The Fab Five from Queer Eye are taking Netflix—and hegemonic masculinity—by storm. Now, in a new show created by actor and radio show host Ally Johnson, lesbians will put their own spin on the notion of a “lifestyle makeover” and build feminist solidarity in the process.
Let’s be frank: Butch Pal for the Straight Gal is going to be your new favorite show.
Ms. spoke to Johnson about the up-and-coming project, queer representation in media and the power women have to change each other’s lives.
What inspired you to come up with this project?
I was watching the new Queer Eye, like a lot of people, and I thought: “this is great but there’s another version that’s already out there.” I think it’s still a very important show, and I think there’s a lot of people who still need a show like this. But I was wondering—why has a female version of this never existed?
It’s kind of ridiculous, and queer means so much more than these five cis, gay guys. Queer women are just as capable of changing people’s lives for the better. I was talking to some of my other queer friends about this, and we were kind of joking about what it would be like. Instead of just complaining about it, I decided to write it.
What I had written at first was just a lesbian parody of Queer Eye, but as I read it and shared it with other people, I realized there was this other really important message coming through about women in general and the image they present to society or the image they feel they need to present in order to feel beautiful. There’s this whole thought of deconstructing the makeover, or doing a “make-under,” that’s actually valuable, so I took another look at the script and I changed it a lot to reflect that message—and it just kept growing and growing into a fully materialized episode.
It’s still a comedy at heart, but is has this whole other dimension now of making this statement that really needs to be heard.
One of the things I really like about Queer Eye is they way the Fab Five re-construct masculinity and what it means to be a man. I think that would be really valuable to do for women as well.
Absolutely! In Queer Eye, they are all about finding self-confidence and finding your true selves. And I’m watching this going: “women need this too!”
You don’t have to spend two hours on your makeup to look pretty. There are definitely women who like wearing makeup or like high fashion, that’s fine. It’s just about finding the difference between what you want to be doing and what you doing because you feel like you have to.
Why do you think there hasn’t been a show like this before?
In some ways, I think that people are afraid of it—or people think, for some stupid reason, that it’s not going to be as interesting.
It seems like when women are powerful, there’s this aspect that people think it’s being shoved down their throats for some reason—and it’s like, no, it’s not, it’s actually just existing, when the male version of this already exists. I think that people are put off by it in this weird way. They think a lesbian version won’t be as flashy or sexy, but that’s not true.
We need to prove them wrong.
Why do you think a show like this is important for the LGBTQ+ community?
I think it would be extremely important to make women feel like they have some representation in this area, and make them feel like they are just as capable of changing people’s lives as gay men are. It’s going to show the public that queer is a lot more than what’s currently being presented.
We plan in our show to represent all kinds of different backgrounds, all kinds of different shapes and sizes, all kinds of different gender and sexual identities. What the LGBT community needs right now is some representation that is not just black and white not just gay and lesbian.
There’s so much more out there, and people are living outside the box more than ever before, and I want people to know that.
What do you hope viewers to get from the show?
I want straight women to watch this and feel like they can break down and take a look into their own lives. I want them to be able to watch this and feel empowered and feel that they can embrace their own individuality, and then be like, “no, fuck this, I’m only going to do the things that make me feel beautiful.” I think that everybody needs that message, but I feel like right now women need it a hell of a lot more than straight dudes do.
Would you call yourself a feminist?
Yeah, absolutely! It’s interesting how that word has changed for me over the years. I never really did feel like a feminist—I was just doing what I was doing, and I wasn’t really owning that word, but now I feel like it’s really important for me to own that word.
I’ve always felt proud of being gay, but I never felt that it made up exactly who I am. I think that I need to really own that feminist identity. It’s important for this project, and it’s important for me and the community.