Tan France on confidence and becoming a first-time dad: 'I've had to wait a very long time to make this happen'

Tan France talks coffee, confidence and impending fatherhood. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Tan France talks coffee, confidence and impending fatherhood. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

As one-fifth of Queer Eye's Fab Five, Tan France's name has become synonymous with French tucks and style upgrades. It's ironic, then, that the British-born former fashion designer credits his mental well-being to wearing nothing but his underwear as he starts his day (more on that later).

Here, the face of Starbucks's new "Stir It Up" campaign — in which he dispenses stylish ways to shake up morning routines — opens up to Yahoo Life about his confidence-boosting secrets, his excitement at welcoming his first child this summer with husband Rob France and why he'd tell his younger self that "it does get so much better."

You've been vocal about mental health. Are there any practices in your own life that help you prioritize that?

I have journaled for the last few years, I actually started journaling just as I got Queer Eye, just to try and take a moment to remember all the craziness that was happening and that has happened.

I'm going to tell you the thing that I really do do every morning, which is when I brush my teeth, I do it in my underwear, so I can focus on the things that I like about myself. In my world, the trolls are always ready to come at you, so you have to do a lot to make sure that you're protecting your mental health and staying strong. And so I spend two minutes every morning when I'm brushing my teeth to look at myself and tell myself all the things I like about my personality and all the things I like about my physical appearance, so that no matter what crap comes my way from the trolls that day, I just think, at least I know this about myself. At least I like this about myself. They can say what they want, but that helps.

How important is coffee to you and your morning routine? Are you a big coffee drinker, or, being British, do you prefer tea?

Anyone who knows me well at this point knows that although I'm a true Brit, I am now very American. I've been here for 13 and a half years. So yes, coffee is my go-to. I haven't drunk tea in probably 10 years. I'm over it — it doesn't hit how I need it to hit and coffee does. Coffee is incredibly important to my day. I start off every day without fail with coffee. I know it's weird for most people, but I brush my teeth first and then I have my coffee and then I use mouthwash before I leave the house. That's my morning routine.

Anyone who is photographing me sees me with a Starbucks probably every day [laughs]. My go-to is the medium roast, and they are offering an instant version, which is Starbucks Premium Instant, and I've never known them to [do that]; I didn't think that that would ever happen. And so I'm glad we have something that's convenient and tastes fantastic — just as good as any premium roast I've had before.

What are the other things that keep you ticking along?

I cannot cope without at least eight hours of sleep. And I know that seems excessive for most people, but it's the thing that is very important to me; I love my sleep. So I'm usually in bed by 10, which is so nice. And then I do work out at least five days a week. It's the way I make sure that my health — and I'm not just talking about my physical health — my health is right. There is a heck of a lot of stress in my world, because I'm always on the go, so to have that hour, five days a week, to work out and really re-center is the thing that helps me. I know that many people have their own version of self-care, but for me, it's working out.

The Queer Eye star on starting his day with tooth brushing and coffee, and why he stands in front of the mirror in his underwear. (Photo: Scott McDermott for Starbucks)
The Queer Eye star on starting his day with tooth brushing and coffee, and why he stands in front of the mirror in his underwear. (Photo: Scott McDermott for Starbucks)

You're going to be a dad soon. Are you excited? I have to warn you that eight hours of sleep may disappear.

I know, I know [laughs], but for my son I'm willing to sacrifice it. It's something I've wanted since I was very young. [In my] late teens, early 20s, I was ready to be a dad, so I've had to wait a very long time to make this happen. I couldn't be more excited.

Do you have any plans for Pride this year?

It's going to look very, very different this year. I'm doing a couple of virtual events to support Pride, but nothing in person. Pride Month I love, however, I'm wanting us to get out of just celebrating our diversity [during this one] month; I'm sick of that. I like that we get to celebrate our community every month of every year.

You've spoken so much about facing adversity when you were growing up in England. Is there something that you wish you could tell that kid in Doncaster from the perspective you have now? What advice or reassurance would you give?

The main thing is that — it's such a cliché term, but it couldn't be more appropriate — it does get so much better. The amount of years I struggled thinking that I'd be miserable and unhappy for the rest of my life, and then getting to a point where I am truly happy. I wish I'd known that as a kid, known that that was an option for somebody that looked like me and was from my hometown, because I had never seen anyone like me ever represented in my community or in the entertainment world, and that was a real issue for me. To be able to say, "There are going to be people one day that look like you and who are going to make you feel less alone."

Confidence is a recurring theme on Queer Eye — so many of the people you work with have this wall that they need to knock down. What advice do you have on building that confidence?

First of all, know that no one feels confident all the time. Somebody once asked me during a scene on Queer Eye, "How are you so confident all the time?" I'm not. That ebbs and flows. Sometimes I feel wonderfully confident, but sometimes I don't and I feel insecure. And that's completely normal — I don't know anyone who's confident all the time, but that would be somebody who is probably faking it. I would say, lean into those conversations with people that you have around you, to tell them what you're feeling and to help you out of any negative place you're in. And surround yourself with people who really champion your success and your positivity."

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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