Forgiveness isn't easy, but Queer Eye hero Wesley Hamilton knew it was necessary. It's why Hamilton, who was shot and paralyzed when he was 24, agreed to meet face-to-face with his attacker on season 4 of Queer Eye. The 31-year-old knew that moment, in which he thanked the stranger who paralyzed him, was so much bigger than him.
"I was able to do something that is going to empower the community," he tells Refinery29 over the phone. "When I said thank you, I did that for everyone who needs it. I just want to send that message that we all make mistakes, and sometimes they’re serious, but at the end of the day, we can all change."
That's why that moment, for Hamilton, was about more than seeking forgiveness from this man. It allowed him to finally forgive himself "because I had the strength now to take accountability for my actions that led up to the day that I was shot."
The company Hamilton founded, Disabled But Not Really, provides fitness and nutrition programs for others who are disabled (but not really), and after filming he started another community program called The District, aimed at helping the young men and women of Kansas City. "I wanted to teach them forgiveness," the single father says. "When you show love, even where there’s hate, you can create love everywhere."
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The Fab Five created a new sense of love for Hamilton by making small changes that have had a big impact on his life. Queer Eye gave him his independence back by making his entire home wheelchair accessible. Now the foodie who rivals Antoni with his passion for cooking is able to use his stove without burning himself and can sit at the kitchen table with his daughter. Things that used to be difficult for him are now simple, thanks to a few adaptations.
Thanks to Tan's suggestion that he have his clothes tailored, Hamilton can now wear jackets without them getting caught in his wheels. "It was just like, 'Wow, no one would tell me that. I really truly thank him because he has taken me to a different level," Hamilton says. He's even hired a modeling agency to help him show of his new swag. "I can see myself being the face of brands," he says.
While Queer Eye has been life-changing for him, it's also changed his mom's life. After his accident, she was the one who took care of him, putting her life on hold for seven years. "I always felt like I was a disappointment," he says. "I’m just pleased to know that I can provide something special for my mom to be proud of me of now. And she sees the change. She was coming over to my home like everyday to try and assist and now she’s calling me wondering when she can come by."
In the year since Hamilton filmed Queer Eye, he's been working to expand Disabled But Not Really, which started as a training program inside a local CrossFit gym. Back in May, he partnered with a local gym to have a fully inclusive section for adaptive athletes and now he's focused on building his own inclusive gym that would allow those with disabilities a space that makes working out easier for them. "They can just work out however they want to because everything’s created for them," he says. "It gives these athletes the ability to gain confidence because now they come in and they don’t have to ask for assistance."
But Hamilton's biggest goal is something he hopes fans of Queer Eye can help him with. "I’m trying to get on Ellen."