Lesbian Reality Televison Q&A Round up
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Written by: Diane Anderson-Minshall
Photo: George Lange/ Bravo
When Bravo launched Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in 2003, producers had no idea what phenomenal response it would garner. Almost overnight, its stars, like superfly Carson and sophisticated Ted, became brands unto themselves. Bravo went back to the well for their newest hit: Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, a weekly, one-hour series with a cast of “Gal Pals” who make over chicks in need. The Gal Pals include a Queer Eye first — a lesbian — in their roster of make-better mavens. The aptly named Honey Labrador is that lucky lady.
Labrador counsels the women in need on matters as diverse as career, family, sex and how to walk in high heels. An easy feat for the former model whose breathtaking beauty has graced the pages of Elle, Mademoiselle, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar and both British and Italian Vogue. After the allure of modeling wore off, Labrador became an actress (remember Red Shoe Diaries?) and movie producer (she was behind last year’s Sundance favorite Little Black Boot). After starting her own production company, Labrador also produced and starred in the lesbian feature film April’s Shower, which recently won the special jury prize in Monte Carlo. Soon, though, she may be one of television’s biggest reality TV stars.
So are you really a Jill-of-all-trades, or what?
Well, being 39, I’ve had quite a lot of time to … cover a lot of bases. Filmmaking is my passion, and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I moved out to L.A., obviously, to pursue acting, and found myself falling into producing … because I wasn’t getting the film parts or doing the films that I really wanted to do, and it wasn’t really fulfilling just acting. That’s why I started producing. So, yeah, I’m very much a Jill-of-all-trades—I guess a Honey-of-all-trades. And I’m a mother. I have a 15-year-old daughter.
What does your daughter, Zoe, think of your work?
She was in France, and I called her and said, “I have an opportunity to do this job.” … It’s hard enough being a teenager without having your mother coming, like, out, you know, in like a national way. And she said, “I think it’s great! I’m getting in shape! I can’t wait for the red carpet!”
Were you a lesbian when you had her?
No, I was married. I got married very, very young … I ended up with my first girlfriend for six years. I was kind of the last one to know, apparently.
Was that a difficult transition, being a young model and a mom and coming out?
[Back] in the late ’80s and early ’90s, you know, it wasn’t really that chic to be out. I think it was the hardest for me to accept personally because of how I’d been living my life. So, yeah, it was just like a complete and sudden realization. Of course, you go back and you start to say, wow, was I gay when I was in high school?
It’s that sort of revisionist history lesbians do, right?
Exactly. And then, of course, you have every friend that you ever had say, “Hey, were you attracted to me?”
Right, right, or, “Why weren’t you attracted to me?”
Exactly … but I came out and then I was out. I’ve never been one to be secretive about anything and especially raising a child, you know, I made a decision that I wanted to be honest and truthful.
Has it affected your career?
As far as my modeling career goes, it did … there were definitely clients who weren’t completely accepting of [lesbian models]. In a lot of ways, I think it got me more work sometimes. But on a personal level, it was a little bit more difficult. For my ex-husband, it was obviously a big shock, and it wasn’t for lack of love, you know, that we split up. And I can say that today he’s one of my closest friends.
Let’s talk about Queer Eye. Did they come to you, or did you have to go through an audition process?
My modeling agents, who I haven’t worked for in two years, called me out of the blue and said, “There’s a request for you to come in on this audition.” And it’s because [Arlene, the casting director] knew that I was out, and thought I would be great for it. So I went on this casting [call], and it was all kind of hush-hush, nobody knew what it was, it was called “Liquid Lesbian.” … The next thing I knew, a week later I had a callback. I mean, literally three days later I was at my first day of the job. I think it took like two to three months to actually pick the three guys. I’m sort of the secret weapon nobody knew — even when we had gone to these straight girls’ homes, they hadn’t known there was going to be a lesbian.
How do you think that changes the dynamic?
At first, I think it might be a little bit intimidating. They kind of size you up at first — maybe they feel insecure, maybe they don’t, I don’t know, but by the end of the show, I’m so close to each and every single woman. … No matter how much gay men believe they are like straight women, they’re not women. There just are those bonds that we have as women, straight or gay. I think you know we all have issues that are, you know, just part of being a woman. I don’t know any woman who looks in the mirror and loves what she sees 100 percent of the time.
What’s it like to help straight girls with everything from makeup to sexual confidence?
I’m not going into somebody’s life and saying, you need to do this, this, and this, because I’m not going to pretend to know what’s best for somebody else. But when I share my experience, strength, and hope … working with a woman, for example, who had an eating disorder, I mean, I was a model. Eating disorders and modeling kind of go hand in hand. I may have shared with her on-camera, but it was off-camera where I was able to have a [real] conversation with her … she’s just the most amazing person, and she said to me, “The very first thing you said to me was that I’m perfect.”
I’m sure this is something you didn’t expect going in to that casting call.
I absolutely didn’t expect it, and it’s the greatest gift that I’ve received.
Plus, viewers develop such intimate relationships with people on TV, and you’re in 30 million people’s homes each week —
Are you trying to freak me out?
No! But do you think that will bring more visibility to the other work you’ve been doing?
I really hope so. Most of my producing partners have been straight men over 40. … My sexuality was never a question, so what I find is, how do we operate in the world? You know, I just happen to be a lesbian. It’s just like I happen to have dark hair; I happen to be Filipino, Polish and Ukrainian. What I’m hoping to do with my role on Queer Eye is just kind of normalize [being lesbian] so people become a little bit more accepting. I think being the face — a face — for the lesbian community is an honor, and I just hope that I’m able to bring a positive light to that.
And it’s really amazing to have a queer woman of color on television.
It’s funny, as a model, not a day went by that someone didn’t ask me what I am. I think by virtue of being a woman, I already know what it’s like being a second-class citizen in our own country. Then, to be a woman of color, which I didn’t know I was. I grew up in South Hampton, New York. My mother has blond hair, green eyes. I thought I was Irish Catholic until I started modeling and then suddenly it’s like, “What are you?”
How long have you been with your partner?
June and I have been together for about six months. We’ve known each other for 14 years, and I can say she’s my big love.
Wow! That’s a long courting period.
She came back into my life … this is the one. And we’re engaged — we’re getting married next year.
Now that you’re a TV star, all your ex-girlfriends will come out of the woodwork to tell the tabloids about you.
I make sure that I’m friends with all of them.
What’s the worst thing they can say?
That I’m a flirt.
That’s not so bad.
No, no. Even my latest ex, we were together seven and a half years and we were business partners, and so our film is coming up, which she wrote, directed, we’re both in and we produced together.
So, you’re amazingly buff. You look like somebody who could really hold her own in a bar fight. What’s your secret?
I know it sounds terrible to say — but I’m naturally pretty buff. A lot of it’s genetics, but I was a competitive runner most of my life, and that’s actually where I was going before I started modeling. … I’m not a fighter. I’d probably get my butt kicked in a bar fight.
So, do you have control over your wardrobe? Do you have input on your choices?
I have to say that I have never owned more pairs of heels then I do now. A lot of my lesbian friends are like, “Hey! Why are they femming you up?” And the reality is that a lot of them didn’t know me [when I was] modeling, but that’s how I like to dress. I like to wear heels.
In episode one, you all got to have butt masks together. Can we expect to see more cast nudity?
I did have to teach a girl how to strip for her husband. Again, it’s about body image and it matched the whole thing about helping someone tap into their sexuality. Everyone has some stripping fantasy, I believe, spoken or unspoken.