'Queer Eye's' Tan France On Fashion, Identity And Fame

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Tan France, fashion designer and star of Netflix’s "Queer Eye" (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Tan France, fashion designer and star of Netflix’s "Queer Eye" (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Tan France is a successful fashion designer and now one of Emmy Award-winning "Fab Five" on Netflix's "Queer Eye" reboot.

And although he may think Boston is in the “state” of New England, France told Radio Boston's Jamie Bologna that he thinks it’s “gorgeous.”

He was in town for a bookstore appearance promoting his new memoir, "Naturally Tan," about his childhood growing up gay and South Asian in a small town in England, starting a successful business and becoming a TV star.

France stopped by WBUR's studios to talk about the book, the popularity of the French tuck, confronting racism and more. He also shared some fashion pointers (that we're definitely taking notes on.)


Tan France, fashion designer and TV personality. He tweets @tanfrance.

Interview Highlights

On the French tuck

So here’s the thing: the French tuck was around way before I was. But it does feel weird to know that people are doing it because I’ve encouraged them to do it. It’s weird to think somebody’s doing anything because I encouraged them to do it — let alone people all over the world are doing the French tuck. No matter where I go, no matter what country I go to, that’s the first thing people want to share with me when they see me in real life.

On the first piece of clothing he was obsessed with

The first piece of clothing was a piece of clothing that I actually didn’t own. And that never existed. But it was a piece of clothing that I remember very distinctly I wanted more than anything in the world. You know when you were 6 — or remember when you were 6, 7, 8, whatever — you wanted like, toys for your birthday. What toy did you want for your birthday?

I wanted a custom-made black silk shirt. I was obsessed with it and I asked for it for my birthday for many years — 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 — I never got it. So that’s the first time I really remember thinking, clothes are clearly very significant to me if that’s what I’m asking for for my birthday.

"I lead with kindness and tolerance and accept any question, no matter how disrespectful they may seem ... I was trained my whole life for this."

On empathizing with people vastly different from him on Queer Eye

I’m a South Asian man — I was in England, I now live in the U.S. — so believe me, I’ve had a lifetime of training when it comes to people being somewhat negative toward me. So I know how to combat that, I know how to approach that. I lead with kindness and tolerance and accept any question, no matter how disrespectful they may seem, I will accept those questions and answer them. I was trained my whole life for this.

On confronting racism

It’s all I’ve ever known. If that was all you ever knew, you’d find a way to accept it and move on. It’s not great, and now I’m in a position to be able to call that behavior out, but it’s something I found a way to reconcile. So what I do is I understand how it makes me feel and I know that I don’t want anyone else to feel that way so I speak out against it and I will speak to the people who are throwing those assaults at me. And I will ask them why they feel it’s OK, what they think that I’ve done that would warrant such a reaction. It’s a very uncomfortable conversation and I don’t think they’re ever expecting me to confront them that way. I think they’re used to people swearing at them.

On his summer fashion tips

Go for color. Summer, it’s so hard to layer because it’s obviously so hot, and so if you want to add that point of interest, go for color. Everybody knows me for print — I love a print. But if you really want to stay on trend and be really, really trendy, sheer is huge … Wear something under it because that’s very jarring if you don’t, but sheer options are always wonderful. And also, avoid flip flops. Please … Unless you’re on a beach or by a pool, they just don’t — they’re so unsightly. And they’re telling the world you made no effort.

This article was originally published on June 06, 2019.

This segment aired on June 6, 2019.


Jamie Bologna Senior Producer/Director, Radio Boston
Jamie Bologna was senior producer and director of Radio Boston.


Walter Wuthmann General Assignment Reporter
Walter Wuthmann is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.



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