Last week, Karamo Brown, the first openly gay black man on a reality TV show, came to SLU as a speaker for the Great Issues Committee in collaboration with Rainbow Alliance and Black Student Alliance.
Brown is best known for his culture expert role in the mega-hit Netflix series, “Queer Eye.” The show is centered around the idea of helping everyday people become the best versions of themselves. Brown plays a key role in this show because he helps these everyday people improve internally by focusing on the social and cultural aspects of their lives. At the GIC event, Brown reflected on the trials and joys he experienced in his life that shaped him into who he is today and gave him the desire to make an impact on others.
From the start, Brown distinguished himself from other guest speakers by introducing the interviewers instead of vice versa and pulling his chair closer to the students. Zahva Naeem, host of the event and Associate Chair of GIC, said, “The ability to establish that rapport so quickly and to show that he was genuinely excited to be there was one of the most impactful things about him coming.” Brown’s authenticity and kindness are what stood out about him the most, Naeem said.
Brown spoke on his intersectional identity with the audience. As a black, gay man, as the son of an abusive father, as a social worker and as the father of two kids, he showed the audience the importance of proudly embracing these characteristics. Each of his numerous identities individually play an integral role in his life and holistically makes him who he is.
“Karamo described how realizing that you’re not just defined to one identity can help you realize your own positives which will push you toward self-improvement,” said Vandana Mishra, a freshman in attendance.
He then explained how he combined his two passions, acting and social work, to reach a larger audience. “Brown talked about how by being on the show, he learned how to listen and be present for each person,” Naeem stated.
On “Queer Eye,” many tears are shed by contestants because Brown is able to reach and connect to people on a deeper level. Still, Brown explained the depth of his own struggles and how he overcame them by accepting his identity.
At the meet and greets after the show, Brown established a quick connection with every person and told them he loves them and is proud of them. Naeem said, “Brown was received by SLU with open arms and love.”
Despite going through many hardships and struggles in his life, Brown worked hard to overcome them, setting a great example for SLU students in attendance.
“Having someone like Karamo, who has such a great influence and dedicates his life to this work, was so important for him to be able to tell us his story,” Mishra stated.
Overall, the lasting impression that Karamo Brown left on SLU is to appreciate ourselves, appreciate others, have empathy and listen more.