Tan France is the Fashion Expert on Queer Eye. I love his style and quickly adopted his French Tuck and refuse to let it go. Plus he has one of the best heads of hair on the planet. Tan has a new memoir out called, Naturally, Tan, in which he discusses growing up in South Yorkshire, England as a gay, South Asian man raised in a strict Muslim household. The title of the memoir is more than just a playful use of his name because Tan talks a lot about wanting to be lighter skinned as he grew up, even to the extent of stealing his cousin’s bleaching cream.
In his new memoir, “Queer Eye” star Tan France reveals that as a child, he stole bleaching cream from his cousin and tried to lighten his skin.
“The importance of being pale is very bizarre. The people around me certainly didn’t intend to pass on this belief, but I was aware of it and affected by it just the same,” wrote France, who grew up in England as the son of Pakistani immigrants. “When I was five, I remember thinking, ‘God, I’d give anything to be white. I just want to be white, I want to be white, I want to be white.’ I had been so conditioned to think that if you were white, you were automatically more attractive.”
“I haven’t had the balls to tell her I took it, because, since then, I’ve been ashamed of the fact that I succumbed to the pressure,” the Netflix host admitted, adding, “I kept the dirty little secret to myself. I’d only use it at night, before bed, when no one else was going to catch me. Let me tell you, that s–t hurt.”
“I had another dream as a kid, which angers me now,” he wrote. “But I’ve talked to many friends of colour who have told me they shared the same dream, and that is to wake up white. I first had that dream when I was very, very young, because I worried constantly that if I went outside the house, bad things would happen to me.”
“If you ask me what my favourite thing about my appearance is, I’ll say my skin,” he said. “I think my skin colour is beautiful. As a ten-year-old, I could never have imagined that you could find my skin colour beautiful, and I’m willing to bet most nonwhite people have thought the same thing.”
I think the fact that he said he is angry about his former views of his skin color is a good way to show how far his views have evolved. Many people come to terms with the fact they can’t change that part of themselves they dislike but that doesn’t always mean they’ve embraced it. Clearly Tan has, and should for all the reasons he cited. I’m glad he mentioned it hurt his skin, I’ve always wondered that, and I think it’s important people know what’s happening to their skin when they use those products. I cannot comment on the fascination with lighter skin because I understand that, as a white woman who grew up in a white community, I have absolutely no concept of all of the layers of complexity that go into it. But fortunately we don’t need people like me to comment because we have people like Tan gracious enough to share their journey.
The book, which I have not yet read, also talks about what it was like to grow up in a strict religious household that viewed homosexuality as a sin. Tan hid his sexuality from his parents until he was 34. His parents also pushed him to be a doctor or lawyer growing up but he’s always loved fashion instead. And nothing against lawyers and doctors, but I think we are all better for his decision to pursue it. Naturally, Tan is being well-received and reviews say Tan’s wit runs throughout it. I’ve enjoyed the few excerpts I’ve read so I’ll probably check it out. I’ll probably opt for the audiobook since I love listening to Tan almost as much as I love watching him.
Photo credit: WENN Photos