Queer Eye’s Tan France says he feels 'huge amount of pressure' to represent marginalised communities

'People assume that I speak for a whole demographic, and that can’t possibly be the case'

Sarah Young
Tuesday 02 July 2019 14:18
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Tan France explains why he doesn't criticise fast fashion

Tan France has opened up about the pressure he feels to represent marginalised communities since becoming famous.

France, who rose to fame as the fashion expert on Netflix series Queer Eye, started life in South Yorkshire as the son of Punjabi Pakistani parents.

As grateful as the 36-year-old is to the makeover show for kick-starting his success, he says being in spotlight often makes him feel responsible for communities whose media representation often seems non-existent, particularly queer Asian people.

“I’m in a very privileged position; I’m one of the first within my community to have a platform like this, a global platform like this, so I wanted to take the opportunity to tell the story of a person like me, who represents and is a member of many different marginalised communities,” the presenter told PA.

However, France is quick to point out that his story is by no means definitive of everyone’s experience.

“I would never profess to represent an entire community, but I represent a certain version of each of the communities that I fall within, and it adds on a huge amount of pressure,” France explains.

The fashion designer goes on to reveal that this pressure was one of the reasons he considered turning down his role in Queer Eye.

“I was scared to do Queer Eye because I don’t want people to assume that when I say something, all Asians think this, or all gay people think this, or all immigrants think this, and that unfortunately is the way the media often sees it,” France said before describing that the frustration he feels media outlets refer to him as a “Pakistani immigrant”, while his co-stars are simply mentioned by their given names.

“It reminds me constantly that I am different, that I am other, and that when I speak, people assume that I speak for a whole demographic, and that can’t possibly be the case,” France said.

The Queer Eye star added that he hopes he can make people within the same communities “feel slightly less alone” while inspiring those outside to have “empathy and understanding of what it means to be a person of colour, or a person within the LGBQT community, or an immigrant”.

In his new memoir, Naturally Tan, the star opens up about a number of insecurities he had during his childhood surrounding the colour of his skin.

In the book, France details how he used a bleaching cream which belonged to a relative without their knowledge.

"When I was 10 years old, I used to bleach my skin," he writes.

"I actually stole the cream from one of my cousins who used it often.

"To this day, I haven't had the balls to tell her I took it, because, since then, I've been ashamed of the fact that I succumbed to the pressure."

However, the Queer Eye star now says that if someone was to ask him what his favourite feature was, he would say his skin.

"I think my skin colour is beautiful," he states.

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