Queer Eye for the Soul

When Netflix announced six months ago that a new retooled Queer Eye, (formally Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) would premiere on the streaming

The All New and All Different Fab Five from left to right, Bobby Berk (design), Karamo Brown (culture), Jonathan Van Ness (grooming), Antoni Porowski (food & wine), Tan France (fashion)

service a lot people including myself were skeptical, why did we need a new Queer Eye? Always the optimist I had high hopes that the series would not only stay true to the original but give us new reasons to keep watching it.

The original series premiered on BRAVO 15 years ago and would help the channel become the premier network catering to women 25 to 54 and gay men of all ages. The premise was simple, the show would showcase five gay men, each with an X-Men like superpower which included grooming, interior design, fashion, food & wine, and culture. (For that last one see Aquaman on the Superfriends.) These five gay men would find an unsuspecting straight guy nominated by a friend, family member or girlfriend to give them a “makeover.” So at the end of 45 minutes the disgusting caveman who leaves his unpaid bills in a wicker basket along with his dirty underwear and lives in squaller  would in one day become a sophisticated and polished metro sexual that said girlfriend would actually like to spend time with. At the end of the episode we would see our real life superhero’s chilling with a cocktail in their secret headquarters watching their subject on a monitor as he groomed, dressed, and cooked for himself, and telepathically talked to fish…I mean did something cultural in his new professionally interior decorated apartment.

Fab Five Classic, from left to right, Thom Filicia (Design), Ted Allen (Food & Wine), Carson Kressley (Fashion), Kyan Douglas (Grooming), Jai Rodriguez (Culture).

The show worked on bridging gaps between gay men and straight men by breaking down the barriers of what it means to be masculine. Just because you cared about the way you looked it didn’t mean you were any less of a man and the show set an example to gay men, just because you have certain mannerisms or a certain tone of voice you are not less of a man but more of one by embracing your truth and creating your own identity living life on your terms. Usually at the end of an episode the show left me feeling good and empowered.

In the new show we find an “all new all different” Fab Five. A new team of superheroes picking up where the first team left off. No longer based in the comfort zone of New York City the new Fab Five is based in Atlanta, Georgia and it’s suburbs. Not only are they making over their nominated subjects but changing attitudes and perceptions of how men in red states perceive gay men and how gay men perceive men in red states often making a very real impact on lives beyond a new wardrobe or hair style.

The impact they have on some of these men is so touching it can bring a tear to the eye. Like in episode four the Fab Five are sent to meet A.J. Brown, a civil engineer and closeted gay man who dresses very plain with no sense of style for fear of appearing ‘too gay.’  A.J. desperately wants to come out to his step mother and publicly acknowledge his boyfriend, yet caves into the fear of rejection. The moment he comes out to his step mother is a powerful testament to living ones authentic self, you can almost see a vail being lifted as she sees who he really is for the first time. The cameras in the room capturing this deeply personal event leave the audience feeling almost guilty for eavesdropping on a private family conversation and you can almost feel the sad regret A.J. has because he isn’t able to share his life with the father that passed away but finds redemption in the eyes of the woman that raised him like her own son.

At the start of the first episode of the series the ‘all new all different’ Fab Five tell us that the original show was fighting for tolerance and the new show is fighting for acceptance. Not just acceptance of queer people but of the acceptance of all people from all walks of life, like Cory a nascar loving Trump supporter from deep inside Georgia. The Fab Five find common ground, camaraderie, and dare I say friendship with a man who is deeper then just a political choice or a sport, just like a gay man is deeper then just his sexuality or finding the next trick on Grindr.

In a world where life long friends and family members are divided over politics or social issues or both, this incarnation of Queer Eye is about more than showing one person how to feel good about themselves, it’s showing all of us how to find common ground and to feel good about our common interests focusing not on what divides us but what brings us together.

And that is my view from the other side of the lake.

Season 2 of the all new ‘Queer Eye’ priemires June 15 on Netflix Season 1 now streaming. You can catch classic episodes of with the original Fab Five on YouTube. 

 

 

The Art of the Talking Body, The Art of Martin Navejas

Martin Navejas, Photo: John M. Livelsberger

(Hammond, IN) With an infectious smile Martin Navejas greeted us at the entrance of the White Ripple Gallery in Hammond. This would be Martin’s second solo exhibition and if he was nervous you could not tell. We moved slowly up a flight of stairs passing the art work of what I assumed were other artists to be featured at the gallery. We arrived to a huge room at the top of the stairs and along the walls the work of the 27 year old artist hung.

I walked around the room taking in his work, most were nudes with both men and woman. What struck me about Martin’s work was not just the level of nakedness the models have but where the pictures were actually taken. To Martin the locations where he takes the pictures are just as important as the models and in some of his work it’s almost as if the model is secondary and the location and is the main subject, like the abandoned church confessional that was used in one of his pieces.

The White Ripple Gallery & Co. Photo: Facebook

Born and raised in Hammond Martin Navejas has been taking pictures since he was a teenager, saving his allowance to buy disposable cameras and pay for film developing. Inspired by other photographers pictures of abandoned buildings, Martin started ditching school and ‘breaking into’ empty and abandoned buildings in his hometown and in other locations to get his own pictures. After awhile accompanied by his friend Tia he would put her into his early work, then a natural progression to other models as his work evolved. “I’ve always wanted to tell stories, but I’m not a good writer or speaker, so I thought I could do it through my photography.” When asked what inspired him I was surprised when he said music and poetry. “You would never think that inspiration comes from a song that I hear but in my head it works.” Indeed it does as Martin puts a visual to what he hears. Martin describes striping the model down to their bare essentials just like the abandoned locations that he uses as a backdrop. Referring to his body of work, “There’s a story you can make up in your head.”

When I asked Martin what he says to a person that cannot differentiate or compares his works of art to pornography he had this to say. “I feel like maybe this is just me, but I feel if you take away the clothes, the mask, if you will, essentially I think working with the naked body, they (the model) are more vulnerable. It’s more genuine, it’s more raw.” Using physical structures that have been abandoned by man and taken over by nature seems to make the body of his work genuine for both location and model, naked bones bare. His work can come of as sad and lonely but almost romantic and beautiful at the same time.

Artwork by Martin Navejas: Photo by John M. Livelsberger

Martin Navejas is an upcoming young gay artist that is putting his mark on art and culture in Northwest Indiana with his thought provoking and provocative work.

You can experience the work of Martin Navejas starting June 10th at the White Ripple Gallery & Co. located at 6725 Kennedy Ave. Hammond, IN 46323.