Newseum > Free Expression Awards
Celebrity designer, Bobby Berk is best known as the design guru on Netflix’s Queer Eye, but his rise to fame didn’t happen overnight. Originally hailing from Texas, Bobby dreamed of the big city and moved to New York in 2003 with only a few dollars to his name and no job in sight. After working his way up in retail at Bed Bath & Beyond and Restoration Hardware to a Creative Director position at Portico Home + Spa, Berk decided that it was time to create his own brand. Since 2006, Bobby Berk Home’s retail division has consistently provided customers with a unique approach to modern design. Epitomizing hip, minimalist urban luxury, Berk’s designs reflect a stylish and youthful spirit that perfectly fits any cool, relaxed lifestyle.
Tan France is the successful entrepreneur behind several international clothing ventures including the brand Kingdom and State. He had never planned to appear on television, but the chance to star on Queer Eye was something he saw as tremendously valuable—a once-in-a-lifetime chance to strike a positive blow for representation.
France always dreamed of a career in fashion. Growing up, he’d spend summers working in his grandfather’s denim factory. He secretly enrolled in fashion college and had been attending classes for some time before he got up the nerve to tell his parents. After graduating in fashion design, specializing in menswear, Tan went on to design and manage operations for number of major brands, across Europe and Asia.
He is part of a vanguard LGBTQ generation that refuses to be easily categorized and his fashion sensibility has the same rebellious streak. He absorbs the essence of his clients’ personalities, finds the hook that makes them uniquely them, in the process he elevates their entire look with authenticity.
Originally from England, France now makes his home in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Karamo Brown is the Queer Eye culture expert: a former licensed social worker and physcotheapist, a community leader and a world traveler. Brown is no stranger to reality television—he broke barriers as the first openly gay black man on reality TV when he appeared on season 15 of MTV’s long-running hit series, The Real World in 2004.
On Queer Eye, his chief aim is to guide the show’s heroes in adjusting their mindsets, healing emotionally so that they can move forward to truly live their best life.
Brown was raised in Houston, Texas by his Jamaican parents. He grew up to value the importance of cultural heritage and how to use it to connect with others. He’s held jobs ranging from hosting a series for Oprah Winfrey to a job as a social worker for the homeless. Such experiences have led to invitations to join policy discussions at the Obama White House on LGBTQ issues and guest columns for The Advocate.
Brown’s greatest achievement has been tackling fatherhood. A single father to two sons, now 21 and 18, Brown is also excited to serve as a positive role model as a parent and a gay man of color.
Jonathan Van Ness is a hairstylist and self-care advocate who grew up in rural West Central Illinois. In order to realize his dream of becoming a hairdresser, he dropped out of college and trained as a stylist at the respected Aveda Institute in Minneapolis. He later moved to Los Angeles and studied his craft at the renowned Sally Hershberger salon.
Van Ness is known to a huge cross-section of viewers for his hilarious web series Gay of Thrones. In fact, the viral web series earned Emmy nominations in 2016 and 2018. He also hosts a weekly podcast Getting Curious, which scored a #1 spot on the iTunes podcast charts, and was listed as one of the Top Podcasts of 2018 by Time Magazine.
2018 was a breakthrough year for Van Ness, who has realized a new passion for the art of standup comedy. Coming off of a successful comedy tour, Van Ness is gearing up to embark on his first worldwide comedy tour “Jonathan Van Ness: Road to Beijing” with Live Nation. In his free time, Van Ness has been actively training to become…a person who can figure skate.
Van Ness loves being a part of Queer Eye’s mission, loves his sisterhood with the Fab Five, and is excited to continue to bring more visibility to the LGBTQ community and the issues they face.
He currently lives in NY.
As the Queer Eye food & wine connoisseur, Antoni Porowski brings with him a lifelong passion for food and a history of catering private events in and around New York. Originally from Canada, Antoni was bitten by the culinary bug at a young age as he discovered the joy cooking brings from the likes of Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, Anthony Bourdain, and – most importantly – his own mother. A self-taught cook, Antoni went to work in restaurants from Montreal to New York City where he continued to hone his craft and find his place in the culinary world. While in New York, Antoni found an inspired mentor in the original Fab Five food and wine expert Ted Allen. His work with Allen, combined with his university degree in psychology, uniquely influenced his underlying culinary philosophy: food should tell a story and the heart and the stomach are inter-connected.
Since joining Netflix’s Fab Five, Antoni has brought this philosophy at a local-level to The Village Den, the Manhattan eatery where he is part owner, and across the country at speaking engagements among top Universities. His upcoming cookbook, Antoni in the Kitchen, is slated for release Fall 2019. Antoni has graced the covers of Gay Times, Out Magazine, Attitude Magazine, and Entertainment Weekly, where he and his fellow Fab Five were listed among 2018’s Entertainers of the Year. A finalist for People’s Choice Reality TV Star of 2018 and winner of Eater’s 2018 #Brand of the Year, Antoni continues to connect with audiences the world over.