Members include Ted Allen (born in Chicago, IL); Kyan Douglas (born c. 1970, in Miami, FL); Thom Filicia (born c. 1972, in Syracuse, NY.
Education : Syracuse University, B.A. in interior design); Carson Kressley (born 1969, in Allentown, PA. Education : Graduated from Gettysburg College
Office —Bravo c/o NBC Entertainment, 3000 W. Alameda Ave., Burbank, CA 91523.
Allen began career as food critic in Chicago; worked as senior editor and restaurant critic with Chicago magazine; contributing editor to and co–author of column "Things a Man Should Know," Esquire magazine, 1997—; wrote column "In the Spirit: The Intelligent Barfly" for Women.com ; also co–wrote four books. Douglas worked as a colorist at Arrojo Studio, New York City; colorist for other television shows, including What Not To Wear and While You Were Out, both on TLC; colorist for projects on Child Magazine. Filicia began career as designer for Parish Hadley Associates, Robert Metzger Interiors, and Bilhuber, Inc.; founded own design firm, Thom Filicia, Inc. Kressley worked as an independent stylist, then in design for men's sportswear and corporate advertising group for Polo Ralph Lauren, New York City; also worked for Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Rodriguez worked as a stage actor, appearing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, then toured Canada in Rent, 1998–99; also appeared in version of Rent on Broadway, Zanna, Don't!, New York City; Spinning Into Butter, Lincoln Center Theatre, New York City; Sad Hotel, White Barn Theatre; recorded first single "Love Is Good," c. 2003; appeared on soundtrack to Zanna, Don't!. All five cast in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, 2002; first episode aired on Bravo, 2003; Queer Eye for the Straight Guy aired on Bravo and NBC, 2003—.
When the off–beat "make better" show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy began airing on the Bravo cable network in the summer of 2003, it was an immediate hit. Queer Eye features five gay men (known as the Fab 5 on the show) who are experts in certain areas that a straight man might lack knowledge: fashion, food, grooming, interior design, and culture/social skills. The five gay men who filled these roles became instant stars. They are Carson Kressley (fashion), Kyan Douglas (grooming), Thom Filicia (design), Jai Rodriguez (culture), and Ted Allen (food and wine). Each episode features the Fab 5 making over one straight man, usually for a big life event. While Queer Eye is a reality show (the majority of which tend to bring out the worst in people), it changes the men who participate with humor and heart. It also brings gay culture into the average American home.
When Queer Eye debuted in the summer of 2003, it was one of several shows that Bravo put on the air with a gay theme. It was the only really successful show, and the only one with crossover appeal. When the first hour–long episode aired on July 15, 2003, it posted Bravo's highest ratings ever with 1.6 million viewers. Viewership increased to 2.7 million viewers for the second episode, then 2.8 million for the third. These numbers prompted Bravo to increase the first season of Queer Eye from 13 episodes to 20 because of its popularity.
The idea for Queer Eye came when television/film production veteran David Collins, a gay man, overheard a conversation between a straight man and his wife. The wife pointed out to her husband that the gay men nearby were better at taking care of themselves than he was. The gay men she pointed at came over and began giving the husband advice on how to improve his life. Collins took the idea to his production company, Scout Productions, and with the help of another executive producer, David Metzler, pitched the show's concept to Bravo in early 2002.
To find the gay men to do the life makeovers, the Queer Eye producers put out notices everywhere in New York City, on websites, and at grooming and fashion establishments. They began with 500 potential hosts, and pared it down to 50 who auditioned for the pilot. To pick the final five, the producers looked for men who could work well together and who had chemistry. Of the men who became the final Fab 5, only Kressley and Allen appeared in the pilot, which was shot in September of 2002, and was not originally aired. The other three who worked on the pilot had chemistry issues that led to them being replaced. Despite these problems, the pilot tested well and Bravo gave the green light for the show. (The producers eventually did show the pilot, which featured commentary by Kressley, Allen, and two of the original cast, reflecting back on the episode.) To find straight men to make over, fliers were posted in New York City, where the first season was centered.
In the first two episodes that aired on Bravo, Blair Boone, an ad manager/writer for Metrosource magazine, served as the culture expert. He was replaced by Rodriguez (who was more enthusiastic, but not found by the producers until the first episode was already being shot). The firing of Boone shocked the other cast members, who worried about their own jobs. Boone later sought $105,000 in damages from Queer Eye LLC, which he said equals what he would have been paid for the rest of the season. "When I see the million–dollar book deal [the cast members received], I have to clench my teeth—that's what I expected to see and [to] be a part of," Boone told the Boston Herald.
From the beginning, Kressley emerged as the leader of the Fab 5 and was Queer Eye 's breakout star. Born in 1969 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Kressley had years of experience in fashion and as a stylist. After working for years as an independent stylist, he also spent a significant amount of time working for Ralph Lauren's Polo line for men. He also was employed by Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus in fashion jobs. Kressley had a gift for making men less afraid of fashion. Outside of work, he also was a nationally ranked, Olympic–caliber equestrian.
Each of the rest of the Queer Eye guys had their own niche on the show and much expertise in their selected areas. Born in Miami around 1970, Douglas grew up in Tallahassee, Florida. He received training at the Aveda Institute as a cosmetologist and colorist. He then worked as a colorist at the Arrojo Studio in New York City, among other salons. Douglas had previous television experience, working as a colorist for two shows on TLC (The Learning Channel), What Not to Wear and While You Were Out. He also worked as a colorist and did makeovers for Child Magazine.
Filicia has a similarly impressive background. Born around 1972 in Syracuse, New York, he is an interior designer who began his career working in high–end interior design for firms such as Robert Metzger Interiors. Filicia then founded his own design firm, Thom Filicia, Inc. His small but thriving practice designs residential and commercial interiors, and was recognized as one of the best design companies in the United States. On Queer Eye, Filicia does not always radically change the homes of his subjects, but makes improvements in their living spaces.
Rodriguez had a relatively high profile as an actor and singer before Queer Eye. Born in 1977 in Brentwood, New York, he graduated from the New York High School for the Performing Arts where he studied musical theater. Within a short time after graduation, Rodriguez was starring in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada, version of Rent in the role of Angel Schunard, the young drag queen who is HIV positive. Rodriguez also toured Canada in the role and appeared in the Broadway production. In addition to other roles in Broadway and Off–Broadway productions, Rodriguez is a club goer and a singer with a dance single, "Love is Good." During the filming of Queer Eye, he began working on his first solo album.
Like his Queer Eye counterparts, Allen is dedicated to making real changes in his subject's food and wine choices. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Allen has been a restaurant critic in Chicago for many years, where he worked for Chicago magazine as a critic and senior editor. Beginning in 1997, Allen was a contributor to the men's magazine Esquire. He is also the co–author of a column entitled "Things a Man Should Know," a cheeky take on food, fashion, women, and other parts of men's lives, as well as four books related to the column. Allen was nominated for two National Magazine Awards for his work in Esquire in 2001 and 2003. The first was for a piece on male breast cancer, and the second on a food–and–travel package.
One reason for the success of Queer Eye is the approach that the Fab 5 take and the men who want to be made over. The straight man usually wants to change for a reason—sometimes to impress or please a girlfriend, fiancée, or wife, other times to do well in a life situation (such as organizing an art exhibit or getting a stage musical seen by producers)—and each of the Queer Eye guys want to help him improve. They do not set out to change him radically, but work with much of what is already in his life and give him tools to make the changes last. Instead of calling it a makeover, the cast preferred to call it a "make better."
Unmalicious humor is a core piece of the Queer Eye approach. Kressley was quoted by Rob Owen of Pittsburgh Post–Gazette as saying, "Those things that we have some laughs with might be a little embarrassing, but in the end, the result is so great and the guys are so grateful that I think when the guys see the show they're going to want to be a part of it."
It is the Fab 5 cast which makes Queer Eye work on a number of levels. As Suzanne C. Ryan wrote in the Boston Globe, "What makes Queer Eye culturally significant is that its characters—a rotating cast of straight slobs and a gaggle of gay experts in food and wine, grooming, fashion, culture, and interior design—aren't actors, they're real people who are likable and appear to be good at what they do."
Each episode takes about three to four days to film, though when it airs, it seems like only 24 hours. The Queer Eye guys need the time to take apart who and what their subject is, how he ticks, and put his life back in order. It also takes extended amounts of time to get some of the segments together, especially those of Filicia's interior design changes.
Because of the success of Queer Eye on Bravo, a shorter version of each episode aired on NBC (which owned Bravo) for several weeks in July of 2003. While the 30–minute NBC version's ratings were not as great comparatively as they were on Bravo (though one episode did attract 6.7 million viewers), NBC continued to occasionally air Queer Eye episodes and specials.
As Queer Eye took off as a cultural phenomenon, the Fab 5 made over Jay Leno, the star of NBC's The Tonight Show in August of 2003. The cast also appeared on a number of other shows including the NBC situation comedy Good Morning, Miami, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. They also had a special on E! Entertainment Television and appeared at the Emmys.
The popularity of Queer Eye made it easier for the Fab 5 to obtain the products used on the show. Kressley initially had to use favors to convince designers to give him clothes for his subjects. Companies soon caught on that the products featured in the show often sold well, so they began working with the show. However, the Queer Eye guys only allow placement of products on the show that they like.
Success did create some problems. Queer Eye was quickly renewed for a second season by Bravo, but the Fab 5 wanted their contracts renegotiated. In the first season, they made only $3,000 each per episode. After some harsh words, in September of 2003 they renegotiated their contract to earn about $400,000 each for the second season of about 40 episodes. They also were paid when their shows were aired on NBC.
The stars of Queer Eye also used their success for their own benefit. In late 2003, they negotiated a book deal which was worth more than a million dollars. The book, called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Fab Five's Guide to Looking Better, Cooking Better, Dressing Better, Behaving Better, and Living Better, was published on February 10, 2004. They also had potential endorsement deals in the works with companies like Almay cosmetics and Pepsi.
Individually, they also did well. Each Queer Eye cast member made appearances that sometimes paid $50,000 per speaking engagement. Allen had an endorsement deal with General Mills. Filicia became a spokesperson for the Pier 1 home furnishing chain, and was considering offers to start his own line of furniture. Kressley appeared in ads for Marshall Field's in Chicago, had his own book deal for his fashion wisdom, and considered offers to be a commentator on style for awards shows specials.
The draw of Queer Eye was proven when Super Bowl XXXVIII aired on CBS in early 2004; NBC countered with two hours of Queer Eye. It performed well in the ratings. Kressley was surprised by the show's success, but believed he understood why it was so popular. He told Ray Richmond of MSNBC.com , "It's happened because we have no political agenda. We're all just about having a good time and making people feel better about themselves.…"
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Fab Five's Guide to
Looking Better, Cooking Better, Dressing Better, Behaving Better, and Living Better, Clarkson Potter, 2004.
Advertising Age, September 29, 2003, p. 3; October 20, 2003, p. 1.
Advocate, September 2, 2003, p. 40.
Adweek, November 12, 2003.
Billboard, January 24, 2004.
Boston Globe, July 24, 2003, p. D1.
BPI Entertainment News Wire, October 31, 2003.
Dayton Daily News, July 27, 2003, p. F1.
Financial Times (London, England), August 4, 2003, p. 24.
Fortune, February 9, 2004, p. 38.
Interior Design, October 2002, p. 105.
Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2003, p. E18.
Mediaweek, September 8, 2003, p. 33.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 11, 2003, p. 2A.
Newsday (New York), August 21, 2003, p. A10.
Newsweek, August 11, 2003, pp. 50–51.
New Yorker, July 28, 2003, p. 92.
New York Times, August 12, 1999, p. F1.
Ottawa Citizen, August 1, 1998, p. E1; October 4, 2003, p. J2.
People, December 1, 2003, p. 154.
Pittsburgh Post–Gazette, August 14, 2003, p. C1.
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), January 29, 2004, p. E1.
Publishers Weekly, December 15, 2003, p. 12.
St. Louis Post–Dispatch, November 20, 2003, p. C1.
Television Week, August 11, 2003, p. 30; September 29, 2003, p. 1, p. 25.
Time, August 18, 2003, p. 20.
Variety, January 5, 1998, p. 89.
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— A. Petruso