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Naturally Tan by Tan France

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ARC given by St Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warning: Bullying, assault, racism, islamaphobia, mentions of white-washing, anxiety, depression, suicidal feels/thoughts, alcoholism, toxic relationships.

This review is being published before the release date (June 4th, 2019)

“The best moments are the ones where you’re you.”

In a memoir filled with hardship, joy, personal acceptance, finding love, and experiencing some personal moments from Queer Eye, we follow Tan France in his autobiography. You will laugh, you will gasp, probably shed a few tears, and find a light of humor with the personal touches Tan France adds in these very page. For the first time, Tan France is sharing his story of growing up gay in a traditional Muslim family, as one of the few people of color in South Yorkshire, England. We learn of his coming of age, find his voice (and his amazing fashion!), and not just finding, but marrying the love of his life – a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City. All packed in one book, Naturally Tan!

Naturally Tan is part memoir and part advice. The advice is dispensed in a casual, friendly manner and includes numerous style-related tips, as well as a few regarding the management of relationships, and how to not let instant fame and wealth go to your head. Tan is playful, thoughtful, and maintains an upbeat, positive outlook on life. 

If you don’t know who Tan France is, I have just one question to ask you…. Where have you been lately?! Tan France or Tanveer Wasim (Tan) France is an English fashion designer. He’s currently the fashion expert on the hit show Queer Eye. He’s witty, intelligent, humble, and in all honesty, my favorite Fab 5 member (but that’s just my six year old self being obsessed with fashion). He just delivers such a breath of fresh air with his honesty and realism. If you haven’t seen the show, then I definitely recommend taking a moment to look into it because each Fab 5 member has something unique they bring to the table and they’re individually remarkable. But that’s enough of me gushing about Queer Eye and the Fab 5. I know a lot of people won’t pick this book up because they haven’t seen the show Queer Eye. As someone who has watched the whole seasons, there are times where I can understand why someone might not watch the show. But if by some small chance you have seen the show (even just a few episodes) then there’s probably at least one or two of the members you would like to get to know more. Tan is a lovable component of that show, but compared to some of his counterparts (like Jonathan) he definitely comes off as reserved on the show. Naturally, you might want to get to know someone who is more reserved or “mysterious” and this memoir is the perfect way for anyone to learn more about Tan.

Normally, I’m not one to request for biographies or autobiographies. They’re normally not on my radar, they’re not a genre I dabble in often, and I usually avoid them like the plague. I mostly avoid them because as readers, who are we to judge another person’s life or even critique someone’s life. I will say this, I’m absolutely blessed that after requesting for an arc that one landed in my lap. I’m very grateful that I took a betting chance and was given the chance to read it before it releases. I’m very thankful for this opportunity and from as far as the book community, I haven’t seen many arcs of this autobiography around. I feel very honored. This was such a wondrous and at times, emotional read. I hope my review does this book justice.

“I keep waiting for the day when she’s like, “Here’s your fucking shoes, you douchebag. I knew you were in New York the whole time.”

The Absolute Good:

Everything. Literally everything. Okay, that’s a lie. There’s a few minor things to take into consideration, but other than that this autobiography was perfect. As I mentioned, I avoid biographies and autobiographies like the plague. I just feel like it’s not my business to be in a position to deeply critique a person’s life, but in honesty, this felt like I was reading an incredibly long letter from a friend or a long lost family member. There’s so much humor and wit in this book. The fact that Tan is able to project who he is on Queer Eye into this book is outstanding. I was completely taken by surprise because the minute I started reading this, I could hear him narrating it just from how he wrote this book and how lyrical everything is. And the facts! Okay, let me just say the facts and life advice Tan throws into this book are amazing. Not just because they’re helpful, but also from the fact that I have told so many people in my life similar facts and advice. On that note, I’m throwing in the Tan’s Homemade Face Mask because that was amazing and it really leaves your skin feel refreshed. Hands down, one of my most favorite parts in this whole book. I love a good face mask and that just hit the spot while binge reading this book. But in all seriousness, there were so many wonderful thing in this book. The great sense of family and love, the enormous amount of maturity that radiates off some of the pages, and the way Tan and Rob’s relationship blooms is just so heart-warming! Despite the lighthearted way he tries to convey his story, there are many things he dealt with which are painful and heartbreaking to read about.  There are many such observations that he makes about what brown people can or can’t do and it’s painful to realize that they have to keep all this things in mind just to live their lives peacefully. He’s also quite forthcoming about a very painful episode in his life and I commend him for it, because it just goes on to show that just because someone is successful and making money doesn’t mean everything is rainbows and sunshine with their life. He’s also pretty frank about the non glossy side of his celebrity life – the incessant travel, innumerable press junkets, being away from his husband and feeling lonely, the toll it takes to keep up appearances in public – while acknowledging how privileged he is. We also get to see his experience of coming onto the show of Queer Eye and his whole journey since becoming part of the Fab 5! These are just a few points that stand out the most! There’s just so much good from this book and as much as I want to talk about every little thing, I think it’s better for you to read this autobiography for yourself.

As usual, I do want to take a moment to talk about the content and trigger warnings. Of course, please be in the right mind set while reading these sections as they can trigger emotional reactions. The biggest parts that stood out the most to me that could be the most triggering were the bullying, the racism, and definitely the depression and the whole section of suicidal feelings and thoughts. While I do like these being openly talked about is this book, just please make sure you’re in the right head space and practicing self-care as these are hard topics that do get address in this book.

“I’d love to be a better person, but I just like being right.”

The Bad:

Aside from some minor spelling errors (this is an arc, calm down before you freak out), the only real reason I’m rating this a four star is due to some parts feeling really slow. Biographies and autobiographies aren’t my usual pace. At times I found myself distracted rather than being focused on parts of the section I was reading. There were also a few parts that seemed a bit repetitive. While repetitiveness isn’t always a bad thing, it definitely felt like it dragged some parts out a bit longer than what it had to be.

Side Note:

While I don’t want to put this in good, but I don’t want to put this in bad either, I just want to note that there is a lot swearing that happens in this book. I never ever thought that would be a criticism I’d have of this book, nor of a published book in general, but in this context it is noticeable. While this doesn’t bother me and my personal reading experience, for some readers this might be bothersome or conflicting with your reading experience so you should definitely conscious of that happening within the book.

My resting state is that I’m a dweeb. I don’t drink, I don’t dance, and no one would ever accuse me of being cool. I get nervous in crowds and just want to skulk off into a corner until I can slip away without anyone noticing I’m gone.

Other things of note you’ll find in this book: what it’s like to represent an underrepresented community in the media, how Tan built his fashion business and reputation prior to the show, and some hilarious sass about Olive Garden. Plus, the organization of the book revolving around items of clothing is unique/fun, and there are cool illustrations to start each chapter. And those little clothing illustrations, those were done BY Rob (Tan’s husband!), which is extra cute and sweet.

Overall, if you are a fan of the show Queer Eye, you should definitely check this out because you’ll love it. It definitely goes along with the theme of the show – finding your own path in life, accepting and understanding yourself, and spreading joy around you. Naturally Tan was funny and entertaining, but it was also emotional and thought-provoking. Tan comes across as a kind, sincere, and unique person. He doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously. He tells us about his own anxiety and insecurities and talks about how it can be strange giving advice to someone on the show when he didn’t always feel so confident himself. After reading Tan’s memoir, this just makes me want to go out and pick up the rest of the Fab 5 memoirs. If you love biographies and autobiographies that hols a lot of sass, wit, amazing advice, and just really personify the author then you should pick up a copy. I’m not much of a memoir reader, but I certainly enjoyed this book and you will too! There’s something in this book for everyone to love!

“We do all we can to find those magical moments to remind us of how special it is.”

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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