There is nothing better than seeing your favorite cast or characters reunite for a special episode, and fans of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy got exactly that.
As part of E! Entertainment’s special event series, Reunion Road Trip, Thom Filicia, Carson Kressley, Kyan Douglas, and Ted Allen reassembled in Los Angeles to give their very own Jai Rodriguez a makeover for his 40th birthday. As the original Fab 5 work their magic, they think back to their most heartfelt, meaningful makeovers and the impact on the LGBTQ community then and now.
Instinct had the opportunity to chat more about the reunion with Filicia, as well as the show’s success, favorite memories, and his overall passion for interior design. Filicia is one of today’s most influential and respected interior and product designers and is the driving force behind the Thom Filicia Home Collection, which includes furniture, artwork, bedding, textiles, wallcoverings, and more. He also has a flagship showroom called Sedgwick & Brattle at The New York Design Center.
Hi, Thom! Thank you for taking some time to chat with me. How was it reuniting with your Fab 5 brothers for Reunion Road Trip: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?
The reunion was awesome! It was a lot of fun. We decided we were going to try and get together with Jai for his 40th birthday and help celebrate it, because he was like our little brother. He was about 10 years younger than all of us, so we kind of treated him like a little brother and hazed him a lot. When he turned 40, we thought, who is more appropriate than the four of us to sort of bring him into that chapter of his life? Have fun with it, have dinner, and it just turned into this reunion road trip kind of thing. It was the perfect solution. Each of us were able to give him a little piece of what we do and what we did together.
The whole birthday makeover was a complete surprise for Jai?
He knew that we were going to get together, have dinner or go out, but he did not know exactly what the plan was. He thought it was going to be a little more casual. Just hanging out and catching up. We slowly let him in on sort of what was going on.
How has the episode been received by fans and viewers?
I have no idea how it was really received, but I am sure we will find out. However, I can tell you, I was out in the Hamptons this past weekend and in New York last Friday, and everywhere I have gone, people were coming up to me saying, oh my God, we loved it, we love seeing you guys together, we miss you guys, we want you to come back. It was very sweet.
I know you stay in contact regularly with Carson. Do all five of you still connect often?
Yes, we do! It is easier for Carson and I because we work together and live close to one another. We are both in Manhattan. I see Ted from time to time, he’s in Brooklyn. I see Jai when I am out in L.A. working, and I know Carson sees him a little bit more than me because he is out there more often. Then when I am in Florida, I catch up with Kyan, and sometimes when he is here working. So, we try to, but it is usually two or three of us at any one time. It was very fun to have pretty much all of us together, working together, having fun, being crazy, and doing what we do.
Speaking of Carson, can we expect any new episodes of Get a Room with Carson and Thom?
No, I don’t think we are going to be doing Get a Room. I know he and I are talking about doing some other shows, and we have been working on that a bit here and there now that we can work more freely. We did 10 or 12 episodes of Get a Room, and it was great, it was fun, but it was definitely heavy lifting. That was a very complicated show to shoot, but we had a blast doing it. So, I do not think we are going to do exactly that format. I believe you can still watch that show though on either Peacock of Bravo if you want.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. How did you initially get involved with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and how did your life change once the show aired?
I got involved with Queer Eye kind of by accident. I got stuck in an elevator in my office building in SoHo, and I met a girl who worked for a talent scout. The elevator was stuck in between floors, and I was joking with her saying that my dog was going to poop on her. She was having a panic attack because she was claustrophobic, so I had her on the floor playing with my dog, who badly had to go to the bathroom. The firemen came and got us out, I exchanged cards with her, and that is how it all happened.
In terms of how the show changed my life once it aired, when we shot the show, I was still working with my own design firm. I had probably 10-12 employees, and my office was in SoHo. So, I was designing, running my business, as well as filming Queer Eye, which was a tall order. It was crazy, but I did it. However, what really changed for me was going from a person who was recognized in my field, this young up-and-coming designer with a degree in interior design who worked with some great firms, to becoming a household recognized name. We never thought that would be part of the trajectory of what we were doing.
Bravo, at the time, was an unknown network to most people. None of us were like, this is bound to be a big deal. We didn’t even understand the power of television and how that could possibly do it. We were not ready for that. It helped with things like branding my furniture and all the products that I have created for the Thom Filicia Home Collection, but it was a little challenging for brick-and-mortar interior design. In those days, there were not many designers working on television and working as a designer in the real world. It was a bit of a different time.
You were surprised at how big of a success the show became? Not only did Queer Eye change people’s lives, but it truly broke down barriers for onscreen representation of LGBTQ people.
Oh my God, we were completely caught off guard by how the show was so successful. How it became recognized at the level that it did and how well it was received, nobody had any expectations. No one at NBC or Bravo was prepared. They told us it would be popular in New York City, but that would probably be it. It went so far beyond that, and I think we were even more popular in places where they thought we would never be popular. It even went beyond the U.S., which was pretty incredible. I am sure some people may claim that it was strategic, but I think it was totally not planned.
Is there a makeover that stands out and was most memorable to you?
My mom passed away right before we started shooting the show. We did an episode with a guy named John, who was a fireman and lost his wife. He was an older guy, about 72 years old, and that really resonated with me because I saw my dad go through the same process and feelings, myself as well. So, John the fireman who lost his wife is one that resonates the most with me.
What is your opinion on the new Queer Eye? Did you have any reservations about a reboot?
No! No reservations at all. I was very happy to hear that it was continuing. I thought that was great. They called to let us know it was continuing, we were like, wow, that’s fantastic. I do not think a lot of people would understand what the brand is if it did not continue. The fact that people understand what it is today and what it was back in its original form, I think that is really great. I love that the brand is continuing, and I hope that it continues after the second group. That it will go on to a third group and continue to sort of pivot and become relevant to the way that we live today. Keep making a difference and shine light on the positives, which is one of the messages I think we brought to the table.
So, no reservations about the reboot. I am thrilled that it is moving forward. I am friends with the guys, I like them, and I think they are doing a great job in terms of connecting with a lot of the issues that are still kind of out there. I look forward to seeing the show evolve and grow even more.
Have you always had a passion for interior design?
I think so. I started designing houses when I was in fifth grade, and I haven’t stopped. It happened pretty early [laughs].
You recently unveiled a new line of rugs in conjunction with Feizy Rugs. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes. I launch the Thom Filicia Home Collection every six months where we launch new furniture, new bedding, and at this market, we introduced new rugs, new artwork, and new wall coverings. You can see the home collection at my showroom, Sedgwick & Brattle.
What do you want the Thom Filicia brand to always be known for?
I want the Thom Filicia brand to be known for thoughtful, smart, stylish design that is exceptional in its approach to lifestyle, but also approachable and livable. I love to describe what we do the same way you would describe your best friend. Fun, interesting, thoughtful, down to earth, smart, sophisticated, easy, hilarious. I want the Thom Filicia brand to be associated with that sort of energy.
Which room is your favorite to design?
I think my favorite room to design is probably the living room. The main room in the house, because I feel when you design that space, everything else sort of builds down from that. When you figure out the look and feel for that environment, the layout, pieces, and how you are going to curate it, I think that really sets the tone for the design of the house. You then kind of build out from there. Sometimes you go up, sometimes you go down. You pivot from that point. I think that space really becomes your North Star.
What do you believe every home should have?
I think every home should have a personality, and it should be stylish and tell a story. It should tell the story of the people or the person that lives there. It should be a great expression of the aesthetic of the people, person, family, or brand that you are working with. I think a successful and beautifully designed home responds to the location, the architecture, the lifestyle, and it is telling a personalized story of the people that live there.
What more do you hope to accomplish with your platform?
I love developing our products, textiles, and the process of working with all these various factories. I think it is so much fun. So, I hope to continue doing what I am doing, but keep moving it forward, develop it, build it, and enjoy it. I truly love the process of design. I love being onsite during renovations, building from the ground up, going to the factories, going to the upholsters, I just love it. I always want to be a part of the building process. From doing bespoke custom interiors to doing the products that go into them. It is really a holistic approach. I love it.
Before we wrap up, are there any other upcoming projects or anything else you would like to mention or plug?
We are working on so many great projects right now, and I am very excited. I recently got back from doing a few projects in Florida, we are finishing projects on the west coast and the southeast – we are working all over the U.S. I am going to be in Texas for the market there, I was just at High Point, we just shot a house in Connecticut, we are doing apartments in New York City, we are running around. I am meeting with the different people who are making our products, so it has been all good.
We are coming out of a strange time, so right now, it is sort of a celebration. It is great to see all this stuff happening again. We all had this unfortunate and bizarre break, and it has affected the world in a very crazy way. As we are coming out of this, and it also happens to be Pride Month, which is another celebration, it feels like there is a lot of positive energy coming out of a very dark moment.
Stay up-to-date with Filicia and his designs by following him and Sedgwick & Brattle on Instagram. Also, visit his official website for more information. Reunion Road Trip: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is available to watch on the Peacock app.