Family

When Your Dad Is Queer Eye’s Karamo

Featuring Jason Brown, 21, and Christian Brown, 18.

Karamo Brown.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos courtesy of Karamo Brown.

In this series, kids (and not-exactly-kids-anymore) review how well their parents balance life and work. To nominate a potential subject, ideally between the ages of 5 and 17, email humaninterest@slate.com.

Jason Brown, 21, and Christian Brown, 18, live in Los Angeles with their father, Karamo Brown, who stars on Netflix’s Queer Eye.

Rachelle Hampton: Obviously Karamo is on the show Queer Eye. But if you had to explain what your dad did for work to someone who had no idea what the show was, what would you say?

Jason Brown: I’d say he’s the guy who makes you cry. He is literally the guy who will make you cry even if you’re, like, happy.

Christian Brown: Basically I agree with what my brother said, but to me, he’s more of a life coach in a way. The way he’s helping them and the way they have deep talks, he talks to them about their life and actually evaluates it.

Before he was working on Queer Eye, what was he doing?

Christian: He’s always been a people person, he’s always been helping people. So before he was basically doing the same thing he does on the show but like, in real life.

Jason: For example, with me, I’m trying to pursue my dreams of being a host and an executive producer right now and my dad is literally the most supportive person I could probably have in my corner when it comes to helping with that.

Can you tell me about your relationship with your mom?

Jason: It’s phenomenal. My mom and I have a great relationship. We talk every single day, she is on board and she loves the Queer Eye show. She’s very supportive of me and my brother, him becoming a rapper and myself joining the entertainment industry. She’s a funny woman. I love my mom.

What does she do for work?

Jason: She actually doesn’t want us to disclose that information.

That’s totally fair. What do you think stresses your dad out the most about work?

Christian: I think it’s the plane rides. He gets off the plane, and he doesn’t feel the best.

Jason: I would hope that it’s being away from his family and his two lovely sons. I know I get a little stressed out whenever he’s not here. Life gets a little out of order, and me and Christian kind of go crazy.

How often is he gone now? I assume he has to travel a lot for work.

Jason: He’s gone pretty much a lot of the time nowadays. It’s awesome you know because it’s more success and more opportunities that he’s getting into, but we would literally love to have him around like we used to have.

Christian: I can totally agree to that and relate to that. My father, he’s just starting to travel so much, it’s so crazy, it’s amazing.

What was your dad’s parenting style like when you guys were younger? Was he strict? Was he a cool, fun dad?

Jason: Rachelle, I’m going to totally go ahead and say it was strict. It was totally strict. There were complete moments where my dad was the coolest dad, he took us go-carting, he took us laser-tagging, he rented out so many places. He’s actually a really cool dad if you follow what he has to say.

Christian: A lot of kids think it’s bad when their parents are strict, but I think as a child I needed that from my parents, or at least from my dad. I needed that because that helped me create self-discipline, so I know some things I can’t do and some things I can.

Can you remember one time he was really strict?

Jason: I don’t know how this happened, but one day we both got suspended from school. [Christian] was in elementary and I was in middle school, and literally he picked both of us up and made us, right outside of my school, work out in front of all our friends and everybody saw us. It was so embarrassing. That’s our punishment, working out. We don’t necessarily work out as much, but when it comes to him, it gets to military-style working out.

That’s a really funny punishment. 

Jason: It’s funny now, but it was so embarrassing. I was looking so weak in front of my friends and crying with my dad over me: “500 more push-ups.”

Wow. Did he have rules for you around phone usage or social media or anything like that?

Jason: My dad didn’t let me have a Facebook until I graduated middle school so that’s how strict social media was and is still. I didn’t get a Facebook until I graduated eighth grade, and then after that, every social media platform I had he follows me on, just to make sure that I was being safe. Because as his career grows, he has fans that would follow us and he just wants to make sure that we’re going to be OK and that we can handle ourselves.

Since your dad’s the culture expert on Queer Eye, do you feel like you have a pressure to be more cultured than all your friends?

Jason: Yeah, I would say I’m already cultured and cool literally because of my dad. He gives us so many history lessons and he has swag. I don’t know if you’ve seen the show, but he has swag.

Oh, definitely.

Jason: Like father, like son, you know? I was not falling too far from the tree over here.

Christian: I can relate to that too. I would be around my friends just trying to tell them things to motivate them or just trying to be positive or just trying to be a leader. I like to be that guy, that role to me is the best role ever. It’s really cool to me, the other day one of my best friends told me that I was starting to remind them of my dad because of the way that I was talking to them.

I will say that when you started talking, I immediately thought: Wow, they sound like Karamo.

Jason: We get that a lot.

What’s it like to shop with your dad? He is an incredible dresser.

Christian: He lets us experiment and wear whatever we want. Also being an artist, I have to have my own style, my style is really fresh, it’s really dope, I like it. So I would say that what my dad did, letting me express myself when I was younger and wear whatever I wanted to wear, helped me develop a sense of what style I want.

Jason: As for me, I would say whenever I’m going on sets with my father or auditioning for anything, he helps me out with figuring out how to fit the look that I’m going out for. He totally gives us some good points when it comes to fashion. Especially with the bombers and stuff that he has.

Yes, he has amazing bombers. So a lot of what your dad talks about on Queer Eye is about how it feels to move through life as a black man, and how he dresses to present a certain image. Did he ever talk to you about any of that?

Jason: That’s one of the more important lessons my dad has always impressed on us: how we’re being perceived in this country as black men, Whenever I go out, in the back of my head there’s a voice that sounds just like my dad telling me, Hey watch what you’re doing, look out for yourself.

Christian: You’re a king.

Jason: Yeah. You’re a king, don’t do extras, don’t do anything that’s going to get you in trouble.

Did you guys get to visit him on set?

Jason: No, I was actually working that whole summer so I could only FaceTime him and Christian was doing the same thing. This summer though, we’ll go.

When I would call him on his downtime on set, he would literally just be with Bobby or Tan and you would hear them in the background just laughing and having an amazing time.

Have you guys met the rest of the Fab Five?

Jason: Yeah, we have, of course.

Aside from your dad, who’s your favorite?

Jason: Bobby Berk.

Christian: BOBBY!!

Jason: Bobby, we love Bobby.

Christian: Bobby, Bobby, Bobby.

Jason: I also like Jonathan, too. I like his hair.

His hair is incredible. I was watching an interview with your dad and he says that he has a photo of Tan France just sitting in the house. Is this true?

Christian: Yes, yes, he does. When I walked in the house one day I was like Dad, you seriously have this? Are you serious with this? He’s like, Yes. Yes.

What do you guys interpret your dad’s role as “culture” expert on Queer Eye to mean? 

Jason: I would have to say, guider. Just like the way with my life and my career, he’s [always] guiding. When it comes to me being an actor or producer, he’s guiding me because he’s been there.

Christian: I could say the same thing too. There will be times where I just start rapping to my dad and then I’ll go write some stuff. He’ll give me an idea or I’ll show him something like, Hey Dad, what do you think about this verse? So basically he’s trying to help me be the best I can be and I really appreciate that and I love him dearly for it.

Jason: I would also reiterate that I also get a sense of confidence from my dad too. He literally gives me so much confidence to do anything.

Why do you guys think he’s particularly good at that guiding role?

Jason: I would probably say because of the social work he used to do, and just naturally because he’s a caring and loving person. A genuine guy, honestly.

What do you think is your dad’s favorite part of his job?

Jason: The most obvious one is making people cry, making everyone at home cry their socks off.

Christian: Can I tell you, at the premiere, how hard I was crying? I was crying pretty hard.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock and courtesy of Karamo Brown.
Christian, Karamo, and Jason Brown.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock and courtesy of Karamo Brown.

What’s your favorite episode?

Jason: The A.J. story is my favorite, it literally made me cry crocodile tears, man. I was so mad at [my dad].

Christian: My favorite one was when they went to the firehouse. It was pretty funny.

What do you think of your dad’s performance on the show? Does he seem about the same as he does at home?

Jason: I would say that it’s about the same, but I don’t know how to explain this without sounding a little crazy—he’s a little bit more gay, if that’s possible. He seems a little bit more gay than he normally does, or more flamboyant.

Christian: I think it’s just natural, it’s him being himself and naturally him.

Do your friends watch the show?

Christian: Oh yeah.

Jason: All of them. And there so many people from high school hitting me up, like Oh my gosh, I love your dad’s new show, and I’m like, I had no idea you existed or how you figured out this is my dad. But thank you so much. We were actually at a rally one time and Christian literally got recognized by people for being Karamo’s son.

That’s wild. Does your dad ever work on the weekends?

Jason: Sometimes he does a little bit of work, but mostly those are just relaxing days for him. Yesterday I know it was a major day for him to catch up on some sleep and just chill out, order like two boxes of pizza and soda. He stayed in his room and watched TV. I could not argue with that.

Would you say he has a good work-life balance overall?

Christian: It’s great.

Jason: Completely. He has time for his career, and he has so much time for his family, which is awesome. It’s really great that he can help us out. When it comes to me and my career, he’s doing everything that I want to do, and he’s producing shows and all that. I don’t mind sitting there and watching him send 40 million emails or create something. Because doing that is literally my goal.

Read more from the Slate series My Parents’ Work-Life Balance.

When Your Dad Is Wu-Tang’s RZA

When One Parent Is a Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist and the Other’s a Stay-at-Home Mom

When Your Mom Is “Tiger Mother” Amy Chua