Originally cast as the resident “culture expert” on "Queer Eye," Karamo Brown has turned his role on the Netflix lifestyle makeover series into something much more than that. In the second season, we saw Brown evolve into part guru, part psychotherapist, as he dove deep with “heroes” (what the show calls its makeover recipients), ensuring they got an internal glow-up just as fabulous as the external.
Brown’s wisdom has been hard-earned, as he reveals in his uplifting new memoir, "Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope" (Gallery Books, 304 pp., $27). Only 38, Brown seems to have lived several lifetimes: He writes about dealing with racism at school and colorism within his own family, surviving a cocaine addiction and suicide attempt after tasting stardom on "The Real World: Philadelphia," and coming to terms with his troubled relationship with his father. In 2007, Brown met his 10-year-old son Jason, who he didn't know existed — then became a gay single father, taking custody and adopting Jason’s half-brother, Chris. Last year, Brown proposed to long-time boyfriend Ian Jordan.
Brown spoke to Newsday from Japan, where he’s filming the four-part Netflix special "Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!" The third season of Queer Eye debuts March 15, and Brown will be at Book Revue in Huntington on March 4.
On "Queer Eye," you’re so natural giving advice that it seems like you’ve been perfectly put-together all your life. Did you want to show with this book that it’s never so easy?
Actually, yeah. The original book I wanted to write was an advice book series. But then I thought, why don’t I introduce people to me and show them that the struggles that they’ve been through, I have been through as well?
You’re incredibly candid in this book. Was there anything you were afraid to share?
There were three parts that caused me a little bit of turmoil to share. One was dealing with colorism and knowing that I would be talking personally about my family and understanding that people could misconstrue my grandmother saying, “Don’t darken up my family.” I try to convey that they didn’t have the language to understand how they were conditioned in a different generation.
Secondly, I would say that my addiction and suicide attempt always bring up new emotions — I got to such a dark place in my life. But I’m very optimistic that other people will find hope in their own depression or anxiety if they saw I made it through.
Can you tease a little of what we should expect in the new season?
Most phenomenal season ever! When we first started this show a year ago, we were complete strangers. We didn’t know each other, and we were still learning each other’s chemistries. We were still in a space where we’re experts in our areas, but there were also 20 other people telling us what they think we should do. But after the success of Seasons 1 and 2, the network, the executives were like, “You all know what you’re doing, go forward.” I know for me personally the mini therapy sessions that I’m having are both dynamic and fun and are really going to be so impactful for people out in the world.
How was your family dynamic changed since you’ve blown up with "Queer Eye"?
I wished they’d changed a little more dramatically! I’m able to give my kids a lot more, within means. We just came back from Paris, and they came to Japan with me, which has been amazing, but at the same rate, I don’t spoil them. I didn’t get on a first or business class ticket until I was in my 30s, so, “You in the back of the plane!” But I’m still Dad, so when I come home, they still have to clean, and they went out last night and had a curfew, and I know they’re annoyed by that. As much as things change, things stay the same. Same old Dad.
Karamo Brown of 'Queer Eye' meets fans
WHEN | WHERE Monday, March 4 at 7 p.m., Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington
INFO Ticket, $27, includes pre-signed book and photo opportunity; 631-271-1442, bookrevue.com