his life and I commend him for it, because it just goes on to show that just because someone is successful and making money doesn’t mean everything is great with their life. He is also pretty frank about the non glossy side of his celebrity life – the incessant travel, innumerable press junkets, being away from his husband and feeling lonely, the toll it takes to keep up appearances in public – while acknowledging how privileged he is.
I was actually surprised by the ease with which he seemed to have handled the fact that he was gay while also being Muslim and South Asian but I think it’s a testament to the strength of his convictions. He is also still very traditional in his mindset and that reflects in the relationship with his husband. It feels like a great love story and they seem to be wonderful supportive partners and I loved reading the parts where he kept gushing about his husband. Their first date and subsequent meetings are especially adorable and it really feels like they were meant to be together.
And there are so many things in the book that I found endearing because of the relatability. The conservative nature of the family while growing up, all the nosy family members, the ways we are restricted in terms of dressing up or making friends or going out and how we all learn to lie to do what we want to do – it was so reflective of my own life growing up that I found it very nostalgic. It’s also lovely to see him want to incorporate his culture within his style and I think his mehndi is a wonderful statement in that regard. He is also quite open about the rampant colorism in the South Asian community and our obsession with being fair (essentially white) and associating lighter skin with beauty and his journey about realizing the importance of respecting his own skin color felt so similar to mine. There are many such instances in this book where I thought … “wow this is exactly what happened to me too” … and that’s one of the main reasons I really enjoyed this one.
If you are a fan of the show Queer Eye, you should definitely check this out because you’ll love it. It definitely goes along with the theme of the show – finding your own path in life, accepting and understanding yourself and spreading joy around you. Tan’s witty writing style makes for a very fun read and you’ll definitely find something in this memoir that you can relate to. However, the blurb does mention about him coming out to his family and revealing the truth about his marriage – it is not included in this advance copy but I hope it’s a part of the final book. This was a lovely book to read and I definitely recommend to everyone. I promise it’ll make you smile.
PS: Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.