Eager Matadors lined up early to see television star, bestselling author, podcaster and designer Tan France. It was a full house in the University Student Union’s Northridge Center for the annual Big Lecture, where loud cheers greeted France as he entered the room and waved to the crowd. The fashion maven then settled into a Q&A session with Associated Students Cabinet Member Paige Hajiloo and Event Producer Alex Winters. AS hosted the March 30 event as part of Diversity and Inclusion Week.
“I assume most of you are here because you watch ‘Queer Eye,’ right?” France quipped, to more cheers from the audience.
“Queer Eye” is the 2018 Netflix reboot of the reality show featuring a “Fab 5” group of experts who travel the country, providing makeovers to individuals who want to change their lives. Each cast member gives advice on cooking, entertaining, interior design and grooming — France is the fashion consultant. They dispense their wisdom with gentle humor and confidence-boosting encouragement. The show has been honored multiple times by GLAAD, the LGBTQ media advocacy organization.
Throughout his time with CSUN students, France’s quick wit and frank manner was evident as he answered questions on a range of subjects, including his career as a designer, growing up with his South Asian family in England, and dating in his teens and 20s. He also spoke about balancing work with family life — France and his husband, Rob, have a young son.
The latter part of the program was devoted to answering questions from the audience. One student asked France how he came out to his traditional Muslim family. He said it took years for his parents to accept him as a gay man, in a culture where sexuality is a taboo topic.
“This is an example of why representation matters,” France said. “When our parents don’t see anyone like us on TV, in movies, in literature, they think this is alien. They think this is impossible. They think, ‘Well, that’s what white people do.'”
France said keeping a relationship with his family was important to him, so he vowed to give them time to accept him.
“I just understood that they didn’t understand, and so when I came out to them, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” France told the audience. However, he said, he set an important boundary.
“I said, ‘Look, you can ask whatever questions you want, but you never get to disrespect me,'” France said.
During the Q and A, France stepped down from the stage into the audience and roved around the audience. At the end of the Q and A session, France waved goodbye to the audience, who cheered and gave him a standing ovation.
The “Big Lecture with Tan France” capped a week of events organized by Associated Students, including talks on the future of justice, equity and inclusion, and DEI and Accessibility, with discussions of disability and bias.