‘Queer Eye’ Star Tan France Quit Being a Flight Attendant After Being Called a Terrorist

The Fab Five from Netflix’s revival of Queer Eye became household names in 2018. Tan France, the show’s fashion expert, was a popular favorite because he could tell slobby men that they didn’t look fantastic while still boosting their self-esteem. Despite being famous, France has had to battle so many issues in life — one of the biggest being racism and Islamophobia.

Tan France smiling slightly
Tan France | Jason Kempin/Getty Images

What is Tan France known for?

France—known for his French tuck, immaculate salt-and-pepper hair, and amazing dance moves—joined the Fab Five in 2018 when Netflix’s Emmy-winning television show Queer Eye debuted. With his appearance on Queer Eye, France became the first openly LGBTQ South Asian man on TV and one of the world’s most famous and in-demand personal stylists.

Since then, he’s been on six seasons of Queer Eye and hosted the YouTube show Dressing Funny, where he worked with comedians like Andrew Goldberg, Nick Kroll, and Tina Fey, among others. In 2020, France and Alexa Chung co-hosted the exciting and fast-paced Netflix fashion design competition series Next in Fashion.

In addition to his work on the Emmy-winning series on Netflix, France has written The Sunday Times’ best-selling memoir Naturally Tan. There he opened up about his life, from first meeting the other members of the Fab Five to his life as a Muslim in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Tan France quit being a flight attendant after being called a terrorist

Most people know France as the fashion expert on Queer Eye, but in the early 2000s, he worked as a flight attendant for Britannia Airways, a former United Kingdom charter airline. France disclosed in his 2019 memoir Naturally Tan that he worked as a flight attendant at 19, among many other jobs he held and abandoned during his formative years.

France, who had no clue how difficult the job would be, thought all they’d be doing was serving coffee, tea, and other drinks. However, what ended up being the most challenging part of his job was dealing with drunk passengers who would make racist comments.

“This was a couple of years after 9/11, and they had no qualms about openly referring to my people as terrorists,” France, who is British and of Pakistani descent, writes. “The flight would start off well enough, but by the end of the flight, it would be clear they weren’t so happy that I was the one serving them.”

France has no plans of getting his wings back anytime soon or ever. Speaking with USA Today, the fashion expert said that if he weren’t doing fashion anymore, he wouldn’t choose to be a flight attendant again because it’s a lot more complicated than anyone thinks.

Tan France said he left the UK because of racism

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France, who began working in the United States in 2008, told ITV News that he left the United Kingdom because of the country’s “brushing under the carpet” of racism. The designer, who is 39 years old, was born in Doncaster, England, to Pakistani Muslim parents. France also described an event from when he was five years old when he was racially profiled and assaulted on his way to school.

But while France left the UK because of racism, being in the US came with its own experiences. In an interview with Refinery29, the fashion expert admitted that working on Queer Eye wasn’t always a walk in the park. Speaking to the outlet for their Strong Opinions Loosely Held program, France said he experienced Islamophobia from two of Queer Eye’s subjects.

“I was asked if I was a terrorist because they didn’t realize I was Middle Eastern,” he said. “Two of our heroes asked, ‘Are you a terrorist?’ It was a very honest question for them; they weren’t trying to be funny.” The fashion expert continued, saying he wasn’t furious or offended that the two “heroes” had asked.

France currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his husband, Rob France, and their son, where he claims he has never been called a racist name.