Every time I read a celebrity biography, I feel like I have to preface it by pointing out that I don’t read a lot of celebrity bios, and the ones I read tend to be unusual in some way (either the way the book is written, or the celeb themselves) so I feel like it’s a genre I’m not that up on the conventions of. I will absolutely confess that the main reason I used one of my audiobook credits to download a memoir by Tan France, the “fashion guy” on the show Queer Eye, is that I love listening to his voice. Frankly, I would listen to almost anyone from the north of England (as well as anyone Scottish or Irish) read me the dictionary, so a gay Pakistani-British man from the north of England telling me his life story was bound to be something I’d want to listen to, even if I don’t watch every single episode of Queer Eye because it plays into so many of the reality-TV tropes I don’t love. (I find it’s good in small snippets).
In many ways, Naturally Tan is much more like a classic celebrity autobiography than I’m used to — the tone is light and breezy, even when discussing very serious issues, and there are huge chunks of Tan’s story that he just skips lightly over or doesn’t dig into at all (like, he talks about how, because of his cultural background, he knew coming out to his family would be difficult, but he doesn’t actually tell the story of coming out to them or how they responded to it or what his relationship with them is like today. He is married to a man he describes as a “Mormon cowboy” and he obviously values how his Muslim background his husband’s Mormon background fit well together in terms of things like not drinking, and not considering divorce as an option — but doesn’t get into how either of them fit their religious heritage together with their lives as out gay men who would be rejected by a lot of people in both those communities). As is often the case with memoirs I read, the gaps are not really flaws in Tan’s storytelling but just a function of him not telling the exact story I wanted to hear.
The one subject he does get quite serious and even mildly heated about is racism — both the racism he experienced growing up in the UK, and the racism he sees today living in the US. He obviously feels very strongly about the importance of representation of people of colour in the media and sees himself as an ambassador in that role. And, of course, there’s lots of sassy fashion advice, which ranges from the somewhat-useful to the completely ridiculous (I’m no fashion icon, but I don’t think the reason North American women like fit-n-flare style dresses is just because they want to hide their hips, as Tan insists is the case).
If I’d been reading this on the page I might have lost interest with the general “ladies, your sassy gay friend is going to tell you how to dress, date and generally conduct your life” tone sprinkled in amidst the personal life story — but if Tan France is going to read it to me, I consider it a pretty good use of an audiobook credit.