Kamala Harris Meets With ‘Queer Eye’ Creators And Cast To Talk Of Show’s “Groundbreaking” Impact On LGBTQ+ Acceptance: “We Have To Be Vigilant”

When the cast and creators of Queer Eye met with Vice President Kamala Harris in her ceremonial office on Thursday, there was very quickly a reminder that the show’s impact was far greater than style guidance.

Marking Pride Month, Harris called the series “groundbreaking” in that it raised the consciousness of the LGBTQ+ community.

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She met with executive producers David Collins and Michael Williams, current cast members Karamo Brown and Jonathan Van Ness, and original cast members Carson Kressley and Jai Rodriguez. The show launched on Bravo in 2003 and then returned on Netflix in 2018.

Kressley said, “One of the most grateful things I have for that show is that so many young people come up to me today … and say, ‘Your show helped me come out because it allowed a safe dialog with my family to say, ‘Oh, he’s OK’.”

He even said that some had told him that they were some of the first gay people they met. “I was like, ‘Have you all been on an airplane?'”

That drew big laughs in the room — including from the vice president.

Kressley noted that the intent was not to “change the philosophy of our country, but it was a very subversive thing, because we were just coming in an doing good work, and being joyful warriors.”

The meeting with the vice president also was to celebrate, a tad late, the show’s 20th anniversary.

Even as Harris talked of the need to pass the Equality Act, which would add LGBTQ protections to civil rights laws, some of the cast members noted how different the environment was at the show’s launch. Some vendors feared being associated with a show with that title.

Rodriguez recalled the show’s depiction of straight and queer people as friends. “The show started on a Tuesday and ended on a Thursday, at least our time with our hero character. They signed up for it, but sometimes they presented as prickly, homophobic, scared of us.” But that would change by the end of an episode’s shooting.

Collins talked of the show’s ability to show “transformation through information with comedy and heart.” “Really, it is about the sharing of our stories. I tell you my story, you tell me yours. We see each other’s humanity and we lift each other up.”

Collins recalled that they had trouble registering the name “queer” as an LLC in New York but were told they could not because it was considered derogatory.

He recalled that he and Williams were in the south end of Boston in what he called a “perfect storm of luck, timing and God.”

They had walked into a mini-studio where people were looking at art and drinking champagne, “and this weird hush came over the room. In the middle of the room, some woman just started berating her husband” over his hair and appearance. “Across the room, for unbelievably handsome, well-coiffed men came strolling across and they surrounded the man and pushed the wife aside and said, ‘Mamm, that is not what we do.’ Any they just started loving on him.”

Collins said that he then turned to Williams and said, ‘Did you see that? That was like queer eye for the straight guy.'”

A part of the discussion extended from the news of the day — the Supreme Court’s decision that rejected efforts to ban the abortion drug mifepristone.

In brief comments at the outset, Harris warned that the decision was “not a celebration” for reproductive rights, noting that state abortion bans are still in place and warning that Donald Trump’s allies would seek to “eliminate medication abortion through executive action” should he return to the White House.

Van Ness said, “I have been living with HIV for over 10 years, and I think it is a really interesting example of intersectionality when you look at what has happened with Planned Parenthood. You think of Planned Parenthood as someone who provides reproductive access, which they do. I also found out that I was HIV positive at Planned Parenthood.”

“It’s so important that we think about funding and intersectionality and making sure that we protect institutions that are protecting people,” he said.

Harris recalled her visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic earlier this year, noting that “when all of these abortion bans happened, clinics had to shut down, and they provide so much care, including HIV testing, screenings of every sort. .. [The clinics] give people dignity. They are trusted. They are in touch with the community.”

Collins noted the shift toward LGBTQ+ acceptance over the past two decades, but he also referred to one of the issues that has been front and center this year. He noted that he and Williams had a daughter through IVF and gestational surrogacy. Collins and Williams are separated, but co-parent their daughters and remain partners in their production company.

Harris told the gathering, “We have to be vigilant.” She said, “We can’t take any of these things for granted, and also let’s be fueled by the optimism that we can get better than we are, and it is not only about maintaining the progress that we have achieved, but let’s keep going.”

The conversation naturally turned to the 2024 election, as Harris told the Queer Eye crew that “there are forces that are trying to make people feel small and outside. And we have to remind each other then, don’t ever let anyone take your power away, including the power of your voice for your vote.”

Brown noted that “there is a certain apathy right now that we are seeing, and one of the reasons I am here is I want to see people be reignited and be re-engaged.” He credited Harris for the meeting, as she is “saying anyone who feels like maybe your voice isn’t being heard, come to the table and I am willing to talk to you.”

Later, Collins told Deadline that when it comes to the next election and another Trump term, “I fear everything, but honestly I fear as a father for my children’s future. I fear for all the rights being taken away. I have a daughter who identifies as a lesbian, and for her, I can’t imagine to have the clock turned backwards on things we worked do hard for the past 20 years to make happen.”

Near the end of a half-hour meeting, the conversation turned back to style — and an assessment of Harris’ husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. Far from a criticism, it was praise.

“You’re a stunning woman, and for him to stand by your side and always look deeply impeccable and always have the confidence and love,” Brown said, before noting a video the recently went viral of the second couple.

“He will be so happy to hear that,” Harris said. “I can’t tell you how happy he will be.”

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