This piece originally ran in February 2018. We’re republishing it ahead of Queer Eye season two, which premieres on June 15.
On the gayer corners of the internet — the ones usually reserved for Carly Rae Jepsen stanning and “is she gonna jump from there?” memes — a debate has been raging about whether Antoni Porowski, the food guy from the new Queer Eye, can actually cook. It all got me thinking: When we meet the new Fab Five as they transform men’s lives, we’re never actually told their qualifications. We’re led to believe that they’re good at grooming, fashion, design, food, and whatever the hell it is Karamo does, but we don’t really know why.
So, how can we judge whether or not these guys are good at their jobs? Or if they even need to be? Can the Fab Five still be qualified practitioners of the reality-television arts without knowing their designated craft? With those questions in mind, here is a careful ranking of each Queer Eye expert based on their onscreen talents, personality, attractiveness, and how effectively they inspire others.
5. Bobby Berk
Skills: Bobby will turn your house into something that looks like a strip-mall sports bar somewhere in Nebraska, or maybe a really chic Panera Bread that you found somewhere on the I-95 corridor while looking for a bathroom. It’s all tasteful but unremarkable. We never see him do any of the actual designing, though, so who knows how much work he does? Also, we catch some glimpses of carpenters, day laborers, and assistants, so it seems like he doesn’t do all that much hands-on work.
Personality: He is the sort of blandly funny guy who manages to somehow show up at every Fire Island dinner party and makes everyone wonder why he’s there. With wits like Jonathan and Tan around, it’s hard for Bobby to really get a word in edgewise and show off his individual flare.
Looks: Whenever I think of Bobby, I imagine that he’s wearing a barbershop quartet costume, which isn’t a good sign. He also has a propensity to wear shorts in bold patterns that I have taken to calling “busy bottoms.”
Aww Factor: Because Bobby has the biggest job of any of the five (except for a mattress-shopping trip in the first episode), we don’t really see him interacting with the guys as much as his cohorts. He does manage to have a nice moment talking about his religious upbringing with straight-guy Bobby, but that’s it.
4. Karamo Brown
Skills: How can we judge Karamo’s work when no one even knows what he does? On the original iteration of the show, Jai Rodriguez mostly bought theater tickets and showed the guys how to organize their CD collections. Karamo’s job mostly seems to be riding around with them and talking about feelings. Sometimes he makes them do something dumb, like a ropes course or a photo album, and sometimes he makes them do something great, like when the firefighters learned how to dance. But again, what are we even grading here?
Personality: Karamo is fun, nice, charming, intelligent, empathic, and all around seems like a lovely person, even though he’s not the most hilarious of the bunch.
Looks: In a low-key way, he is the hottest guy on this show. Do not sleep on Karamo. But the only thing he ever wears is satin bomber jackets — once you notice that fact, it will drive you to distraction.
Aww Factor: This is truly where Karamo excels. In his standout episode, he has a fascinating conversation with a police officer about Black Lives Matter. In the fourth episode, his conversation with AJ about being a strong gay black man is really touching and wonderful and brings a tear to the eye. When deployed well, Karamo can do a great job. But seriously girl, what does she do?
3. Antoni Porowski
Skills: I’m sorry, but I am of the “Antoni cannot cook” school. Even when he does teach the guys how to do something, it’s as simple as making guacamole or cooking a grilled cheese. Sure, he’s teaching them rudimentary skills, but he can’t he step up some of the fitter guy’s meal-prep routines? Why didn’t he show AJ how to make a protein shake that isn’t disgusting? We see those arms. We know he drinks them! And that is a skill all of us can use at home too, because most of us know how to grill a cheese.
Personality: Antoni has the easy, outgoing manner of someone that you want to sit next to at a pool party. However, it is a pool party, so we might only think that because he’s hot.
Looks: Let’s be honest, Antoni’s purpose here is to be hot, and damn is he good at his job. The smile, the body, the countless Strokes T-shirts that skim his body in just the right way — whatever he lacks in the other departments he for sure makes up for here.
Aww Factor: Other than the story that Antoni tells AJ about how he wasn’t comfortable being gay until he wore a Speedo in Mykonos, I can’t think of another instance when he was really inspiring or heartwarming. Also, that is such a hot gay dude story: “Oh, I’m so sorry you were hit on by a million dudes in Greece with your perfect body and your tiny little trunks. That must have been so hard.”
2. Tan France
Skills: We actually get to see Tan doing a lot of good work. He takes each guy shopping, gives them some tips, and, most importantly, shows them how to buy pants that fit. I think a lot of his tips are the same, but that’s because most straight guys wear clothes wrong in exactly the same way. He has a handful of tricks that he loves — hello, short-sleeved button-down over a T-shirt! — but, again, this is such an improvement for most guys that I forgive him. He does manage to give each guy their own unique flare, which gives him bonus points.
Personality: Tan is an ideal second fiddle and that is an absolutely important role in this cast. No matter who he is paired with (though it’s usually Jonathan), he makes that person seem better, funnier, smarter, or cooler because he is game to bring out the best in everyone while still serving a little bit of his own bitchy glimmer.
Looks: I don’t love the way that Tan dresses himself and he could worry about his hair about 10 percent less, but he is an attractive gentleman whom I would make out with on a dance floor in a heartbeat.
Aww Factor: In episode two, I loved the way that Tan connected with Neal about their shared family drama, but what is really impressive is how he talks to each guy about their emotional connections to clothes. Sometimes it’s about why they think they don’t deserve nice things, or how they feel about dressing for a new body after losing weight. No matter the situation, Tan gets to the heart of the matter in the medium in which he’s supposed to be working, which is genius.
1. Jonathan Van Ness
Skills: Jonathan can actually cut hair. How do we know? We’ve actually seen him take shears to scalp and come out with a fantastic result. Yes, sometimes he farms it out to barbers, but at least we have confirmation that he is more than capable of doing it himself.
Personality: Jonathan is obviously the star of the show. Not only is he as queeny and quippy as he wants to be, he seems to have his very own lexicon and he doesn’t mind if you follow it or not. Most importantly, Jonathan never tones it down to make anyone feel comfortable, which is powerful.
Packaging: Plenty of people out there hate his hair, but I’m into it. It’s long, luxurious, and unique. The outfits, on the other hand, can be hit or miss. Sometimes he’s wearing what looks like a plaid skirt, and sometimes it looks like a sleeping bag that was turned into a coat. I don’t know. But other times. I’m like, “Yasss queen!” and snapping until my fingers fall off.
Aww Factor: In the first episode, when Jonathan tells Tom that he needs to stop calling himself ugly and find some confidence because that is what is ultimately sexy, I immediately knew Jonathan was going to go far. He can switch from sassy to sweet on a dime. The way that he flirts with all of the guys is very sweet, too. Jonathan doesn’t care exactly what anyone looks like. He can find the sexy in anyone, which is a very endearing quality.