Every participant who gets a lifestyle makeover on Queer Eye is referred to as a hero, but never as a trailblazer. That changed with the arrival of Angel Flores.
Flores of Austin, TX, became the first trans woman to be featured on the Netflix show. In the season six episode titled “Angel Gets her Wings,” the Fab Five hosts — Karamo Brown, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk and Antoni Porowski — not only helped Flores regain her self-confidence, but also helped her reconnect with her father, Jose. The episode was so life-affirming that Berk said at a recent TV Academy Event that “if they ever bring back Queer Eye in 15 years, I hope [Angel is] one of the hosts.”
Here, Flores — who now travels as a trans right activist — talks about becoming the latest groundbreaking element of the pioneering show and what it was like to reconnect with her father while the cameras were rolling. “Karamo Brown approached me right before we started filming and said, ‘look, if you don’t wanna go through with this right now, I can go over there and just say, we’re not gonna do this today,'” Flores recalled. “That check-in kind of summed up the entirety of the week, where I felt safe enough.”
DEADLINE: How has your life changed since you appeared on Queer Eye?
ANGEL FLORES: It’s been a whirlwind. I’ve been across the nation and across the world and back. A lot of it has been activism, helping, visiting, and speaking to kids. This new life as a role model is definitely interesting and has taken me to very interesting places.
DEADLINE: Why did you decide to appear on the show?
FLORES: As a trans person, putting myself out there and making myself very visible is always a risk. I talk a lot about how every time I walk out the door, especially in Texas, there’s a certain risk I take. Putting my name and face on a show that’s shown around the world to millions of viewers was definitely a scary thought. And it was definitely scary knowing that I could walk on the street and somebody could recognize me and then somebody next to them could hate me for it. It’s a unique experience where people want to love me, people want to protect me and people want to celebrate me, and how that also might put me in danger in certain situations.
DEADLINE: You were estranged from your dad because of your transition. Did you approach him before doing the show to let him know the Fab Five would want him to appear?
FLORES: No, Karamo did a lot of the work. I spoke to my mom a little bit before the show. Back then I was going through the height of my transition, all the major changes. So I was keeping things at a very low contact with everybody in my life. I was extremely grateful that the producers went out of their way to contact my family, to contact my dad and have conversations with him. Ultimately, Karamo had conversations with him that were on the show.
DEADLINE: The episode captures you and your dad reuniting after a year apart. How did you feel about it?
FLORES: No amount of editing changed anything about the show. Every single moment was absolutely genuine. I was freaking out and shaking. To have him walk in and see his kid who looks extremely different and who has really come into herself … I was really nervous. My dad felt the same way. And ultimately, like he said on the show, he just needed his kid. Ultimately, loving his kid is what mattered in the end. In that year that we hadn’t seen each other, he was doing all the work that he could do to at least learn a little bit more. I’d like to reassure people that even though we weren’t talking to each other, he was still doing the work and ultimately defending me to other people, people who had opinions about what I was doing. And ultimately it just came down to, ‘that’s my kid, and whatever they’re doing is what they’re doing.’
DEADLINE: So are you recognized when you walk down the street now?
FLORES: Oh, all the time. I’m actually in Seattle right now and I’ve walked into two stores and was recognized. It’s definitely a very new experience for me to be recognized on almost every street corner sometimes. I mean, the very first message I got [after the episode dropped] was from a girl in Malaysia who had just watched, and for the very first time had questions about herself and had a new outlook on how she saw her future. The second message I got was from a mom who DM’ed me on Instagram and said, ‘Hey, my eight year old just sat on the couch and watched your episode. I saw them visibly relax because they saw somebody like them on screen.’ I mean, that message in of itself just broke me down. And since then, it’s been more of that every day, all the time.
Queer Eye is up for six Emmys next month, including Outstanding Structured Reality Program and Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program. If Queer Eye wins its fifth consecutive award for Outstanding Structured Reality Program this year, it will set the record for the most wins ever in the category.
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