If you’re asking yourself some variation of “Queer Eye has seven seasons?” or even “Wait, Queer Eye is still on?” you’d be forgiven. After all, both the individual and collective celebrity of the members of the Fab Five—food and wine expert Antoni Porowski, fashion stylist Tan France, grooming guru Jonathan Van Ness, interior designer Bobby Berk, and culture and lifestyle specialist Karamo Brown—have long transcended their Emmy-winning reality show, with Netflix rebooting the eponymous Bravo title back in 2018.
There have been restaurant concepts (Porowski), children’s books (Brown), furniture and wallpaper lines (Berk), memoir tours and hair-care brands (Ness, popularly known as JVN), and even other Netflix reality shows. (France has co-hosted Next In Fashion, first alongside Alexa Chung and later Gigi Hadid since 2020.) Have the Fab Five—and we as an audience—moved on from Queer Eye?
Sure, in a world of Barrys and Successions and Yellowjackets, Queer Eye might not seem like TV’s most essential viewing, but it is still one of its most effective and affecting. Five years and seven seasons in (the latest batch of episodes drop on May 12), our merry band of stylish sages have devised an exceedingly winning formula that keeps you, in turn, cackling or crying (seriously, a Kleenex sponsorship would not be off-brand) at any given moment, no matter how many episodes you watch in one sitting.
Tan will, of course, screech at the state of a closet (“It smells like a dead witch’s tit in here!”) and extol the virtues of a French tuck; JVN will shear a majestic mane and joyfully flirt with anything that moves (“You have the prettiest lashes,” he coos to a Southern frat boy); Karamo will unpack decades of trauma and emotionally flay you open; Antoni will show someone how to pit a Hass avocado while looking great in a white tee (“I’m gonna try to not take that personally,” the cook quips when someone admits they don’t like the green fruit); and Bobby will build an entire house from the ground up in a cool 45 minutes offscreen. It’s reliably feel-good stuff.
That formula remains the same each season, but what switches things up is the location—we’re in colorful New Orleans this time around, all muffuletta sandwiches and marching bands—and the “heroes,” the everyday folks the Fab Five are tasked with transforming each episode. This season’s subjects range from the long-haired skater boys of Lambda Chi Alpha (“I love that the straights even have chosen family!” Tan says of the brotherhood) to a sports-loving lesbian who needs to reconcile both her internalized homophobia and her hate for vegetables; from a formerly incarcerated thrift-store owner shouldering the maternal guilt of leaving her seven children behind during her imprisonment to a gruff and grumpy deli owner whose rough attitude is bested only by his un-moisturized knees.
The differences in the life experiences of these heroes also mean that the stakes, and the emotional wallop, naturally vary per episode. Watching 20-year-old Speedy bravely work through the unconscionable tragedy of losing not only his mother and his aunt in a horrific car accident but also his own mobility from the chest down, effectively ending his youthful basketball-star dreams, unsurprisingly hits differently than some of the show’s more traditional makeover storylines, like Jenny, a dedicated but perpetually single school principal whose self-confidence is given a much-welcome glow-up thanks to a Julianne Moore-inspired red rinse and a new wardrobe that is “a masterclass in tasteful titty,” per Ness.
But that’s, in part, the beauty of Queer Eye: Everybody has a story, everybody has an issue, and this warm, wisecracking quintet gamely takes on all of the above with the same level of gusto no matter the circumstances. (“I don’t know what you take but I want some,” one hero jokes of JVN’s seemingly never-ending exuberance.) In a franchise first, the Fab Five even outsource some of their counseling and coaching this season to former heroes, both a lovely catch-up with characters from seasons past and also a moving reminder that the show does actually spur long-term changes in the lives of these people. “More than a makeover,” the show’s tagline promises. And it delivers. “The clothes, the hair, this beautiful apartment … it’s not gonna suddenly solve all of his problems,” Antoni declares at the end of Speedy’s episode. “All I can hope for with this week is that we just gave him a couple of tools for hope.”
Though this season touches on everything from accessibility to decarceration to HIV, season seven isn’t the show’s most politically radical, and there seems to be less of an effort this time around to pump the tension by having the Fab Five butt up against any blatant across-the-aisle ideologies. (Even that curmudgeonly deli owner, who on paper seems the most removed from the show’s core fanbase, is almost instantly amenable to the suggestions of our famously queer fivesome.) There surely can be an argument made that those who would most benefit from watching Queer Eye won’t be seeking it out based on the title and copious rainbow graphics alone. But there is a political potency to all that hope that’s on offer, to the potential and possibility that the Fab Five sees in and extracts from those everyday heroes.
Things might not “just keep getting better” in the world, as the show’s theme song so pluckily promises. But if Queer Eye can keep trading in all things hope and humor, in helpful tips and human tolerance, we’ll take as many seasons as the streaming gods want to give us.
Queer Eye season 7 premieres May 12 on Netflix