Tan France tried to bleach his skin when he was just 10


Tan France is the Fashion Expert on Queer Eye. I love his style and quickly adopted his French Tuck and refuse to let it go. Plus he has one of the best heads of hair on the planet. Tan has a new memoir out called, Naturally, Tan, in which he discusses growing up in South Yorkshire, England as a gay, South Asian man raised in a strict Muslim household. The title of the memoir is more than just a playful use of his name because Tan talks a lot about wanting to be lighter skinned as he grew up, even to the extent of stealing his cousin’s bleaching cream.

In his new memoir, “Queer Eye” star Tan France reveals that as a child, he stole bleaching cream from his cousin and tried to lighten his skin.

“The importance of being pale is very bizarre. The people around me certainly didn’t intend to pass on this belief, but I was aware of it and affected by it just the same,” wrote France, who grew up in England as the son of Pakistani immigrants. “When I was five, I remember thinking, ‘God, I’d give anything to be white. I just want to be white, I want to be white, I want to be white.’ I had been so conditioned to think that if you were white, you were automatically more attractive.”

“I haven’t had the balls to tell her I took it, because, since then, I’ve been ashamed of the fact that I succumbed to the pressure,” the Netflix host admitted, adding, “I kept the dirty little secret to myself. I’d only use it at night, before bed, when no one else was going to catch me. Let me tell you, that s–t hurt.”

“I had another dream as a kid, which angers me now,” he wrote. “But I’ve talked to many friends of colour who have told me they shared the same dream, and that is to wake up white. I first had that dream when I was very, very young, because I worried constantly that if I went outside the house, bad things would happen to me.”

“If you ask me what my favourite thing about my appearance is, I’ll say my skin,” he said. “I think my skin colour is beautiful. As a ten-year-old, I could never have imagined that you could find my skin colour beautiful, and I’m willing to bet most nonwhite people have thought the same thing.”

[From Page Six]

I think the fact that he said he is angry about his former views of his skin color is a good way to show how far his views have evolved. Many people come to terms with the fact they can’t change that part of themselves they dislike but that doesn’t always mean they’ve embraced it. Clearly Tan has, and should for all the reasons he cited. I’m glad he mentioned it hurt his skin, I’ve always wondered that, and I think it’s important people know what’s happening to their skin when they use those products. I cannot comment on the fascination with lighter skin because I understand that, as a white woman who grew up in a white community, I have absolutely no concept of all of the layers of complexity that go into it. But fortunately we don’t need people like me to comment because we have people like Tan gracious enough to share their journey.

The book, which I have not yet read, also talks about what it was like to grow up in a strict religious household that viewed homosexuality as a sin. Tan hid his sexuality from his parents until he was 34. His parents also pushed him to be a doctor or lawyer growing up but he’s always loved fashion instead. And nothing against lawyers and doctors, but I think we are all better for his decision to pursue it. Naturally, Tan is being well-received and reviews say Tan’s wit runs throughout it. I’ve enjoyed the few excerpts I’ve read so I’ll probably check it out. I’ll probably opt for the audiobook since I love listening to Tan almost as much as I love watching him.




Photo credit: WENN Photos

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14 Responses to “Tan France tried to bleach his skin when he was just 10”

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  1. Call_me_al says:

    He is beautiful and kind and brave!

  2. elimaeby says:

    He is just a ray of sunlight. I’m so glad we are living in a time with so many beautiful, inspirational LGBTQ mentors for young people to look up to. I grew up with Ellen and Rosie, who I will always be grateful for, but now we have celebrities from nearly every culture, race, etc. I hope it helps the next generation to feel supported and seen and lovable.

    I can’t wait to read his book!

  3. Lala11_7 says:

    Self-hate is a HELLUVA drug….

    • snazzy says:

      It really is!

      In my family (also south asian-muslim household) lightness was KEY. Like you would have a better life and are a naturally better person if your skin was lighter. I am quite fair but even I fell for the pressure and began to use whitening creams (I’d have colleagues bring them back from India, Thailand and Myanmar when they traveled there). Luckily I had a good set of friends who told me I was an idiot and threw the creams out. My mom used creams so much she now has burns all over her face and has to wear super thick makeup to cover it up. And she STILL makes comments about how I need to lighten my skin and make sure I don’t tan.

      The pressure we put on ourselves for these things is insane.

      • Otaku fairy... says:

        I think that’s why our mom kind of went in the opposite direction with us. Even though her own relationship with her family has been kind of rocky, she was uncomfortable when we talked about wanting to experiment with different she colors as teens /tweens and would not let us get colored contact lenses or dye our hair at the time. Even though our dad wasn’t from the same culture, he supported her decision. One of her aunts had bleached her skin too, so that may have added to her worry. I have mixed feelings about people bleaching their skin.

  4. Canadian says:

    He is beautiful, inside and out. I’m going to read his book. His story of being a kid is profound. I wish the world was a place where kids could love who they are and their gorgeous skin, and I’m sad colonization and white supremacy have made it so hard to do so.

  5. Lady Keller says:

    Years ago I used to work at a company where one of the employees was a young lady of north African heritage. We worked in different departments and she worked the later shift in the call center so she would arrive as I was about to leave, so I never spent much time speaking with her. One morning I found a tube of skin bleaching cream in the ladies room garbage. I can only assume it was hers since there were very few women and she was the only woman of colour. It broke my heart. She was gorgeous, and really had no need for it. I really hope that girl has found peace and acceptance. I hope now that she’s older she can see how beautiful she truly is.

  6. Veronica S. says:

    That anger should really be directed at the society around him. We should be ashamed that so many people grow up in Western culture uncomfortable in their own skin.

  7. vava says:

    I have mixed views of him. He’s great friends with some bloggers in Utah and he was filmed degrading staff at Nordstrom’s some time ago because they didn’t bow down to either him or his blogger friend. Gross. He is NOT beautiful inside and out.

    He does have a great head of hair and I generally like his fashion style.

  8. Gurl says:

    Italians are hung up on color too.

    Northern Italians tend to look more Germanic. Blonder hair, lighter eyes. The economy is stronger. Less crime.

    Move on to the South. Heck, go to Sicily. Dark skin, dark hair. Corruption and the mafia.

    So as a very dark-skinned Italian, I’ve been told I’m not white. But can I say I’m Hispanic?

    Do I get to experience white privilege? I have been called racial slurs for sure.

    I do remember feeling shame when people say “wow, what are you? You are really dark.”

    It just feels like they are putting me down.

  9. Bella Bella says:

    He’s what my friends call a “pocket gay.” So cute.

    But I’m waiting for Bobby’s book. That man has a story to tell. Where is your book, Bobby?

  10. Tigerlily says:

    I don’t know this guy but sad that he felt that way about his skin. My daughter in law is Vietnamese & has gorgeous brown skin. She was ashamed of her complexion when she first came to Canada. I told her she was beautiful & that Canadians pay to get tanned skin. In Vietnam skin clinics specialize in bleaching skin. Even now that she & my (Caucasian) son have daughters, she is going overboard dressing them in long sleeve turtlenecks & long leggings in hot summer weather & allowing her relatives to praise the girls’ fair skin. It’s hateful.

  11. Janey says:

    Completely randomly but I totally spotted him just enjoying lunch outdoors yesterday! And obviously since we’re cool NYers, we basically ignored him. LOL. Though I admit I haven’t watched his show. I just know of him.

  12. Ader says:

    When I was 6, had just entered 1st grade, one night, my mom found me drowning all my black dolls in the bathtub. The ones she had taken off a day to travel from NY to Canada to find (there were no black cabbage patch kids in all of the northeast at the point.)

    I grew up in a white town.

    Psychological stress related to racism starts in pre-school.