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Karamo Brown of ‘Queer Eye’ shares hope and handshakes

| Friday, November 30, 2018

Diane Park | The Observer

Karamo Brown wanted to be a dancer. His high school guidance counselor said no, his parents quashed the idea quickly and his friends scoffed. Or, in his words: “Shade. Everywhere.” In an attempt to pursue a “real career,” he became a social worker. He loved the work, despite the difficulties and low pay, which was “not cute.” In the back of his head, however, he always wondered about his first dream. What if he had given it a shot?

In an event on Wednesday evening in DeBartolo Hall, Brown spoke about his journey from fatherhood to social work to television and addressed how to make your mark on the world.

The event, “A Talk with Karamo Brown,” was sponsored by PrismND; the Film, Television and Theatre department; the Gender Studies Program and presented by the Student Union Board (SUB). He engaged the audience with a half-hour speech and a half-hour Q&A.

Karamo Brown is best known as the culture expert on the Emmy-nominated Netflix reboot “Queer Eye,” an all-inclusive makeover show where emotional and physical needs are taken into account. He is also a licensed social worker and psychotherapist. He broke into the television industry on the reality show “The Real World: Philadelphia” as the first black, openly gay man on reality television. He recently finished filming the third season “Queer Eye” and assured the audience that “B—-, we did it again.”

Notre Dame student Eric Kim, a member of SUB, said in an email “I am obsessed with ‘Queer Eye,’ and I love Karamo’s role in the show. His ability to empathize and create an impact on someone within a four-day period always blew my mind.”

Kim’s personal encounter with Brown highlighted his kind character: “I whispered to [Brown] that it is my life goal to do his three-clap handshake that he does on the show, and he responded with joy and excitement.” After the talk, Brown “reminded me that I made that request. I was shocked: not only was I dumbfounded to forget my life goal, but also he reminded me.”

Brown gave the audience a sneak peek at the next season: “There’s a couple other letters in that LGBT that gon’ be seen.” He also advocated for having a “hero,” which is what the show calls the subject it works with from week to week, with a disability.

His main message, of making your mark, however, took an unexpected turn. He quickly told the audience, “that’s too much pressure, you’re in college.” Instead of focusing on lofty ideas, he instead encouraged everyone to focus on the question: “How can you be your authentic self in whatever space you show up in?” This, he claimed, is the key to everything. He brings all of his identities to the table everywhere he goes: “black, gay, father, Christian, first-generation American. I am me.” This decision, to be entirely yourself, he said, “opens up opportunities.”

Katie Flood
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