Naturally Tan by Tan France
Published by St. Martin’s Press on June 4th, 2019
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
“All I can say is speak up; ask the question. Explain your concerns. It’s the first step in feeling empowered to push forward with your own agenda. There is no reason to stifle yourself! Because as a wise man once told me: the best moments are the ones where you’re you.”
ARC received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
You know those BuzzFeed quizzes? I’ve taken every single one that has a variation on the title, “Which Guy From ‘Queer Eye’ Are You?” And even though I wanted the result to be Jonathan Van Ness every time, I always got Tan France. And I’m totally okay with that! I am utterly obsessed with Queer Eye and I think everyone should watch it. It’s wholesome content!
Tan France has always been one of my favourites because he’s unapologetically himself and isn’t afraid to say his opinion. He also treats every body type and shape with respect when he’s trying to dress the heroes on the show.
Anyway, this is all to say that I was very excited to read France’s memoir! I’ve always found him to be a fun interviewee because he has great comments and fun stories to tell. But he’s also willing to open up about his background and how special it is for him to be the one on camera as a gay, Pakistani, Muslim man.
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a celebrity memoir, but this one was a delight to read. France writes the way he speaks. It’s very conversational and it makes you feel like you’re hearing the story from a friend and one who injects drama and passion into their storytelling.
His personal stories ranged from growing up in a small town in England as one of the few South Asian families there, coming into his own with his sexuality, discovering his passions in life, and how his life changed with Queer Eye. And of course, he’s also sprinkled in fashion tips, such as this one, which I actually picked up from my mom:
“The moral of the story is this: When you love something, always, always buy a second. Hopefully, you will continue to love it for years and years.”
France’s stories about growing up were the ones that hit me the most. They were at once heartbreaking, but also so funny. He talked about the subtle and overt racism he experienced and the tragic effect of it. And I definitely related to it on some level. I, very fortunately, have never feared for my life because of my race. But I do remember hearing similar comments made to me about my race.
“But unless somebody pointed out aloud that I was brown, I often forgot. If somebody called me a Paki, I was like, Oh yeah! I forgot. I let my guard down for a sec and totally forgot that I should be more aware of it. I remember very distinctly forgetting a lot of the time, until somebody would very rudely remind me that I was indeed different and how that was not okay.”
But that’s not to say that his childhood was exclusively tragic or sad! While it was very upsetting to read about how he was essentially dragged out of the closet, other stories were lighthearted and heartwarming. His story about the evolution of his hair was one that had me cackling. I can’t get out the image from my head of his mom helping him blow-dry his hair so he could look good.
I loved that his sartorial tips were preceded by a story about a specific item. He talked about getting fitted for a tuxedo for the Emmys and then gave tips on how to dress for an event. Or his story about falling in love with cropped sweatshirts were followed by tips on how to style cropped shirts depending on your body type.
Overall, this is a strong memoir that doesn’t read as vapid. France brings up important topics while also not coming across as preachy. If you are a fan of Queer Eye, you might benefit from listening to the audiobook. I think it would add another layer to these stories if France is narrating it.
You might not be compelled to pick this up if you aren’t in the Queer Eye fandom. But it’s still a very powerful piece of work. France is a hustler and he made it to a prominent position that we don’t really see people having on TV as someone who is gay, Pakistani, and Muslim. And it was interesting to see his journey to this point in his life.
So I’d read it if you’re interested in some laugh-out-loud personal stories with a side of helpful fashion tips! For Queer Eye fans, yes, he does talk about the famous French tuck. And have I started doing the French tuck even with my PJs? YES.