I have a new man in my life. My husband is unfazed. He is used to such declarations, such as my effusive outpourings about the DPD man, the postman, and Thor, writes.
I have a longstanding affection for the aforementioned trio, but they have been slightly eclipsed of late by one man: Jonathan Van Ness.
For those not yet acquainted with his magnificence, Van Ness is one-fifth of The Fab Five, the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye. Being a fan of the original show, years ago, it was with bated breath that I approached the new instalment. From the minute he burst onto the screen, in the opening credits, with synchronised finger snaps, chic black polo-neck, and a glorious mane of hair, I fell head over heels. As the first syllables fell from his lips, I knew I was in it for the long haul.
He is what sound-bite dreams are made of: “Strugs to func” (when you just can’t cope with life). “Can you believe?” (used to express incredulity at any given moment) and “YAAAAASSSSS!” (the single most motivating Van Ness-ism, usually said through a torrent of tears, whilst spurring on the subjects of each episode).
The premise of the show is this: five gay men make over a man who has been nominated by a friend or family member, or who has requested their expertise themselves. It is essentially the same format as the original show. But that is where all similarities end.
The older series now appears dated and somewhat staged, and has an undercurrent of occasional bitchiness. Whilst in the reboot there are quips aplenty and Van Ness is without doubt the star of the show, the other men, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Bobby Berk, and Antoni Porowski all seem perfectly at ease with letting their friend unleash his inner Beyoncé at will. Because that is what shines through amongst the group; that ultimately, they all support each other and are genuinely friends.
Van Ness is a prolific social-media user (he also has a chart-topping podcast, ‘Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness’) and can regularly be seen commenting on each of the other Fab Fives’ Instagrams. Which is also reciprocated and goes even further in endearing them to the public; not for them the vague, blasé ghosting on socials… shock, horror, they actually all like each other!
The show itself does not shy away from current issues. For instance, en route to their next make-over, they are pulled over by a police officer. Karamo is driving the car. The group’s unease is palpable, as the officer begins to question them and asks Karamo to step outside of the vehicle. It transpires that the officer is the friend of the man they are on their way to meet. When he reveals this, you can sense the entire group slowly exhale. Later on in the show, Karamo reveals to the subject of the makeover, also a police officer, his hesitancy in participating in this particular episode, given that he himself is an African-American man and had felt intimidated by the police. It is a very honest moment between two men, as they sit in a car, which the show does not gloss over or reduce to Hallmark type schmaltz.
The fact that all of the men have such distinctive personalities, without trying to outshine or out-shout each other, is what makes the group so cohesive.
The show could easily have been a massive flop. Adhering to the same format could have been a recipe for disaster. You sense that all five were conscious of that possibly happening; further compounded by their exuberance at the commission of a second series (currently being filmed).
It was almost as if they couldn’t quite believe their luck or that the public had so welcomed them into their homes.
The men whom they duly makeover are never belittled, nor at any stage are you made to feel that their intentions are misplaced. There are as many laughs as there are tears. Even laughing through tears; see Van Ness draped in a canary-yellow sheet, swinging a baseball bat and channelling ‘Lemonade’.
So, if you have yet to watch the series, please do so. But with ample tissues for the levels of eye-leaking it will invariably induce. Word to the wise: don’t sit too close to the screen… Jonathan’s hair has been known to hypnotise many for prolonged periods. I mean, ‘Can you believe?’