Honey, when I saw you pick up yours earlier, I was jealous. I’m ready. This is my little beer cocktail.
I do. I was raised with a lot of lesbians and they would force me to drink beers.
Listen, it has been a roller coaster of emotions. One moment I think, “Oh, I got this, we’re going to handle this. The pandemic’s almost over. I’m good,” and then the next day I think, “Girl, I can’t deal with this mask. My kids are on my nerves. I can’t watch one more TikTok. I can’t do it. I’m not going to try to pretend I know how to make bread anymore.” It’s a roller coaster. It’s okay to acknowledge that we’re going up and down. Some days we’re happy, some days we’re sad, some days we’re afraid because there’s still this uncertainty. But then there’s some days where we just feel hopeful. Like today, we can have a cocktail, “A Drink With Live!,” and work it out.
Of course. It’s a good reminder that if you’re with anybody who pretends like everything is okay all the time, that’s the person you need to be checking in on the most. Because sometimes we forget that our strongest friends are dealing with so much pressure. I always make an effort to check in, especially with my strong female friends, asking, “Hey, you okay?” Because society forces women to put on this, “Be strong all the time. Everything’s good. I’m fine. I got all of this,” act. Check in on those strong friends and say, “It’s okay to release right now. You don’t have to fully break down if you don’t feel comfortable. You don’t have to share everything if you don’t feel comfortable, but know I’m available for you.” Then, secondly, if when you say to them, “It’s okay to not be okay,” they still continue to be okay, don’t you start picking up those behaviors. You got to run for your own safety, you got to run for your own health. You don’t want to start saying to yourself, “I’m going to pick up this behavior where I pretend like everything’s okay,” because that’s a slippery and unhealthy slope.
Can we get a “Queer Eye” update? Are you wrapped on Season 6? And how was shooting in Texas?
We’re fully wrapped, and the only part that I miss is not being with those four knuckleheads. Because Texas was hot, it was humid, it was mosquitoes. We were in Austin and Austin’s a beautiful place but listen, I feel like I can rag on Texas a little bit just because I was born and raised there. It’s the same thing I experienced growing up. Being black, being gay, being anything other… being a woman – [said] some of the crew – once you step outside of the big city and you start going into the rural areas, you find that there are individuals who still have views or beliefs that are limiting to my growth and to my freedom in this world. I thought being on an international show, “We’re never going to experience any of that.” You still experience those microaggressions. Sometimes little things, like seeing things in people’s front yards where I think, “Okay, I just need to back up.” With that being said, I loved every person we helped there [for Season 6]. Oh my gosh, we had some amazing transformations. Some of the best we’ve ever had. We keep getting better with the stories we’re telling. But, girl, I was ready to get out of Texas. I’m good. Bye Texas. Let me go. I’ll take the cold any day.
What do you say to anyone who is bummed out and down about the discord and divide our country is experiencing? Where is the love?
Well, I would say the same thing I said to myself, because I used to be an angry teenager, an angry 20-year-old. I didn’t know how to process the things that happened to me. Michael Jackson said it first, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change.” It’s really true. The thing I would say to anyone who feels this, the dissension is, first, just show yourself love. Be honest with yourself. Be vulnerable with yourself. Hug on yourself. Love you first. Then, bring that out to your small community, because sometimes it can get very overwhelming, wanting to change the world. And unfortunately, changing the world is a task that I don’t even think “Captain Planet” can take on at this point. I do know we can make small little changes with the people who are around us.
I really started focusing on this during the pandemic. Hanging with smaller groups of friends and having conversations about race issues or gender issues or sexual orientation issues, or political issues. I’d say, “Let’s talk about it together. And let’s be vulnerable enough to say, ‘I’m not going to get mad.’ Let’s go ahead and have a conversation because this is a safe environment.” Is that possible on Twitter, Instagram or in a large public discourse? Most likely not. But what I saw was growth with friends who I got to learn about in a new way. I got to understand where their viewpoints came from. They understood where my viewpoints came from, and we were able to help each other grow into being better people.
Some of my girlfriends, we had a conversation about Black Lives Matter, and these are women who I love, but who were very much like, “I don’t understand… All Lives Matter.” My initial response wanted to be, “Girl, you saw that on Instagram, I’m pissed.” But instead, and this is not an approach that I’m recommending for everyone, but in that case, I thought, “You know what? I have the time and the empathy in this moment to talk to you and educate you on what I’m feeling and what my experience is.”
Another small group of my friends all have kids that are still in school. We started to have conversations about why people don’t understand black history and what’s happened in this country. When you look at schools, it starts there. You see slavery, you see Martin Luther King, then you see Oprah and Obama. That’s what kids are taught when it comes to the experience of African Americans in this country. That’s what I was taught. That’s what we see. And we see it for one month and then maybe those four photos stay up, but we don’t talk about all the other systemic pieces. When I had that conversation with my friends, they realized, “Oh my gosh, I understand why the concept of ‘All Lives Matter,’ is problematic. I understand now because I wasn’t educated on this.” They started to go into their schools and ask, “Hey, can we have more photos up of black history? More than just these moments that you’re trying to define, instead of it just being slavery, civil rights and now everything is fine?” There are nuances in-between, there are things that are happening in-between. It’s the same thing with women’s rights. We don’t know what happened if we’re not told the story properly. I think through those conversations, I gained hope. So anybody out there trying to have these conversations, start with your small group. That might help you feel like, “Okay, things might be a little crappy, but we’ll get there.”
The education piece is vitally important. You have two boys in their early twenties. I have teens. It’s great they’re being born into this time but we need to educate them on where we’re coming from. How do you talk to your own kids about this?
I keep bringing up women and making the comparison of women’s rights. It’s because of a conversation I recently had with my son. My son Jason said to me, “I get it but I don’t understand. Women have equal jobs. You know? Like I lose out on jobs to women.” And I thought…. “Oh son. Let’s take it back. Let me help you really quickly understand systemically, what has happened to women.” We had real deep conversations about why there’s a pay gap, why there are still ongoing issues. And like you said, as parents we think, “Oh, it’s great that you’re born in this time where you have access to so much education.” But even with all of that, these kids are still stupid. And so, we have to educate them. I mean, I’m still learning too.
You’ve made a living out of dispensing advice. Brilliant, profound wisdom that we can all learn from. At home, things can be different. What is the hardest part about being a dad?
Right now, it’s trying to release my expectations of what I thought my sons should be or would be doing. It’s allowing them to live their lives, because I see them making choices and I think, “I know I taught you better than that. I know we spent all of seventh grade giving you this knowledge, this was the lesson of that year.” And then I see them as 20-year-olds, my youngest is 21 now, the oldest 24. I think, “What did I just miss? What are you doing with your career, or that decision or whatever?” They’re great kids. They don’t give me any problems. They’re doing good. They’re finding their own path, but I’m managing the expectations I had in my mind and sort of grieving a lot of what I wanted. That’s the biggest challenge for me right now, because I do give them advice. It’s funny, I’ll have a line of people come and get my advice. Their lives will change. I’m not saying this arrogantly. I come home and I tell my kids something and they’re like, “Okay…” I’m like, “You do know I get paid for this?! You might want to listen to me.” There’s this whole thing where it’s very hard to watch someone you love make choices that you don’t believe are going to be beneficial to their life. I’m sure you know this, Catt, because your kids are teens now. And so now they’re in that space where they’re making their own decisions. They’re dating who they want to date. They’re deciding what they want to do with their careers. And because we’ve been through it, we think, “No, not that date. Don’t take that one. I know where this goes. I know where that goes. Oh no, that group, the one you think you’re starting a business with… that’s not going anywhere. Or that gap year you want to take off, I know what’s going to happen.” It’s about having those conversations with myself so that I can allow my kids to be their own selves, without pressuring them to be what I was expecting them to be.
Sometimes you just have to say nothing, even though the natural instinct is to teach and to guide and to serve them. But they have to fail, that’s where a lot of those lessons are, in learning that for themselves.
I always tell them, “You don’t want to take my advice. I’m staying quiet on certain things but just remember one thing: failure is not the opposite of success. It’s part of it. If you can just continue to hold your self-esteem and know that if you fail, it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be successful or that you’re not successful. Just know that is the process of you becoming even more successful. That’s been the sort of guidance I’ve been giving them a lot now, when I see them doing something. I say, “Listen, if something happens, I’m here for you. And just remember, failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of it.” That’s my hope, please don’t let their self-esteem be affected by ‘fill the blank,’ because I know for a fact, this ain’t going to work out.
I love your confidence. I wish I had that much confidence. I’m a little softer with my kids. I need a little Karamo in me because I’d probably be more effective.
You are an effective mother, I’ve seen you with your children. You are that balance of stern and love that I actually admire. I just want to give you some praise on that.
Romantic relationships aren’t particularly my strength. You and your former fiancé did not make it to the altar. How are you doing now? Something tells me you’re in a good place because I saw you in the arms of some other dude on Instagram.
My little Latino boyfriend. Yo. Okay. He’s fine.
Do we want to bring Carlos into the conversation?
Listen, Carlos is in the conversation, he’s in the other room! The breakup with my ex, luckily, he and I are still friends. We were together for nine years. We were planning our wedding. Our engagement got drawn out for two years. The reason I would tell people, “Oh, we’re planning, we’re doing all these things,” was because he didn’t want me to admit that we were going through therapy. There were a lot of things that I wanted to figure out before we walked down the aisle. Are we in line for the next 40 years? Are we in line with our values of how we’re going to raise our family, our grandkids, if we have them? How are we going to align with what we do and what we want to do with our finances? Because now we’re fully joining together. There’s a marriage now. Are we in line with how we want to travel? Are we in line with sex? Which is a topic after you’ve been together for such a long time… are we thinking about trying something new? Are we thinking maybe should we go to a sex therapist? What comes next? Because you have to continuously do the work in these relationships. We were doing that work and I kept feeling so fraud and I can say it now and talk about it honestly.
You’re the first person I’ve honestly talked about it with, because every time I’d do an interview, he’d say, “Remember, do not say that our engagement is going on because of our work.” I’d say back, “You know I’m an open book, so I hate not being able to share,” but I wanted to respect him.
Through the therapy, it became abundantly clear to me that we weren’t aligned. I watched a relationship with my parents where they thought, “Well, we’re going to stay together because we’ve already put in all this time. We’ve already done it. So, you’re not going anywhere and I’m not going anywhere. I might not be happy. You’re not going to be happy, but we’re not going anywhere.” There was abuse in my parents’ relationship and they still stayed together. My mother was being beaten up by my father. I couldn’t imagine myself staying in a relationship, even though there was no emotional or physical abuse, where I was unhappy. I thought, “Why am I settling?”
There was this question I kept asking myself morning after morning after morning, and especially once the pandemic hit. I’d ask myself, “Is this what I deserve?” I kept thinking about this. “When I’m 41, is this what I deserve? Do I deserve not having the adventures I want? Do I deserve not having the sex I want? Do I deserve not having ‘fill in the blank?’” The more I kept asking, ”Is this what I deserve?” I found the courage to say, “No, this is not what I deserve.” Once I was finally able to admit that to myself, which in May, I got scared and I re-proposed [in May]. I was thinking, “What are you doing? Don’t do this, don’t do this. You’re about to wreck everything. You’re sabotaging your own life.”
I’m acknowledging this because there’s probably someone listening who is in that relationship and they’re finding the courage. Once they’re about to pull the trigger, they get nervous and they go back. The minute I re-pulled the trigger, I ran to the bathroom and I thought, “You failed yourself because you know what you deserve and you’re not giving it to yourself.” Then I went on a month-long journey of thinking, “Why am I afraid to get what I deserve?” I realized the answer for me was I wasn’t sure if it was real. What I kept saying I deserved, I wasn’t sure if it was real, because I didn’t have any examples of it. And so I kept thinking, “Well, this is good enough. I don’t know if what I deserve is real, so I’ll just stay with what I have.”
I had to start to believe it is real. Even if someone else can’t give it to me, I believe that I can give it to myself. The minute I started to believe this is when I said, “I’m sorry, but I got to break this up.” It was so hard for that month because we’re in a pandemic. We didn’t have work to go to. We just had to sit there, but because I was honest with myself and then honest with him, we remained friends.
I do want to make sure anybody listening knows, it’s not that simple where it’s just like, “Oh, I know what I deserve and great. I’m pulling the trigger.” I got scared, but then I realized, I can give what I deserve to myself even if someone else out there can’t, and that was my guidance to realize, “I can do this.”
Now with Carlos, if there’s something I think, “You know what? I can give myself this and that’s okay for me. If we can build this together, that’s great. But until I know for a fact that we can build all these things that I deserve that I’m giving to myself, we’re just going to have fun and we’re not going to put pressure on it until I know we can give each other what we deserve.” That’s the space I’m in now. Took me to 40 to figure that out, but I figured it out. Jesus, I figured it out.
Man, did that hit me when you said, “I never saw the example of what is possible in love.” You can fantasize, but then you get stuck because you almost get super cynical that it doesn’t exist. It’s this constant web. We lie to ourselves and that self-betrayal, that’s worse than anything, because then your self-worth plummets and you think you don’t deserve anything. Am I right?
Yes. Yes. Preach it. This is why I love talking to you because we know it. We’ve been through it. I think that the relationship conversations don’t get as candid as we’re getting right now because people want to give someone else hope. I do believe in hope, but I also believe in, “Let’s be real.” Especially with dating. I joined Tinder and everyone told me not to. The reason I joined Tinder is because Laverne Cox said to me “I found someone on Tinder. You can find someone on Tinder too.” I said, “People are not going to think it’s me because I’m on television.” She said, “It doesn’t matter. You weed those people out.”
So, I was on Tinder swiping. I was on a date every single day while I was in Austin. Let me be very clear because I’ve already been vaxed, but we were [doing] social distancing dates. My assistant was helping me set up picnics and things where we can be together but apart. I went on at least 40 dates with 40 guys. I’m not joking, I was that serious because I already did the work on myself. I thought, “Let me go out there and find someone.” These are the candid conversations about what it’s like today in dating. You just said you broke up with yours and you’re in that process. We know what it’s like in these trenches. We know what it’s like.
Trenches, but we are working through it.
And if you don’t put yourself out there, then how is the universe going to deliver you what you need? Now I’m just curious… did you meet Carlos on Tinder?
Let me tell you something. The day I deleted Tinder, I went to Instagram and was looking at beauty pages. I like to watch makeup and hair things because they relax me, even though I’m bald. He’s a beauty photographer. He shoots the makeup for Kylie Cosmetics, all these big brands. I saw his page and thought, “These are some beautiful shots.” I accidentally clicked a photo. He saw it and said, “Thank you for liking my work,” and that’s how we met. I wasted all my time with these whack Tinder dates and went to go look at a profile that had no photos of his face, only makeup photos, and that’s how I found my man. Wasn’t even looking.
You didn’t even know how fine he was. You just knew that he was talented.
Did not know, did not know and did not know for about three days because it took me about three days of chatting casually through DMs thinking, “You could be a weirdo or could be whatever,” so I asked him, “Can we do a FaceTime through Instagram?” And that FaceTime popped up, baby, okay. “Hi. Hi, I wasn’t even cute for you!”
[Audience Q/A – Lauren]
Your faith is a very important aspect of your life. I’m wondering, as a queer person myself raised in a religious household, how do you approach this intersection of your identity and faith?
Thank you for opening up and sharing. I like to meet anybody who is part of the queer family. For me, it was about reconciling my relationships with people versus my relationship with a religion. I realized that my relationship with organized religion was never healthy. Even to this day, I still haven’t found an organized religion that felt healthy to me. I did realize that my relationship with people who are spiritual, who are loving, that is what I’m clinging to more. Early on I had to fight against so many people who would tell me and use the Bible to hurt me. I’m not a theologian or anything like that but I did study the Bible enough to know the text and be able to understand Sodom and Gomorrah. One of those things we all hear is actually not about homosexuality at all, it’s about pedophilia. So, I’d say, “Don’t use this against me.” I realized, reading the text, that none of the text is about fighting. It’s all about love. I’m using my energy to fight this organized religion. It’s not what I need to be a part of. It’s the same thing that we should just do in our personal lives with understanding that it’s okay to set boundaries with people or institutions that you have in your life. If you don’t serve me with love, then it’s okay for me to take a step away from you. I’m good with being like, “Hey auntie, you know what? You’re really toxic. You’re really negative. I’m okay with stepping away from you.”
It was the same thing with that. I do call myself religious, but in a spiritual way where I connect with people and I use love as the guiding practice. I’d say to you, continue to set those boundaries and think, “If you’re trying to hurt me, then you’re not for me.” Always keep your heart open to finding the love that you need, whether it’s in religion or within spirituality or just in connection with people, because we all do need that connection
[Audience Q/A – Georgie]
You are so amazing at identifying what people need to change in their own lives on “Queer Eye.” What’s a good way for us to look inward and identify what we need to change in our lives?
Ooh, well, there’s something that I say to myself; a mantra that I use because I live my personal life in mantras. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This allows me to take a look at what I am outwardly so obsessed with, or that I think I must have. It’s what’s keeping me from looking on the inside to what I really need. Earlier tonight, I was talking about my relationship and my engagement that broke off. I was so busy talking about the love we had and showing that we’re happy. And look, we have the kids and all the things that we all do. The “instagram life” we wanted to present. I realized that comparing myself to this version was not allowing me to see what I was really missing.
And so, I would just tell you to look at the things that you’re comparing your life to and realize that these things might be stealing your joy. The thing that you’re telling yourself you must get, you must have. Tell yourself that, actually, what I really need, right now, is just to sit with myself and figure out what makes me happy. What makes me smile. When was the last time you thought about what really makes you really happy? When’s the last time?
I don’t know. That’s the thing, I don’t know.
The thing is, you’re not alone, girlfriend. Seriously, that’s something that I have to say to myself. I don’t sit a lot and ask myself, “What makes me happy?” I’m really good at figuring out what makes the person I’m dating happy. I’m really good at being there for my friends and making sure that they’re happy. But I don’t take enough time to just wake up and ask, “What’s going to make me happy today?” I would encourage you, because I see the light shining from you, to say to yourself, “Today I’m going to start taking a little bit more time to focus on what makes me happy.” That’s going to help you to really slowly but confidently start to figure out what’s good for you and what’s on the inside that you need to work on and grow through.
Go through and glow through. One last question. We all look to you for this wisdom. Who is someone you look to for your own growth?
I have four older sisters and I was raised by my mom. I don’t look just to one person. I constantly look to women. I tell people all the time that the closest thing we have on this earth to God is women. My sex… not to be a traitor to my gender, but we screwed it up. Sometimes I think, “Can we just give up the reins and really realize who should be in control and running every single thing?” I find strength, vulnerability and love from so many different women in my life.
I was talking to my best friend today who is dating somebody that they shouldn’t be dating. I said, “In the great words of philosopher Cardi B: ‘Broke boys don’t deserve no uh.” Because I told her, “You over here about to have sex with this man and he does not check one thing off of your list: financial stability, honesty about his credit, honesty about where he lives. These are the things that matter to you, yet you are over here about to give up the goods for somebody who doesn’t even check off your list. Girl, don’t do it.”
From Cardi B to politicians to authors, these are the empowering women that I look to. Thank you for having the strength to be stronger than me and more vulnerable than me. And to be happy and to be sad and to do everything that sometimes I feel limited in. Who I look to is women. I look to you.