Queer Eye for the Straight Guy debuted on television in 2003 on Bravo.
It starred the "Fab Five," each with a different specialty. Ted Allen was the expert on food, Kyan Douglas was in charge of grooming, Thom Filicia did interior design, Carson Kressley was the fashion guru and Jai Rodriguez spotlighted culture. The group visited other people's spaces across the country to enhance their livesand quickly became a cultural phenomenon, earning an Emmy in 2004 for Outstanding Reality Program.
The group gathers together once again, this time for E! Entertainment with Reunion Road Trip: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, to reconnect after many years. When Rodriguez turns 40, a celebration is made in true Queer Eye style to surprise the birthday boy in front of cameras.
Filicia flew in from New York for the special event, taking a break from his successful interior design empire. His Thom Filicia Home Collection includes furniture, textiles and much more. His flagship showroom, Sedgwick & Brattle, is located at The New York Design Center.
He talked with Windy City Times about the upcoming special and current projects shortly before the premiere.
Windy City Times: When did you shoot this Reunion Road Trip episode?
Thom Filicia: We shot it about six months ago. It was in the chain for about a year. The whole thing happened very organically. We thought it would be really fun to surprise him with a party, so it all worked out.
WCT: Can you believe Jai Rodriguez is 40 years old?
TF: Believing he is 40 years old is also believing that I am 50 years old! [Laughs] It's a Catch-22.
When we shot Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, we were all about 10 years older than Jai. He was like our little brother. I would duct tape him to chairs and lock him in closets. We would pull pranks like brothers tend to do to each other.
We wanted to do something for his 40th birthday and we are always looking for excuses to get together. It is very hard to get all of our schedules to sync because Jai is in LA, Kyan is in Florida, [and] Carson, Ted and I are in New York City. This was a great opportunity to take advantage of. We surprised him because he thought we were just having dinner.
Ted was with us remotely because of travel reasons, but it all worked out.
WCT: The show reminded me of the recent original Real World reunion series where Eric Nies had COVID and had to be beamed in remotely the whole time.
TF: That's funny. I got COVID and had the antibodies. I was traveling for work at that time and we took all of that into consideration.
WCT: Where did you hear about the Queer Eye audition in the first place?
TF: I had an office in New York and went to take my dog on a walk. I wound up in an elevator with a talent manager, who had a panic attack because the elevator got stuck. She explained that she was claustrophobic and I told her that I had worse news because my dog had to really go to the bathroom. She sat on the floor of the elevator and played with my dog until we were rescued by the fire department.
She and I became friends through that. A few months later, she told me that there was a show looking for a designer.
WCT: Would you ever do Queer Eye for the Straight Guy again?
TF: There already is another Queer Eye, so I don't know if that could happen. We have all talked about traveling together and doing something. It is fun for us and so easy. Carson and I did the show Get a Room together on Bravo recently. Ted and I have talked about doing a design and kitchen kind of thing.
When you find people that you like to work with and are professional, you gravitate towards that. We would love to work together, but it depends on everyone's schedules. Would you want to see us work together again?
WCT: Of course! I have watched the series from the beginning. The new Queer Eye show is very different.
TF: It is its own thing. I love that they keep up with what is current. When I used to talk about Queer Eye people didn't know what it was, but now it is a brand and still exists. People understand the overall message, which is different is good and let us celebrate our differences.
WCT: How are you celebrating Pride Month?
TF: It's interesting that it's happening right now when we are celebrating being able to be together. I was having drinks the other night at a crowded bar. It feels like we are back and we are all out in a multitude of ways!
WCT: Aren't you married?
TF: No, I have never been married, but was in a relationship for 13 years. Greg Calejo and I are still friends, but we separated about four years ago. I am a single man. I am vaccinated. I am ready and got my Invisalign in!
WCT: Let's not forget you are a silver fox now.
TF: I appreciate the optimism about my gray hair. It is all natural. There was a huge billboard of me in High Point with gray hair and we were launching new furniture there. I was thinking I don't remember myself with brown hair. It happened in about a year, so it changed pretty quickly.
WCT: You had mentioned a kitchen show with Ted Allen, what are your thoughts on the white subway tile trend in kitchens?
TF: I don't lean into trends too much. I look at architecture and what makes sense. If you have a brasserie kind of restaurant, that makes sense for that aesthetic. It is a timeless look. People started using it again in the last 15 years. I love subway tiles, but I think it has a time and place. It is like khaki!
WCT: On the E! special, you used Moroccan furniture. Is pulling items from other countries a current design trend?
TF: Global influences are a part of food today and also a part of the furniture we make. We take those influences from all over the world and put them together here. Design has opened its eyes to everything and brings all these ideas together. It is about creating your own mix and point of view. People are interested in that now.
It was funny on the show, Jai had mentioned that he loved Morocco a few times when we were out to dinner, so I wanted to have that in there.
WCT: Are rugs a focus for you now?
TF: Yes. I have my design firm in New York where my team does commercial and residential work all over the United States and outside of it. I also have another company called Sedgwick & Brattle, which is my showroom company, plus a showroom in High Point Market, where we have all of our furniture, artwork, rugs and now lighting.
One of our big launches recently was a rug line with Feizy Rugs. I will be in Dallas, in a couple of weeks, to do another big launch with them. I was just in Florida on a couple of projects. We just finished something in Montana and will have more things in Connecticut. We are just running around!
WCT: Well, come back to Chicago.
TF: I love Chicago! We make our bedding in Chicago with Eastern Accents. I can't say yet, but we are working with a new licensed partner that has about 50 percent of [its] facilities in Chicago. Those are two really great reasons to be in Chicago all the time!
E! Entertainment presents Reunion Road Trip: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on June 17 at 8 p.m. central time. Visit ThomFilicia.com for his upcoming projects.