Tan France: Naturally Tan Fashion expert Tan France discusses how he nearly turned down Queer Eye, and how his new Netlifx series Next In Fashion embraces positivity.
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Tan France: Naturally Tan

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Tan France: Naturally Tan

Tan France: Naturally Tan

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JONATHAN COULTON: This is ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

(APPLAUSE)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thank you, Jonathan. It's time to welcome our special guest. He's the fashion expert on the Netflix series, "Queer Eye." Give it up for Tan France.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Thank you for joining us.

TAN FRANCE: Oh, my gosh, of course. I'm so excited to be doing this.

EISENBERG: So you single-handedly made the French tuck a thing. People think that it was you that invented it, especially because of your name.

FRANCE: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: So I - do you know - here's the thing; I wish I had created it 'cause it seems quite smart that Tan France would have created the French tuck.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

FRANCE: And I really wanted to take credit for it almost immediately. And then I thought, no, somebody is going to find me out, and those people online are really mean, so I should just be honest from the onset.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) They are already mean.

FRANCE: And so, yeah, I didn't come up with it. However, I would like to believe that I just shed light on the beauty of its appeal because it hides, like, a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: You were asked to audition for "Queer Eye," and you said no.

FRANCE: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: I - no, I - listen; I was a business owner. I was an entrepreneur only. I had no desire to be in entertainment. I was actually really scared, like, not just because I was nervous, not just because I'd never been on camera before, but because there weren't any other gay, South Asian, British immigrant people on TV. And it was like, oh, people are going to think that I represent that community, which I'm happy to, but that's a lot of pressure on one person...

EISENBERG: Sure.

FRANCE: ...'Cause then you're representing literally billions of people.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah.

FRANCE: And it's is hard to be the same as billions of people.

EISENBERG: But you were convinced.

FRANCE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: You were convinced to at least audition.

FRANCE: Actually, I wasn't. Well, I was, but not by Netflix, by my husband. And...

EISENBERG: And you were on vacation, right?

FRANCE: (Laughter) You're firing fast and loose with the word vacation. I was in Vegas.

EISENBERG: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: So yes, kind of. And somebody asked me if I would take this call. And my husband was like, you should just take the call. It can't hurt. Just speak to these people and see what they're wanting from you. And so I did. And I spoke to them, and they told me what they were wanting. And it wasn't the original version of "Queer Eye," which I loved. I loved very much. I used to watch the British version of it. But they weren't doing that. They wanted it to be so much more about heart and connection and bridging the divide and having people see a version of my people that they'd never seen before and every one of us boys on the show. And I was like, oh, that I can get behind.

EISENBERG: Right. And then you get the job.

FRANCE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: And then supposedly you've tried to quit a few times.

FRANCE: I did.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The first episode of "Queer Eye" was the one with Tom Jackson. That literally was the first episode we ever shot. And I got really nervous. Again, I'm just going to say it as it is. He asked me if I was a terrorist. He didn't know. He was a sweetheart, and he had just never met a Muslim before. And so it really upset me. And as soon as we were done with that scene, I cried so much, and I was like, I can't do this. Like, if this is what is going to happen every week, I just - I can't put up with that kind of questioning every time.

And so, yeah, that kind of continued for a couple more weeks. And then I realized why I should be there. And this is going to sound super cheesy, but it is what it is. I just thought, well, this is my lot in life. I'm going to have to educate people and explain that that's not what it is. Just when somebody says they're a Muslim does not mean that. And I want to show the world what - who we are, the beauty of our community.

EISENBERG: Yeah, and also tell them - yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

FRANCE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

EISENBERG: And also very nicely tell them that their look is horrible.

FRANCE: Yeah. Yeah...

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: ...Tom. How dare you ask me that question when you're wearing those jorts.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: So, you know, you've done four seasons in the U.S.

FRANCE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: But then the show goes to Japan.

FRANCE: And that's where it's my moment to shine.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: Finally, Asians. And so - and they were like, oh, we get you.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

FRANCE: Japan was - they're special because we are talking to people who don't emote the way we emote. Their culture is so different from the Western culture. And so I think it makes for incredible TV because you are seeing two worlds come together that you haven't really seen on TV before. And it opens up your mind to who these people are and how incredible they are, how kind they are. And it does highlight the strength of our show, which is that we can find connection and love anywhere we go. This community was so different from ours, yet we were - we were able to find commonality and to highlight the fact that all any of us want is to be loved and cared for and seen.

EISENBERG: Yeah, I loved those episodes.

FRANCE: Thank you so much.

EISENBERG: I just thought, yeah, they really got to me, yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

FRANCE: Thank you.

EISENBERG: So when you were a little kid, you used to visit your grandfather's denim factory.

FRANCE: Oh, yeah. But I want to tell a story real quick about this factory. I loved my granddad so much. He passed away a couple of years ago. He is an angel, an absolute angel. He's my mom's dad. And the reason why I'm telling you this is because you just would assume that everything he does is good, right and true. I wrote a book last year, and my sister read it. And she was like, you've got to stop telling the story about granddad's factory. I was like, what on Earth are you talking about? Why would I stop telling that? It's such a beautiful story. He was the reason why I got into this. And she was like, it was an illegal operation.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: It was an illegal operation. We were making denim for Disney, so I thought - no idea until a few months ago. My sister came to see me on my book tour, and she ran into the room afterwards. And she was like, never tell that story again. She was like, it closed down when you were 13. You were clearly too young to remember it was shut down.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: I thought that he had just gotten so old he couldn't do it anymore.

EISENBERG: No, no.

FRANCE: No.

EISENBERG: Disney swooped in and...

FRANCE: Yeah. Actually...

EISENBERG: ...Put the kibosh on Pluto.

FRANCE: OK, the best thing about it is that - obviously, I didn't know this - so Disney was so supportive when the show came out because they heard the story. They took me out to Disneyland. They gave me the VIP treatment. I'm like, oh, no.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: Oh, no. We made so much money knocking you off, and now you're celebrating me for it.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That's amazing.

FRANCE: I know. Insane.

EISENBERG: And you co-host a new reality competition called "Next In Fashion."

(APPLAUSE)

FRANCE: Oh. Yes. OK, the designers are incredible. We've got 18 designers from across the world, so it feels massively inclusive. It feels very diverse. Our designers have worked with the likes of Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang, Louis Vuitton, or they've got their own brands that are very successful. So these are established designers that are creating couture right in front of my very eyes, and it blew my mind.

EISENBERG: And you say - there's, like, a catchphrase, I believe. Like, you say, big no is blank. Like I saw big no is boring.

FRANCE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Big no is blah.

FRANCE: Yeah. And I want to gasp. And that's it. Like, I don't want to be bored by what I'm seeing on the show. This is called "Next In Fashion," and we want to see what somebody has that inspires me, that makes me feel like, yeah, I didn't see that on the runway last season? And that's what we've found. I'm obsessed. This is not a mean show. It's very much in the vein of "Queer Eye." We are never mean to the contestants. We show that there can be competition with decency. I think that the world is screwy enough. The last thing we need is to be showing on TV that this is how you should conduct yourself. And so...

(APPLAUSE)

FRANCE: Thanks. And so that's what our show is. Like, it's kind. And if you know the show "The Bake Off," the Great British baking show...

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: OK, so let me ask you...

FRANCE: Oh.

EISENBERG: ...You're competing on the celebrity episode...

FRANCE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Of "The Great British Bake Off."

FRANCE: OK.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Has it happened?

FRANCE: It has happened.

EISENBERG: It has happened, OK. Did you prepare a lot to be on it?

FRANCE: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: If anyone knows me at all, I am so particular about why - if I choose to do something, I am going to do my very freaking best. And so you know if I'm doing a baking show, I'm committed. You know how I was saying I really like a friendly show, I like positivity?

EISENBERG: Yeah.

FRANCE: That's not what I was about.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: No. Winning.

FRANCE: Nah, mate. Outwardly, you'll see on the show I'm all smiles and giggles. But really, inside, I'm like, no, that better sink.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: All right. Perfect...

FRANCE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Because guess what? I'm going to find out how much you know about baking in a quiz.

EISENBERG: Yeah. It's called...

FRANCE: (Laughter) Oh, no.

EISENBERG: It's called Technical Challenge, and these questions are about terms that frequently come up on "The Great British Bake Off." It's multiple choice.

FRANCE: Oh, yay.

EISENBERG: It's multiple choice.

FRANCE: OK, great.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: And if you want help, you can just ask the audience.

FRANCE: These idiots aren't going to know.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: And if you do well enough, listener Abbey Slattery from Raleigh, N.C., will win an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube.

FRANCE: Oh.

EISENBERG: Yeah. All right. Marzipan and frangipane are both made from almonds, but they are different. How? Marzipan is doughy; frangipane is creamy. B, marzipan is made from skinless almonds; frangipane is made from skin-on almonds. Or C, marzipan is from Mars...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: ...Frangipane is from Venus.

FRANCE: It's obviously C. No. Oh, gosh, that's - actually, that is quite difficult for anyone who doesn't bake. B.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Sorry. It is A.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANCE: I am so annoyed.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: It's OK. It's all right. OK, try this one.

FRANCE: OK, great.

EISENBERG: If Paul Hollywood shakes your hand for baking a dry, light, spongy Italian cake made without baking powder, what is he congratulating you for? A, your spiffy chiffon. B, your genius genoise. Or C, your victorious Victoria sponge...

FRANCE: Your genoise.

EISENBERG: That is correct. It's your...

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: ...Genoise. Now we're back. Now we're back. All right, what is proving? Is that intentionally making your bake look sloppy to prove it is homemade?

FRANCE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Is it B, stabilizing chocolate to give it a hard, glossy finish? Or C, allowing dough to rise?

FRANCE: C.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's right. Although, you know, before I watched the show, I did not know that term.

FRANCE: Really?

EISENBERG: Proving.

FRANCE: Huh.

EISENBERG: Yeah. I just thought it was called, I mean, rising. I don't know. I just never heard that term.

FRANCE: Oh, that's interesting.

EISENBERG: Yeah, so I was like...

FRANCE: You clearly didn't watch the shows that I was watching as a child.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

FRANCE: You weren't a 3-year-old watching a baking show? That's strange.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) All right. This is your last clue. How is baking traditional puff pastry different from baking rough puff pastry?

FRANCE: I know you fold it nine times.

EISENBERG: OK. Tell me which one you want of these.

FRANCE: OK, great.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: A, traditional puff involves giant slabs of butter; rough puff uses butter chunks mixed in with the dough. B, traditional puff...

FRANCE: It's A.

EISENBERG: ...Must be inflated with a blowpipe. Or C, traditional puff went to Oxford; rough puff went to the school of hard knocks.

FRANCE: It's A, queen.

EISENBERG: Yes, it is A. Yes.

FRANCE: (Laughter).

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: That is correct. Congratulations, Tan. You and listener Abbey Slattery won ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube.

FRANCE: Yay.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Tan will be back later in the show to play another game. But for right now, give it up for Tan France.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Want our next special guest to play for you? Follow ASK ME ANOTHER on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And for more Fab Five content, we made a Spotify playlist. Just search for Queer Eye NPR and you'll find interviews with Antoni, Karamo and Jonathan Van Ness - not Bobby Berk, though. Someday.

(LAUGHTER)

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