Karamo Brown opens up about ‘Queer Eye’ disappointment, addiction in first book

Karamo Brown, of Netflix's "Queer Eye," releases his first book March 5. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Karamo Brown doesn’t hold back in his first memoir, detailing parts of his life he admits were challenging to look back on.

Karamo Brown, of Netflix's "Queer Eye," releases his first book March 5.
Karamo Brown, of Netflix’s "Queer Eye," releases his first book March 5. Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon

The “Queer Eye” reboot captivated a new generation of reality TV bingers when it made its debut on Netflix in 2018, winning three Emmys and shaping the year’s breakout social media personalities.

But for one of those Fab Five stars, the premiere season is challenging to look back on.

Karamo Brown — responsible for redefining the role of the series’ culture expert — is set to release his first book March 5. Titled “Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope,” the memoir details his personal journey to becoming the series’ resident therapist.

In the autobiography — part of which was written while Karamo filmed the third season of “Queer Eye” in Kansas City — he reveals for the first time his experiences with racism as a grade-school student, struggles with drug addiction and disappointments in his early Netflix appearances.

Karamo Brown, of Netflix's "Queer Eye," releases his first book March 5.
Karamo Brown, of Netflix’s "Queer Eye," releases his first book March 5. Photo Credit: Noelle Lilley

"I love my Fab Five, I love the show, but being honest, I’ve only seen season 1 once because I felt embarrassed by it," Karamo admits by phone earlier this month.

In a chapter titled, “Queer Eye,” the 38-year-old says he watched those first episodes with his fiance and two sons (Jason and Chris) only to find out much of the work he’d done with the heroes (makeover subjects) had been cut. He writes, “for the most part, I wasn’t even in the first episode.”

Multiple episodes into season 1, Karamo’s scenes remained limited to car rides and supporting cameos alongside his castmates, Antoni Porowski (food), Jonathan Van Ness (grooming), Bobby Berk (interior design) and Tan France (fashion). Viewers voiced confusion on social media, wondering what the real role of this new culture expert was.

Karamo went into his casting audition with the vision that a 2018 version of “culture” should focus on mental health rather than the hottest nightclub or newest theater production. The reality star who’s also a licensed social worker writes of his confidence in his ability to help the series transform heroes mentally and emotionally, rather than just physically.

But somewhere between the casting process and the filming of those first eight episodes in Georgia, Karamo says his confidence in his vision blurred.

“It’s a visual medium, just like any television show,” Karamo says. “With a haircut by Jonathan, who has an amazing personality and also is an amazing stylist, it resonates quickly because you’re seeing someone’s hair change … but I’m having a conversation here, so where was the physical representation?”

Looking back, he admits responsibility for the way season one turned out falls more to his own shoulders than on Netflix.

“I never had a conversation with the network and that’s what was so clear [to me] is that I didn’t have the courage to say, this is what I need, this is what I’m trying to do," he says.

Karamo spoke with the network shortly after screening the season and says he was fully supported, which helped him solidify a more prominent role in the second and third seasons.

“The network was just very much like, ‘great, let’s go for it. We love what you do and we support you.’ And they were great,” he says. “The thing was, my category, the audience has actually seen the transition from season 1. They’ve now seen my evolution.”

Karamo admits being honest about his “Queer Eye” experience with fans was one of the most challenging parts of writing his memoir, along with detailing his previous addictions and discovering he had a 10-year-old son after appearing on “The Real World: Philadelphia” in 2004.

"It feels strangely good being vulnerable and open,” he says. “I want people to understand I’m in a place now where I’ve achieved a certain amount of success, but this was not something that happened overnight. We all experience feeling alone, feeling sad. I did not hold anything back.”

IF YOU GO: Karamo Brown will host a meet-and-greet at Barnes and Noble Union Square on Tuesday, March 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets, priced at $29.40, include one signed copy of Karamo’s book, along with access to the meet-and-greet event and potential photo op. 

Meghan Giannotta