We first met Karamo Brown back in 2004 on MTV’s Real World Philadelphia & he's been a bonafide TV ever star since!
On set of his 26 Magazine shoot we were able to catch up with the 'Queer Eye' star & chat about his life, longevity & burgeoning legacy:
You’re noted as being the first openly gay black male on Real World and in many aspects you’re a pioneer. Does that resonate with you and what does it mean to you know the barriers you helped break for gay men of color on
Wow so kind, I feel so blessed that I have been able to do what I love for so long. Hard work and persistence pays off. But to answer your other question, when I think about the barrier I helped break down, it makes me feel proud. There is beauty in diversity and for a long time I don’t think some people in power wanted to acknowledge that. But to see the beautiful and proud black gay men who are flourishing on TV inspires me to work harder to create even more opportunities for others.
As a pioneer in the docu-series world almost since it’s inception, has the process changed since you started?
The process hasn’t changed much for me. It’s always been about capturing the hard conversations and the heartfelt conversations that are personal but universal to us all. That is why I stay in the talk and reality genre. I think there is power in those conversations.
What has been the biggest lessons in being talent on docu-series shows, are there any things you would do
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not be afraid to show all sides of yourself. And the thing that I am doing different now is showing all sides of myself. We (reality talent) have an opportunity to allow someone in the middle of America watching us to know that they are not alone in a feeling or situation they are dealing with. There is no gift more beautiful than helping someone realize they are not alone and that they can grow through this time in their life by watching us do it.
Yet another milestone in your career, you’re now one of the ‘Fab 5’ (& again the first black male) as a cast member of the newly rebooted “Queer Eye [for the Straight Guy]”. What was it like receiving the call for that show?
When I received the call for the show, I cried, for two reasons. First, when I met the other members of the Fab 5 in the casting I knew I had met my life-long best friends. It made me so overwhelmingly happy to know I would be working with men I dearly respect. Secondly, it's Netflix and to know that my message of inspiration would be spread across the world was humbling.
How was this filming process for you? Did it differ from any other docu-series you’d done?
Filming the show was great and it was different in the case that this show is 100% positive. We are only there to help, so every day I went to work I felt good.
On the show you’re the ‘Culture” guy, again super pivotal that a black male was chosen to represent & bring culture to a show with such a wide audience. What does holding that title mean to you?
African Americans have been influencing popular culture since... forever. It has been an honor to continue that legacy on a global scale with this show. Also, the experiences of black people and gay black people aren’t always seen globally and now they are.
From the entire season, which episode stands out the most for you?
There are many moments but episode 4 with AJ Brown, the young African American man coming out, was very special to me. There was something powerful about the connection we had. It was deeper than just a makeover. It was an acknowledgment of shared experiences and the encouragement to be remember how great he is because of who he is.
Do you think it was important for producers of the show to diversify the Fab 5 cast? If so, why?
Of course. The network and producers wanted that from day 1.
At the time, did you ever imagine that after Real World that your life would’ve taken you to such longevity and great heights in this industry?
I didn’t because I didn’t know what I wanted from my career. It wasn’t until I stepped away from television to raise my sons that I decided this is what I want and I am going to go after it.
Tell us about your activism in the gay community and why it’s so important to you?
If you have a platform and aren’t using it for good, in my eyes it’s like having a buffet and deciding to eat all yourself. We have been blessed with an ability to reach so many people. It’s our duty to feed their minds and souls with information that is going to help them and our world grow. As a proud gay man, I know it’s my responsibility to reach those who feel unsure if they are worthy and remind them that they are. There are not that many LGBTQI people in the media so it’s up to us to continue to be a support system.
We hear that you’re a father of 2 to both your biological son and his half-brother, how does fatherhood fit into your life?
Fatherhood is my life. It influences every decision I make. I am raising my boys to become loving and respectful men. I am raising two black boys how to navigate this world that doesn’t always value them. But by raising them I am constantly checking my behavior and how I react to the world.
What’s next for you? Is there interest to executive produce and or create shows/content?
What’s next for me is to continue helping the world navigate the hard conversations and heart to heart conversations that allow us to grow on hopefully another 20 seasons of Queer Eye. Also, I have been selling original content that will be announced soon so stay tuned.
Finally, What’s the legacy that you hope to one day leave behind?
Legacy... I think that is for others to decide when I am gone. My goal now is just to do the best that I can with the tools that I have. Hopefully when my time comes I have done enough to leave this world a little better than I inherited it.
Photography: CYOER Photography
Grooming: Kwame Waters
Wardrobe: Michelle Wu