Carson Kressley shares the moving impact of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy 20 years on

Carson Kressley on Queer Eye for the Straight Guys 20 year anniversary.

Carson Kressley has talked about the long-standing impact of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, on the show’s 20th anniversary.

Nowadays, Kressley is best known as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but before he took to critiquing queens’ looks on the runway, the TV personality was inspiring a whole generation of queer people in Bravo’s trailblazing reality series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Over the course of five seasons, the award-winning show, which first hit American network TV in July 2003, saw the original Fab Five – Kressley (fashion savant), Jai Rodriguez (culture vulture), Thom Filicia (interior design doctor), Ted Allen (food and wine connoisseur) and Kyan Douglas (grooming guru) – make over the life of a straight man.

The show, which portrayed LGBTQ+ lives in a positive way seldom seen on TV at the time, was a huge success, so much so that in 2018, Netflix launched a reboot, starring a all-new Fab Five (Jonathan van Ness, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski and Bobby Berk), which has just completed its seventh season.

As the original show celebrates its twentieth anniversary, Kressley has said how he believes its much-needed representation still resonates with queer viewers.

The original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy cast.
The original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy line-up. (NBCUniversal)

“We meet people all the time who are probably in their thirties now, who said, ‘I came from a very conservative family, we were very religious. Gay was not something that was ever spoken about in our home, and your show allowed us to at least have that conversation, if not make it easier for me to come out’,” Kressley told CNN.

You may like to watch

“For many people, we were the first real, live, real-life gay people they actually encountered. I would go on a plane, and someone would say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I love your show. You’re the first gay person I met’.

“And I was like, ‘Wait, have you never had highlights? What? Of course you’ve encountered gay people’.”

As the show took the world by storm, the original Fab Five were catapulted into the spotlight, appearing on prime-time talk shows such as Oprah and The Tonight Show.

“I think we did a great job, considering it was 20 years ago, [and] we didn’t really know what we were doing, we were all basically newbies to television,” Kressley continued. “I’m still very proud of the show.”

The series changed the game for LGBTQ+ reality shows, maybe even paving the way for RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s huge success.

Carson Kressley RuPaul
Carson Kressley has expertly outlined the reason Drag Race is so important. (Getty/Jenny Anderson)

Kressley also emphasised that the show didn’t have “a political agenda” when it first came out.

“I know certainly my agenda was just to get rid of pleated khakis and mullets,” he joked. “But there’s such power in visibility, and we were a very innocuous group of five gay men helping a straight guy try to get the job, or the look, or the girl.”

Although there has been notable progress for the LGBTQ+ community in the US over the past two decades, such as the introduction of same-sex marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights have come under attack in recent years from right-wing politicians such as former president Donald Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

It makes Kressley’s continued mission to bring queer visibility to the small screen all the more important.

Talking about Drag Race to the Star Observer in March, Kressley said: “Visibility is so important. You could be in Malaysia or Milwaukee, and you can see people on Drag Race being celebrated for exactly who they are.

“Often they’re people who have not had an easy time getting to where they are. They may not have been celebrated much before but a light has been shone on them and their craft.

“That’s very powerful for young people to see. It says: ‘Hey, I feel different or I feel marginalised, but I see people who are being celebrated for being exactly who they are. I can be proud of myself as well’.”

Queer Eye season seven is available to stream on Netflix now.