In our series, Note to Self, we hear from stylist Tan France. He's best known for his role as the fashion expert on the Netflix series Queer Eye. The award-winning reality program has been recognized for its celebration of diversity and acceptance in the LGBTQ community.
In his recently released memoir, Naturally Tan, France details his life before the show's success. In a letter to his childhood self, France shares his own journey to acceptance.
For the longest time, you've thought you'd have to fake who you are. As a child growing up in a small English town, you were sometimes attacked for simply being brown. The fear of racism was constant, you grew up learning to hide any trait that might give away your sexuality. Just dealing with your ethnicity was problem enough.
Now, at 17, you think you need to run away from the world that you've grown up in, because you are a gay Pakistani man. It's getting to be time to start considering marriage to a woman, and you're afraid people will start to figure you out. You feel frantic about having to hide who you are. Do not settle.
Everything is about to change.
Soon, you'll discover Salt Lake City, a place where you feel more comfortable than you've ever felt before. There, you'll meet the perfect person and fall in love. Though in some ways you and Rob couldn't be more different -- he was raised Mormon and grew up as a cowboy on a legit ranch -- you'll find that you have the same values. He will understand you better than anyone.
You'll want to uproot your whole life to be with him. Moving to America is a huge decision. Go with your heart. Take the risk.
You and Rob will go into marriage with the same expectations -- that divorce is not an option, and your commitment is for life. Your husband will show you what it means to feel acceptance and unconditional love.
You are desperately ambitious. Within the first few weeks in the U.S., somebody will offer you a job that allows you to stay here. You'll start your fashion business decades earlier than expected. There will be many hard times, and many bad times, but that doesn't mean it's time to give up. When bad things happen, experience them, accept them for what they are, and then allow them to push you harder to create the life that you truly want.
There will come a time when the pressure becomes too much, and your anxiety and depression will consume you. One day, when driving home from work, you'll consider driving off a bridge. Younger self: you need to calm the f*ck down. You've taken on way too much and you think there is no way out. You fear that this is the end of everything. But it is not. You will find a way out of this darkness.
Soon -- much sooner than you think -- you'll get a call from a thing called Netflix (Don't worry, it's totally legit and will be bigger than you ever imagined). This call will change your life. They'll ask you to be the fashion expert on a show called Queer Eye. You worry about being openly gay on a public platform, where you could bring shame to your family and community back in the U.K. But you'll also know that it could be good for the wider community you represent.
Life will change very quickly. You'll be so bloody glad that you took on a show that is met with such acceptance from so many places. You'll never expect that a Pakistani boy would win an Emmy for being on a show about being openly gay, but that's exactly what will happen.
It may seem hard to believe, but one day, just by doing the things you love, just by being comfortable in your own skin, you will help others live authentically. You'll live your life completely and openly, you will feel powerful and you'll inspire the world around you.