'Queer Eye' Culture Expert Karamo Brown Shares His 8 Essential Items

Karamo Brown
Photographed by Leo Deveney/Styled by Sondra Choi

Karamo Brown

Netflix has charmed viewers and critics alike with its reboot of Queer Eye, with each episode taking its subjects (and the audience) on emotional journeys. And while the Fab 5 all have equally important roles, it’s Karamo Brown who is responsible for transforming the participants’ mindset -- arguably providing some of the show's most powerful moments.

“I am more the one who is fixing the inside while the other guys are fixing the exterior,” Brown explains. “All of those moments when you see these guys cry -- you don’t see these three hour conversations where I’m chipping away at them. I’m the physical representation of someone saying ‘it’s okay.’”

While Brown wasn’t able to tease details on the just-annouced second season, he did have some ideas on who’d he’d be interested in working with.

“I want a trans man, because I think in the media, we focus a lot more on trans women -- which we should! I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t. But I don’t think our trans brothers get as much attention and so I’d love to see that.”

He also wants to dabble in drag. “I’d love to see the Fab 5 dressed in drag! I’ve never done drag, but I’d love to try it.”

To celebrate the show’s upcoming season, we asked Brown to share his culture diet. Here are eight items that Brown swears by in order to become a more well-rounded, opened-minded person.

Book: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny, and Ron McMillan

"It’s all about how to have difficult conversations. I think especially right now, with what’s happening in our country and how divided we are, people don’t know how to have conversations that are meaningful and don’t end in you being more closed off then when you started. This book gives you to the tools to literally talk to anyone, which is so important. Because if we’re not talking to each other, we’re not growing."

Movie: Forrest Gump

"First of all, Tom Hanks is my celebrity crush. Young Tom Hanks, old Tom Hanks -- whatever Tom Hanks, I will take it. But what I love about Forrest Gump, he has a disability in it and you never really figure out what that disability is, but he’s able to go on this journey where he accomplishes all these amazing things. I love this message that disability doesn’t mean inability.

A lot of times, we look at people who have disabilities as, “Oh, we can’t invite these people here or there.” And I hate that because it’s inappropriate. It’s so weird to me when people say they don’t have friends who have disabilities. It’s 2018. Broaden your horizons. It’s not anything I’m seeking out, but for me, that’s not a hindrance of us having a friendship."

TV show: Queer Eye

"Of course I’m going to pick our own show -- binge us, please! There’s a lot of people who say they’ve seen the first one and they think they’ve seen it all. And it’s like... no. You’re going to laugh, you’re going to cry. Binge us!"

Album: Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On

"The things that Marvin Gaye talks about on that album are still relevant today. From gun violence, to police brutality, to being loving and accepting of different sexuality and gender identities. He doesn’t say those words, but it’s applicable to right now. And then it’s also under this soulful, melodic, ‘I wanna make love to you and have a baby and save the world’ vibe. You can’t beat it."

City: Bangkok, Thailand

"Bangkok is one of those places where it’s so rich and full of tradition, but they’re so open to different people -- different gender expressions and gender identities. As a gay man, I never once felt uncomfortable there. As a black man, I never once felt uncomfortable. And when I travel sometimes, I do feel uncomfortable. For example, me and my partner were just in China and people stared at me the entire time. It doesn’t mean they had a negative response to me, but no one wants to be stared at like that. And once me and my partner were holding hands, you could see them gasping and clutching their pearls. In Bangkok, I’ve never felt that. It’s so open. And the food is good. You can go from the city to the beach in no time. The art, the dance… It’s just great."

App: Speak & Translate

"It allows you to talk and it translates it for the person to hear, and then they can talk back into it and it will translate it back to your language. It’s phenomenal because sometimes that’s the barrier with trying to communicate with different cultures and this breaks that down. I hate when I see someone who speaks English speaking to someone who speaks a different language and they’re screaming as if going louder is going to help the other person understand."

Documentary: Paris is Burning

"It’s legendary. It showed a part of our community that you never saw before. And on top of that, it’s showing what these young African and Latino people were doing in New York. It also showed a lot of heart and what was happening with the violence and the HIV epidemic that was coming up. It’s such a cultural pinpoint of so many things that we’re still dealing with today, on top of it being fierce, and fun, and Pepper LaBeija, honey.

When you think about Paris is Burning, not all of them identify as trans; some of them were dressed in drag. So you saw these drag queens feeling powerful and owning who they were. All of that “take it to the runway” stuff that RuPaul does -- that all comes from the ballroom scene. And some people don’t realize that."

Poet: Langston Hughes

"He’s just been someone I’ve looked up to since i was a child. His work speaks to me. I think that more people should seek out a poet that speaks to their life. Because sometimes, when I’m feeling down, I’ll find a Langston Hughes poem and feel inspired."