In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month, Queer Eye Culture Expert Karamo Brown dropped by T-Mobile’s Bellevue, WA headquarters to take part in the company’s ongoing Talking with Trailblazers guest-speaker series—which features some of the brightest, most innovative, creative and diverse leaders from across the country talking about topics that matter. For the Netflix star, a trained social worker and psychotherapist, those ranged from learning to love oneself to the importance of being there for others, and the good fortune of having a platform to reach and help so many.
“Queer Eye is the most amazing experience in my life,” he told the audience. “Not only because it’s bridging my career being a social worker and psychotherapist with my passion for being on television, but also because I can show the effect of empathetic listening, and how just sitting there and really listening to somebody without having a response is so important.”
Of course, the avid listener also dispenses tons of valuable advice worth hearing. Here are eight more essential Trailblazer Takeaways from Karamo Brown.
Let people in, but on (and with) your own terms.
“I don’t use the term ‘coming out.’ I use the term ‘letting people in.’ I don’t hate on anybody who uses the term coming out. I just believe that language is very important, and when I hear the term ‘coming out,’ it gives the power to someone else to accept or deny me. The only person I’m worried about accepting me is myself. For me, the term coming out also tells members of the LGBTQI community that they can’t set boundaries on who they want to let into their lives. I have many straight friends, and none of them have to make these grand pronouncements to strangers about the intimate aspects of their lives. I’m thinking, ‘Why all the sudden do I have to make this grand pronouncement at Thanksgiving to that aunt I haven’t talked to in 4 years?’ It doesn’t mean that I’m not proud of who I am, or that I’m ashamed. It just means that I understand that I have the power to say, ‘Yes, I want to invite you in, or no, I don’t want to invite you in.’ I own that. And so do you.”
Sometimes you need to move friends and loved ones to the cheap seats. “As we go through life, we need to constantly re-evaluate our tribes and the people around us. Sometimes we get into relationships and friendships with people for years, and we don’t realize that a person should no longer be in the front row of our lives, they should be way up in the balcony. We may feel like, ‘Oh, well, I’ve known you since high school, or I’ve known you since I was born, so I have to be in this environment where you are going to make me feel worse about myself.’ We don’t.”
If it’s hysterical, it’s historical. “For all of us, there are moments in our lives where we are not acting like the person we want to be—we’re acting out at others instead. It almost always comes from something that’s happened in our past. We have to think critically when this happens, which is hard for almost all of us. For example, I’m mad at someone because I think something is their fault. Really what’s usually happening is that this person in front of you is bringing about an emotion that is strong for you because there’s been some part of your past that it’s reminding you of, and you felt violated then, so you’re feeling violated now. But the only way to not have this continue over and over again is to think to yourself, ‘Well, what was the first time this happened? And is there a way that I can heal that part of my past?’ So I encourage everyone in these moments to pause and use critical thinking about what’s happening: ‘Why am I acting hysterical? And is that coming from my past?’”
To be successful in life, you only have to be 1 percent better today than you were yesterday. “We forget that any behavior we have, we practice daily. Especially believing negative thoughts about ourselves. We practice believing that we’re not a good mom. We practice believing that our hair is not beautiful. In order to change these kinds of thoughts also takes practice—which can seem overwhelming. The good news is, we only have to practice changing 1 percent a day. That’s all it takes. One positive statement in the mirror in the morning. And then what happens is that after a while of practicing that, it becomes our truth. Our very first guy in season 1 of Queer Eye, Tom Jackson, had practiced telling himself every single day he was ugly, and so he didn’t deserve love. “You can’t fix ugly,” he’d say. It was heartbreaking. But to eventually see this man who was almost 70 find out that he actually didn’t have to give up on life was so special. And all it took was that 1 percent a day.”
It’s okay to recharge your battery. “We live in a social media age where everything is ‘now.’ But think about your cell phone, and how you patiently wait for each bar to charge back, right? Be that patient with yourself. This is your journey, take it at your own pace. Before you allow yourself to feel all that pressure of having to conquer the world every day, just think to yourself, ‘You know what, I’m that cell phone. I’m on zero percent right now, and here I go with my first bar. This is my first battery charge in a full month or two.’ Take it at your own pace, and don’t feel like you have to rush that charge for your life too quickly.”
Take “Pride” in speaking up for others. “I think sometimes in the LGBTQI community we get too caught up in the rainbow, literally and figuratively. We forget that after Pride, there are many people who go on social media apps to find love and are told that they’re less than because of their weight, their race, their gender identity—because of whatever. When you hear ignorance that feeds the inequality in private spaces, you got to really speak up. Both allies and people within this community.”
Write it all down. “A lot of times, people tell you to write down your goals—but you should write down your worries as well. Oftentimes releasing things is the first step in healing. By seeing your worries, fears, or your challenges right in front of you, you can say, ‘I see now, let me just focus on this one.’ Then you can start to tackle them one by one.”
Comparison is the thief of joy. “You can’t compare your journey to someone else’s journey. A lot of times, the anxiety we feel not only comes from negative messages, but it comes from this fear of missing out (FOMO). We find ourselves comparing ourselves to others. You have to take that pressure off of yourself. The things that are for you are for you, and will reveal themselves in the right time.”
Seasons 1-3 of Queer Eye are now streaming on Netflix—and season 4 is set to premiere on July 19! Stay tuned here for more Trailblazer Takeaways!