“I didn’t really think I had a story to tell” said Tan France to a captivated audience at Birmingham Town Hall last night, when asked about being approached about writing a book.
The Yorkshire-born fashion guru from Netflix’s smash hit Queer Eye was in town as part of a nation-wide tour to promote his new memoir Naturally Tan and spread a message of positivity. Oh, and he certainly remembered a story or two.
It has been a pretty wild year-or-so for France, who has been busy styling the so-called ‘heroes’ of his TV show, transforming their wardrobes as well as their lives alongside his four colleagues.
In fact, he reminded a shocked crowd that it has actually only been on-air for 14 months. Startling really, given the incredible success the show has experienced and the legions of followers it has amassed.
He was joined on stage in Birmingham by popular comic Sarah Millican, who compered the evening and asked the questions his fans were eager to hear answered – herself admitting to being a certified Queer Eye super fan.
But this wasn’t just a TV star Q&A, and his story certainly isn’t just one of ‘English boy done good in America’. There have been significant and sometimes quite shocking obstacles he has had to overcome which he emotively recounted.
He told of the difficulties of growing up in Doncaster at a time when there were precious few other Asian people around, and not even being allowed out of the house for fear of being attacked or abused in the street.
Of course, then there was the added complication of being gay and from a traditional South Asian family. With some humour, he explained to the Town Hall audience how as a teenager, he became incredibly adept at lying to his trusting mother to facilitate his transgressive lifestyle.
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Dream come true! I had the honor of being interviewed by one of the VERY BEST UK comedians @thesarahmillican, tonight, in Birmingham. What a way to kick off this England Tour!! She’s even more lovely IRL. If you don’t follow her already, get following. She posts the funniest stand up videos!! 🙌🏽❤️
So much so in fact, that he was then able to make her believe he was studying for a psychology degree for three years, when really he had been going to fashion college. You’ll not be surprised to hear that she didn’t take the news too well when she found out the truth on the day of his graduation…
It’s a good job he did that course though. France has used his love of clothes to lift himself out of some difficult times and come to a point of self-acceptance. This seems to be his key message – that we should all be who we want to be, and what we wear is an important expression of that.
“You should always make the effort to wear something that makes you feel your best”, he said – and it’s hard to disagree.
France’s memoir, Naturally Tan is available in-store now, or you can download the audio version here.