'Queer Eye's "Fab Five" members discuss show's legacy and impact
By Christopher Rocchio, 10/01/2007
Bravo is finally set to airQueer Eye's final 10 episodes, ending the show's long journey that none of the "Fab Five" initially expected from the reality makeover series.
"We started out making a show that we just thought was about things many people think are superficial, like your appearance and your decor and all of that. We never thought of ourselves as important, certainly not as activists or anything like that," Queer Eye food and wine connoisseur Ted Allen told Reality TV World during a media conference call on Friday.
"But the fact is, we were out on television. There aren't many people still who are out on television. We were really just being ourselves. That alone is the most important political act that any of us could have done."
Queer Eye grooming guru Kyan Douglas agreed with Allen that the Fab Five didn't know what to expect when the show -- then titled Queer Eye for the Straight Guy -- first premiered in July 2003.
"I thought it would be sort of a niche, market-niche show. Kind of fun but small," Douglas told reporters during the conference call. "When we received the national press we did with Jay Leno and Oprah and Barbara Walters and all of that, it was sort of mind-blowing and overwhelming at the time."
"When we first started, there was a lot of brands and company stores that didn't want to work with us initially before the show was successful because of the title Queer Eye," Rodriguez told reporters. "Bravo went ahead and was very proud of the program and the title and stuff. So it was to their credit that we received the kind of success the show got."
While Douglas said he was "very familiar with the Bravo" because of Inside the Actors Studio, the struggling former film and performing arts network presumably could have never imagined the five gay men it cast for Queer Eye would launch it into a whole new direction.
"I think everybody knows Bravo took a big chance with us, and in turn, I think Queer Eye really was instrumental in building this network up to where it is today," Allen told Reality TV World. "To Bravo's credit, they built on that success with shows that have since made the network even bigger. In the process they worked us pretty hard, but they showed the show a lot. Both entities are inseparable in their growth."
Douglas described Bravo as "very important" to Queer Eye's success and added the network was "cutting edge" with its programming at the time, which also included Boy Meets Boy. Allen further described Bravo as an "amazing network" because it's "so irreverent" and has continued its "gay-friendliness" in several of its shows since then, from Project Runway to Top Chef.
"Looking back on it, it was a huge marketing success. The show was a hit before it even hit the air. People were already talking about it... It just seemed like a time when gays in television was a big topic," Allen told Reality TV World. "It was kind of the perfect storm of being in the right place at the right time because I think all five of us thought what Kyan said, that this would be popular among urban gays and sophisticated women in their 20s in big cities. The reach was much, much, much broader than that."
Queer Eye: The Final Season will premiere with back-to-back new episodes on Tuesday, October 2 at 9PM ET/PT and follow Allen, Douglas, and Rodriguez -- as well as designer Thom Filicia and fashion expert Carson Kressley -- as they complete their final makeovers. Rodriguez said the Fab Five got to do some really "out-of-the-box fun" during the last 10 episodes, including a "Straight Guy Pageant" hosted by soap-opera star Susan Lucci as well as the make-over of a transsexual man.
Rodriguez added while filming for Queer Eye's final 10 episodes wrapped in 2006, he thinks it's "great" Bravo didn't air any new episodes for the last year because it gave the audience "time to miss us."
"We made 100 episodes of the show, and we went through phases where we had to make a lot of episodes in a short period of time," Allen told Reality TV World. "I think there was a phase maybe in 2005 when we had some shows that weren't our very best in my opinion, but I think by the time we got to the end of the run -- this last batch of 10 -- we were so relaxed. We had tons of rest and took vacations, and I think this is going to be some of the best episodes we've ever done."
Allen said he remembers "some long, long shoot days" during Queer Eye's first few seasons, something he's glad the Fab Five no longer have to endure.
"Every show has a beginning and every show has an end," Allen added. "I think we're really proud of what we got to do. The show was a lot of work, and to be perfectly honest, I'm glad to have the free time to do other things as well."
Almost all of the Fab Five have moved onto other projects in recent months.
Allen has joined the judging panel of Bravo's Top Chef as well as Food Network's Iron Chef America, and also hosts a wine show on public access called Uncorked; Filicia currently hosts Dress My Nest, a Style Network series that premiered earlier this year; Kressley recently signed a deal to serve as the host of How to Look Good Naked, a new Lifetime series that will premiere in January; and Rodriguez will be guest starring in upcoming episodes of FX Network's Nip Tuck.
"I think it's changed all five of us in so many ways," Allen told reporters about Queer Eye. "It's been such an incredibly intense experience that we feel like brothers now... It's opened a lot of doors for all of us. I think it's completely changed our careers."
Rodriguez agreed, but said it would still be nice if Bravo gave the Fab Five one last hurrah.
"I thought it would be really nice if Bravo would have sort of an in-studio reunion show," Rodriguez told Reality TV World. "I don't know if that's in the works or not."
Regardless, Allen said one of the aspects of Queer Eye he's "proudest about" is that the show "indirectly opened the conversation up about who they are," which in turn led others to be comfortable in their own skin.
Douglas said about year ago, he received a letter from a 17-year-old Australian male who was a fan of the show while also dealing with coming out in his own life. Since then, Douglas said the youth has "fallen in love" and also finally told his parents he's gay.
"Those kind of stories, those kind of experiences for me are the legacy of the show," Douglas told Reality TV World. "That's what makes me the most proud. I know for a fact the other guys have all had similar experiences with gay youth. It's just humbling and special and really is part of our lasting memories of this work."