Karamo Brown — of Netflix’s Queer Eye — blessed Greater Cincinnati this week with a visit. The "culture expert" of the Fab Five, he spoke about his own truths, gave uplifting life advice to audience members and, basically gave the entire crowd a therapy sesh.
For the uninformed (c’mon the series just won an Emmy), the reality series follows five men — who are experts in their respective fields and just so happen to be gay — to communities often different from their own.
Just like the show, the night explored social commentary, was often tear-inducing and attempted to break down tough issues — from both the political and the personal.
“Someone has told us that we aren’t enough, and we are enough,” he told the crowd, which filled most of Northern Kentucky University’s Student Union Ballroom on Monday night.
“What you practice saying every day is what you become,” he continued. When an audience member, during the Q&A segment, said she didn’t know what to do when she graduates college, he clapped (kindly) back: “You do know what you wanna do.” Voices have just kept her from believing she can reach that dream (in this case, filming wildlife documentaries).
That mantra reverberated throughout the night: “You are perfectly designed,” he said; the audience echoed, “I am perfectly designed.”
Brown’s appearance comes with good reason: October is LGBTQ History Month, and he served as the keynote speaker at the regional university before it kicks-off a host of educational, social and reflective events surrounding the month.
Aside from Queer Eye, Brown is also an active member of Never Again MSD, a student-led political committee that advocates for tighter gun control — in 1999, he graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the same school at which, earlier this year, 17 students and staff members were killed by a former student who was armed a semi-automatic rifle.
But he’s also a father of two sons; after eight years, he married partner Ian Jordan earlier this year. The 37-year-old — who also appeared on The Real World: Philadelphia and became the first openly black gay man on Reality TV — says that his successes came because he didn’t let naysayers get to his head, no matter how persistent.
“A lot of what I do happens organically because I am proud of how I live my life,” he said. The same goes for the other four men that make up the Fab Five, he said. They found each other during auditions, not knowing at the time they would work together. Tan France, Bobby Berk and Brown sat talking about their life experiences and how proud they were to even be in the position to audition among nearly 40,000 others. Jonathan Van Ness later joined the conversation. A group chat was made: "The Fake Fab Five."
Fake became real, with food guru and avocado enthusiast Antoni Porowki joining to solidify the holy quintet.
Brown, a social worker and graduate of Florida A&M University, spoke about his struggles, too. Last month, Brown opened up to fans on social media about attempting suicide in his 20s.
“Hey friends, today in 2006 I did attempt to commit suicide,” he began in an Instagram video posted last month. “You know, I was in a very dark place. I just felt like life could not get any better, everything that was happening to me was never going to change, and I tried to take my own life.”
How he got to that dark place was a culmination of events. He said that, as a society, we will talk about physical health. But we won’t speak about our mental health; in some ways, we’re conditioned not to. “Every day it seems darker and darker, but I want you to know that things do get better,” the video finished. “If you get help and you do the work daily, your life can change. I’m living proof of that. And if you know someone in your life who’s going through it, reach out to them. You could be their support.”
The sentiment left to NKU’s audience was similar. But, those conversations are needed. In part, he says he opens up about his own experiences — no matter how hard the conversation may seem — so that others can engage in the same difficult conversations with others.
Other topics included how to field a divided society, finding time for self-love, his favorite outfits (“You know I love a good bomber jacket.”), the need for diverse representation and more. Oh, and he hopes to one day run for political office. (I'm about it.)
If you’re ever feeling, er, not fab, remember: Karamo Brown thinks that you’re worthy and perfectly designed.
For more info on NKU’s LGBTQ history month, click here.