Growing up, Queer Eye's Tan France hated his hair. "I had very thick, unruly hair, and I didn’t know what to do with it," France tells Refinery29.
It didn't help that the images of supposedly "ideal" or "beautiful" hair he was constantly being bombarded with in ads for men's grooming products were so entirely different than what he saw in the mirror. "All I saw for the expectation of beauty was white guy hair," France says. "It was soft, and it moved with the breeze. It was glossy and it was everything my hair was never gonna be."
But now France finds himself in a unique position. After years of being shown men's grooming ads starring only white models with a particular hair type, he's now one of those guys in the grooming ads as the new ambassador for House 99, a brand founded by David Beckham. And in his new job, he's in a position where he can talk to men about the insecurities they may have about their hair and hair texture.
It's a role that comes naturally to him now, of course, after two seasons as a member of the Fab Five on Netflix's Queer Eye. With his job on the show focusing on tackling personal style and fashion, France has won the hearts of millions of viewers with his sweet and sensitive advice to firemen and pastors alike. His internet fanbase stands at two million and growing, with fans adoring his endearing mini makeovers on celebs like Pete Davidson and Hasan Minhaj too. But really, what fans want to know most about is his hair. France tells us, "One of the things people DM me about all the time — literally hundreds and hundreds of times a week — is I tried to get the Tan France hair, or I asked my barber for Tan France hair."
Those are messages he never thought he'd receive after years of struggling to figure out how to groom his hair in a way that was unique to him. "It was a case of me feeling bad until I did as much trial and error as physically possible to get to the point where I certainly don’t have Caucasian hair, but I have hair that I like," France says. "I didn’t think grooming could get me to this point, but it definitely has helped me accept the fact that I am different, but not less than.
So, how does Tan France get that Tan France hair?
"I wash my hair every day, which is not wise," France says. "Jonathan [Van Ness] doesn’t like that. But I just like to restyle my hair completely every day. So I’ll wash it and then blowdry it in position with a round brush, and then I just use one product and that’s it."
But this partnership isn't just meaningful to France because it signifies how far he's come in this journey to loving his hair. It's meaningful because it's helping break down the whitewashed world of men's grooming ads. While diversity in beauty ads aimed at women is a continuous topic of conversation, the diversity in men's grooming ads, as France saw himself growing up, could definitely use some work, and now France has a chance to shake things up.
"I do feel like I’ve carved out a little niche for myself where I’m brown, I very much embrace my hair, and even how I’m going gray early, which is very typical for South Asian men," France says. "I embrace all of these things and I hope it empowers other kids who aren’t Caucasian to feel like they should be empowered to be who they are."
Plus, on top of racially diversifying the men's grooming world, France is a gay man, which is something that he thought would bar him from ever representing a brand like House 99.
"I really didn't think that most grooming brands would ever consider me — and all the things I represent — as a selling point for them," France says. "When I first started talking with House 99, I actually wondered if they would want to work with me because the branding is cool, it’s masculine, and it’s young. I didn’t want them to worry that I’m gonna deter straight men from using their products."
But then he thought about the outdated reasons he was even thinking that. As Queer Eye has shown its viewers, it doesn't matter at all if the person who's offering you beauty guidance looks like you, prays like you, or loves like you. What matters is that they know their shit.
"It doesn’t matter who’s encouraging you to use these products," says France. "If it’s a gay man, a woman, a Black guy, a straight guy... if you like their hair and think you could learn something from them, who cares who’s pushing these products to you?"
And really, who wouldn't want some honest hair advice from Tan France?