Live in Fear or Love? (with Karamo)
When Karamo was 15 years old, he came out as gay to his best friend. That didn’t stop her from convincing him to lose their virginity together and ten years later, he found out he had a son. Sam asks Karamo about the choices he made to forgive his friend, take custody of his son, and stop living in fear. They talk about his experience as the first openly gay Black man on reality TV, how his social work background helped him land his iconic role on “Queer Eye,” and the best ways to break through to men.
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Karamo, Samantha Bee
Samantha Bee 00:00
It can be so hard to choose to be positive when the world can be so cruel, so challenging. It’s really hard to remind yourself to lean into love when so many other things need your attention. Thinking about parenthood, parenthood can be so overwhelming on its easiest days. And it can be words that I’m not even sure I’m allowed to say on this network on its very worst days. My husband and I, we have three kids. But before that, we had two, two kids, two full time jobs, then we decided to add a third child. And at that time, our biggest concern wasn’t space. I mean, it should have been our apartment was ridiculously tiny, one of our children slept in a drawer. It wasn’t even money. And again, it should have been kids are on cuddly expensive. It was actually love. We were so worried that we would be depriving our children from attention and love by focusing on someone else. Plus, the average number of kids per American family is two. And who are we to say that we’re above average. But in the end, we realized something. I think a lot of people in this situation realize hard skin, expand and accommodate. There’s always more love to go around if you are able to do so. Always choose love. I thought about this a lot after having a conversation with our next guest. This is Choice Words. I’m Samantha Bee. My guest today is the super thoughtful and charming Karamo Brown. You love him from Queer Eye and his talk show Karamo and I got to talk to him about choosing love choosing forgiveness and choosing fatherhood. He tells himself every day that there is an abundance of love out there and I absolutely love that. And good news, my life tour your favorite woman the joy of sex education is heading back on the road. Kicking things off in Connecticut, New York and Wisconsin before hitting California, Canada. Lots of places in between. Go to Smith b.com for dates and tickets until then, take a listen and make good choices.
Samantha Bee 02:40
Karamo, I am so excited to see you again.
I know. It’s been way too long.
Samantha Bee 02:45
It has been way too long. And here you are. No, I know that you realize that no one can see us right now. But you are in your studio for Karamo.
Yeah, it feels nice to be here. Oh, it
Samantha Bee 02:57
Must feel so nice. Yeah, it’s incredible.
You know, this process like you know what it is like you just to be able to like be in somewhere and to have a little bit of control and to be like making sure your voice is heard. It feels nice.
Samantha Bee 03:12
That is a good feeling. Okay, we have so much we have so much to talk about today. Um, I’m one of the things I want to ask you about before we as we launch into this because this podcast is about choice and choices that we’ve made in our lives and big choices and small choices and something, you know, things that reverberate through your life that maybe didn’t even seem like big decisions at the time, but actually worse. So impactful. So I want to talk to you first about your relationship to choice how, what kind of a decision maker are you?
I’m very decisive.
Samantha Bee 03:52
You seem like a very decisive the sharp lines of your blazer or mirror.
We’re doing this. But that that decisiveness even within that has evolved. Oh really, because I realized that early on my decisiveness was a protection that I had. It was me being able to cut things off very quickly to say, I’m not going right, I’m going left because I lived in a sort of fear, fear base place. Majority of my life as a child who didn’t have a lot of stability. There was always an underlining a fear, and and decisiveness gave me the illusion of control. And yeah, it made me feel like okay, I’m controlling my life, so I don’t have to ever feel insecure or unsecure again, because I’ve just made a decision. Instead of realizing that sometimes it the decisiveness was an illusion. And I really didn’t have control. I was making a choice because I thought this is what What would make me feel safe? And I realize now that though I’m decisive, there’s a lot of thought. There’s a lot of understanding of like, okay, how does this affect me? How is this affecting? I asked this question myself, always sorry, not to go too deep. No, no, no, no, no, this is so interesting. I asked myself and I do this all the time, I asked myself, How would How would baby karamo our teenage come about and how is karamo now all going to relate to this decisive decision? Because baby me wanted to be loved and protected. Yeah, teenage me was rebellious and wanting to fight back and present me is older and wants peace. And decisive decisions have to be able to make sure that they’re aligning and healing and giving to all three of those versions of me, because all three of those verses with me, live in me. And so my decisiveness is not the wall, and illusion of control that it was before. It’s now a thoughtful decisiveness.
Samantha Bee 06:01
I feel like I relate to that in a way like, I feel like there’s something about, you know, when you’re going through when there’s trauma in your life, there’s something about cutting people out of your life cutting people out of your heart, and you have to do it. Yes. Like, like excising a tumor or something like that. You just have to make a move.
Yes, yes. But it’s that it’s that illusion of super fake security, it’s a big control. And I didn’t want to do that anymore. And so, and now I’m just thoughtful about the versions of me that still live in me that need to constantly be healed and loved on and to be acknowledged, and how my decisions affect all of us. And it sounds like I’m talking about myself as I have multiple personalities, but it’s not. It’s just, it’s just Baby, baby. Samantha is still in there, Baby Sam is all in there. And whatever happened as a kid, and whatever happened is teenage Sam is still in there. And that one wants to fight and kick ass if she wants to. She wants to change the world and an adult you is like, I still am gonna be both those people who want love and to fight. But I also want some peace in honesty and kindness and clarity, and my decisions, my decisions align with all three of them.
Samantha Bee 07:16
Everything that you’re saying so, so thoughtfully, is what I see. And I’m going to, I’m going to come back to this point. But everything that you’re saying right now is what I see in your show, oh, your patience with people, the way that you speak so tenderly to them, as they’re in crisis, or like trying to make sense of the different versions of themselves, or whatever it is the trauma that they’re experiencing, I feel that mature karamo coming to, like acknowledge the past, but also try to, like, make a path forwar.
You’re so sweet. I appreciate that. Like God, honestly, I really appreciate that.
Samantha Bee 07:55
100% true, 100% true, you can see it in every, you really can see it, is there a choice that you can look back on in your life that you think really changed, I guess change the trajectory of your life, maybe in an ither in a very expected way or, or something very unexpected.
I mean, there’s two choices, that I think really affected me big time that were a real choice that I know, that I made. And that changed directory. One is physical, and one is more emotional. So the emotional one was the day I stopped living in fear based decision making and more abundance based decision making, which was big for me. Because again, unstable childhood, like things going on, you know, abuse in my household. Daddy drinking smoking too much weed, I thought everything was always gonna be taken away, right. And then one day, I realized that like, if even if something’s taken away, God in the universe, and I will still provide, like i It will still come at this, I don’t have to be fearful that I’ll be left out without anything. Like, I more will come I because I deserve it. And I’m walking in line with, with truth and honesty that I’m going to get more like so if I lose his job, I’ve never been fearful that I won’t get another, you know, if I if I lose this relationship, I’m not fearful that I won’t get another because I no longer live in that fear based place that I used to live in. And that was a conscious choice that I had to practice where I’d see myself staying in a relationship that was so that I knew I wasn’t supposed to be in and then I was like, come on, you deserve more than this. And there is an abundance of love out there that you’re gonna get. And I would have to repeat that to myself daily karamo there’s an abundance of love out there that you’re going to get. And it just it took away the power from the fear. So that was the one choice that I made that change directory.
Samantha Bee 09:50
Really, really good. That’s a practice that is a practice that you have to.
And then when I became when I found out that I was a fog Are because my father passed the father who was a little bit untraditional. I let people into my sexuality when I was 15. And I had one best friend who wanted to lose her virginity. But she didn’t want to do with her boyfriend because she didn’t want to he was older, and she didn’t want to seem like an experience. So she convinced my gas to have sex. And I was like, why, you know, I’m a hobo. And we feel like, oh, let’s try it. I said, okay, like being an idiot, teenager, and, and it lasted all of one minute. And then she moved away. And then 10 years later, she was like, surprise, here’s your kid. And the day that I decided to forgive her, so that I could have a better relationship with her and my son, and then also to take custody of my son changed that choice. That choice, because I was like, I could live in the I’m upset at you for not telling me about my kid for 10 years, and what you did to him what you did to me and all this stuff, but I was like, I forgive you, I forgive you. This is a choice, and I want to get closer with you. And then also, I’m making a choice to take custody of my son, because you I didn’t I miss so many years, I don’t want to miss another one. And both choices deeply impacted my life.
Samantha Bee 11:28
Huge choice. That is, that is that is like a very, that’s like a that is next level forgiveness, girl. And that is that is a practice to like that is something is so intentional. Yeah. And so healing for you so healthy for you to be able to do that. But not is that’s not easy.
To be honest with you. At the moment, I didn’t know that I was doing it for me. I I was doing it for baby karamo, right, who saw himself and my son, who saw he’s gonna have issues about his father and not being there and issues of like, his parents not getting along. And so I was like, Well, I don’t want him to do what I did. So I’m gonna forgive you for him. I got it, I’m gonna forgive you for him. And then later on, when I got older, I was like, Oh, that decision was really for my baby me. I wanted somebody to make that decision from that one the adults in my life to make better choices for me, because I didn’t ask to be here. And I wanted that. And so I made the better choice for him. Because no one made it for me and, and, and it was for him for the long time because she would shoot pissed me off. So we have, we have a lot of different choice makings, even to this day. I love her to death. But I would every time that would happen, I would make the choice to be thoughtful, intentional and forgiving. Because I wanted him to see better. You know, work.
Samantha Bee 13:02
It worked. Oh my god. And what a gift for him to be chosen. Do you know what I mean? To be so intentionally I mean, chosen, really.
Yeah, yeah, I see the adult that he’s become and how adjusted he is. And I know it’s, it’s it was that he went from seeing, feeling alone, feeling distant feeling like isolated, feeling like, things are going to always be in confusion to oh, people are choosing to be better for me. And I’m priority and I see how you respond to life now. And I’m like, thank God.
Samantha Bee 13:40
God, you took that thing for you and for him and for your whole entire family. Right? That kind of limitless love is what.
I know at the moment. I gotta sit here and be like, I was some guru in the moment. Oh, no, no, reading my teeth and being like, Oh, just put a pay off one day because I’m on the so you know?
Samantha Bee 14:02
Have your career choices changed a lot since you became a parent? How have you how have you navigated that world? Because your career has exploded, obviously.
Well, you know, I believe in there’s a bigger and diviner plan that I’m like, I always knew I wanted kids. Like when I was in college, I was like, I’m gonna I’m gonna husband and my kids and anything. Like I was very traditional. I still a very traditional, I still want marriage and all that stuff. And it’s not for everybody for me, but I was I was like, I was like, you know, the universe. God had a bigger plan because if I would have tried now, I wouldn’t have like being able to have the my son like my son is 26 now, which gave me the ability to now when to like, I’m still young. I’m 42 then like now I’m like, able to travel and do my career. And as you know, these careers are demanding that I’m lying. If I had a toddler on my shoulder, right, I could I couldn’t do it and I could as many people do. But I’d be I’d there’s been so much guilt that I’d have to be working through and things that I’d have to be figuring out where now I’m like, okay. He’s on it. Yeah, he comes with me where we do stuff together because he’s 26. So it’s like, you know, about to be 27 And I’m like, Oh, this works. This works.
Samantha Bee 15:24
We’ll be right back with Karamo after this. Okay, I want to go back to the start of your career a little bit. When you started you are the first is this right? That you were the first openly gay black man to ever appear on television? Is that true?
No. on reality television reality
Samantha Bee 16:00
Television, okay. Specific
Because Rue was the first okay. Like, you know, that we saw. And then I was the first on reality television because no one had ever been on reality.
Samantha Bee 16:13
Did you know that? Did you when you when you decided to do real world? Did you know that?
No, I was a college kid that was like, I can go into a house and get drunk. They’re gonna give me like, $5,000 to spend my summer in a mansion with a hot tub. Sure. Sign me up. I wasn’t even thinking about like, let’s be on this show and make.
Samantha Bee 16:33
Representation in the TV landscape.
Exactly. I want it. Yeah, I want representation and diverse I want people to know I was like, I was like, so how much liquors in here?
Samantha Bee 16:49
I need a whole slushie machine. For me. My flavors?
It isn’t true. So I found out later because after it was done, it was like, Oh my gosh, like you’ve done this. Yeah. And it’s wild. Because I remember when I shot this in 2004, we went to a black gay club on the show, as they follow you to clubs on those reality shows. Yeah. And nobody wanted to get on camera. Because the stigma in the black community and communities of color was so much and there were so many people that were still dying. I mean, still, you know, trans women of color died at high rates, you know, gay men of color are still at risk. But back then it was serious. It was like you are getting shot when you walk around your corner, that no one wants to be on camera. I was like, I’d walk in a club and they would all scatter. And so I take a little bit of pride now and I’m watching like housewives and like, there’s all these gay guys on and I’m like, Girl, good for y’all. Because I didn’t have that.
Samantha Bee 17:55
No one was really backing me up on that. Okay, I don’t actually know how it happened on queer. I like how they cast it in a way. But how did you become the culture? Guy? Was that? Like, did you have a choice in the matter where you I mean, it makes me Of course it makes sense to me. But was that your? Was that your goal to be that figure on the show?
No. So they were casting the show for a year. And I came in the last three weeks because I was watching Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen and Carson Kressley. He was an original fat five was on there. And so they rebooting it. And I was like, Well, I’m getting I need to be on this show. And had and loved the original. But I was like, I don’t I don’t cook clean. I mean, like I mean, like, fashionable, but I don’t have a you know, I don’t I’m not a chef.
Samantha Bee 18:52
I don’t like not sure what my niche is.
I worked with a social worker for many years. I’m like, Okay, I work in mental health, like, great. Like, I don’t know how this is gonna work. But I begged my agent to get me an audition. They said no, no, no. And then this woman had cast named Gretchen said, Well, as a favor, I’ll bring him in. But what category does he want? And I was like, I was like, let her decide. Because I don’t know. I mean, I got kids, I can cook. Like, I know how to put together an outfit. Like I just didn’t really I had no idea. And then I got beige decided culture because it was generic. And so that’s how they brought me in. And when I got there, they were doing a chemistry test. So as they brought in their top 5055 050. That was because they were going to Mitch Matt, right. And so we spent we said two days mismatching for the five okay. And I remember everybody else in my category were all art curators. They were all Broadway, Broadway stars composers because culture was that and, and I literally walked outside and called my agent was like, so I’m no one here. I’m not an art, and I don’t know how to draw and I don’t know what to do. And he was like, Well, do you want to fake it? And I said, Well, you know, that’s not my MO like, I don’t, I would fail at faking it right. And I was like, so I’m just going to tell them that, like, I work in mental health and just like, see how it works, and just do my own thing. I literally went into the audition into that chemistry test. And every time we would talk about something, I was like, Well, you know, as much I would like to take them to a museum, I’d love to like find out like, where did their trauma come from, like, what resources they need, what happened. And I just kept going up, and up and up in the casting, and they kept getting rid of like art curators, and everything. And then at the last rate, I was like, well, maybe this mental health thing is working. Maybe me being myself, you being yourself. Yeah, they told me later on, they were like, well, we decided that this was the fresh take we needed for this new iteration is somebody who’s going to talk about mental health and get to the deeper conversations.
Samantha Bee 21:06
It is brilliant. Because you were perfect.
That’s what changed. So that culture, culture title, just a throw over from the original one. Yeah, they should change like mental health or, you know, I don’t know, whatever they want you to.
Samantha Bee 21:21
Honestly, watching the show makes me feel like all hosts should start off as social workers. Because like, you had deep trauma you have deep, you have had deep conversations with people. And so much of the show was just about unearthing those layers. Yeah. Like, why people couldn’t change or why people couldn’t adjust their life, why they couldn’t move forward.
Yeah. Well, part of why I believe this show is has been successful, is because people can’t, you know, like changing your outer and changing your home will only last as long as your mind is there. And so you can get cute in the morning. But the minute that like some that puts you off and you feel depressed, you’re not going to dress up. Yeah, you know, when people sit in their house, they that’s why we see every movie when someone is not in a space where they’re happier, their self esteem or emotions are down. They don’t change their clothes, they don’t do their hair, they don’t, their house becomes a mess. And so for us to be able to work together has been such a blessing because you need each component for it to stick.
Samantha Bee 22:23
Yes. Because I feel like when people are stuck in those situations, because they feel they’re not worthy. You’re not worthy. They’re not worthy of an exterior that looks nice. They’re depressed. They don’t feel like they deserve. Yeah. That’s it to live a high quality life. And that is I mean, I feel like I feel that on your show on karamo. Thank you. It is an extension of the work that you’re doing on queer. Right. And I think that yeah, that’s certainly holds true.
Yeah, I mean, like, I’m Queer Eye people sometimes because, you know, daytime talk. And also, I’m not in the celebrity genre. I’m on the, you know, or political genre and, you know, regular everyday people, that they come with really motions, and it’s heightened. And then I have to give, bring them down and help them to figure through it and give them a resource. But it’s the same thing on queer i because people, people get our cute five minute packages that have cute music. But especially with my category, they don’t realize like, I mean, there’s a season that I had a daughter and father, it was in Philadelphia, and the daughter was decided to leave the house, because her father just was like, so strict and a Latino family. And he wanted her to be in a business. And when all these things she she rebelled and ran away and hadn’t seen her. And when I brought them back together, the part that we cut out was the daughter came in and was like, you can’t control me. I’m my own person. And it was and he’s strong. And he’s like, this is culture and they’re, you know, this, I’m a Latino man, and you don’t talk to your father that way. And it was like he did. And then I got them to a place where it was like, here we go. We can hear each other. And then that’s when we as queer I start recording, right? And you see, hi, Dad, I want to okay, I hear you now I want to talk to you. And people don’t realize for my scenes, I always get that friction. And so with all my talk show, you just don’t get that cut out and put over and then pretty music put under you know, you get that you get to see the real things that happens in all of our lives. When your mom says something to you and she triggers you or your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your husband, your wife.
Samantha Bee 24:32
It is very messy and very heated.
Yeah. And then I go back into my office because now I made it that I do have that slushy Margarita machine in me that and grape flavor
Samantha Bee 24:44
You must have, you must have two different flavors at all times.
First of all, have a cocktail because these are six episodes or six episodes a day.
Samantha Bee 24:54
You should six episodes a day six. You must be emotionally.
Samantha Bee 25:02
Come on out a margarita. Oh, no, my office cutting them off. It takes some it takes a lot out of you, I’m sure because you really are. It is like, I don’t think that. I mean, listen, like I’ve interviewed people. This is my been my entire career. But you were really, when you are dealing with people who are not media trained, and they don’t have like a veneer about them. They are just like raw nerve endings. And you are talking to a lot of people at the end of their rope. And that actually takes a tremendous toll on you, I am sure.
But you do the same thing. And one of the things I have I respect about you and I look at you as someone I respect and I also take from your your hosting talent is that when it comes to like even like your political stuff, like people are at their wit’s end and they are there, they’re just it’s raw emotion, and the way you’re able to navigate it to get people perspectives that calms them and gives them clarity is something that I admire. I just had to give you a roses because I think you’re amazing. You’re amazing.
Samantha Bee 26:07
Well, thank you. That is why I have a pina colada machine in my house that is churning 24/7, do you know what I mean? Breakfast pinnacle? Okay, let’s, let’s do it. Right, let’s do it right eggs. Hold that thought more with karamo after one more break. So grumble is taking the place of Maury, which was on the air for decades, What decisions did you make to ensure that you would that the show would have its own identity? Because it is very distinct? Very different.
Yeah. So ironically, I wasn’t supposed to take I wasn’t taking my spot. What happened was, they announced my show. And then he announced he retired a day later or a reverse. They were already planned. You know how this works. It was already planned for to announce mine. And then he decided he was retiring, because, you know, he had done the thing. And then press was like, here’s his replacement. And it was like it worked out. Because Because of that, I did take a couple of elements that I did respect about his show, but did in my own way, like or one one element, particularly is that I mean, everyone talks about like you are the father, whatever. But because of my own life with a paternity issue, and finding my child later on, I wanted that element. And at first, I wasn’t going to have it on my show, because of the fact that I was like, I’m I don’t want anybody to compare me tomorrow. And then people and then people did it anyway. And I was like, Well, no need to fight that battle. And so I took that element. The only difference is that I don’t do babies. I do adults like myself, who who can understand what it means to have results from a paternity test. But I mean, like, again, I also want people said that, like, I keep my show different. Like the difference main difference between me and most people that’s in this genre, is I want resolution. Yeah. And you know, I want resolution and I want tools. And last season one I gave out. More More therapy than NBC probably wanted to pay for. But I was like, I don’t care. Like, every episode. I was like, at the end of it. I was like, Can I give you can I pay for therapy? And they’re like, yeah, that now Season Two of my show. We’ve already shot two weeks. And, and I remember there was one episode where I didn’t offer them therapy, and they’re like, I’m gonna give free therapy therapy. And I was like, Yeah, well, I’ll give you therapy.
Samantha Bee 28:47
It’s good. It’s like a sign that you don’t good thing.
You did good. But yeah, sure. Well, they were a session or two.
Samantha Bee 28:58
That does feel like such a difference that you’re like, it doesn’t feel like you’re trying to get people to throw chairs at each other. In fact, it’s the opposite. Like, complete opposite.
I’m like, You got to calm down. Like if someone starts standing up and they start doing it. I’m like, no, no, no. I’m like, It’s okay for you to show your emotions and be a human being because we all have our moments of like, we’re frustrated. I’ve been dealing with something for 15 years, and I don’t feel heard or I don’t trust you. But you gotta get calm because unless you want calm, calmness and clarity, then we’re not gonna be able to get through this.
Samantha Bee 29:30
Anyways, you’re just so great on your show. But you’re so good at giving you are good at giving advice. You are great at guiding people. I think that’s people who have walked through fire are always like really calm, good at like guiding other people. Like, do you seek other people’s advice when you’re trying to make the big yells Do you have a I do what do you lean on I guess or.
So I’m the youngest of four sisters. And I was obviously my mother and father and their tumultuous life that was raised by my mother. Because by the time being the youngest, she finally got the courage to leave my father being abusive when my sister, my youngest sister was leaving high school, so that it was just she and I, okay, and I look to them, they are my rocks. My, you know, I’ve, I’ve always said, I don’t understand how we ever thought God was a woman, I mean, a man. I never I thought how we thought that, especially when the only thing we know on this world is women to be able to reproduce other than transmit, and sorry, before, you know, some, but you know, like women to be able to reproduce. And I’m like, so the thing that creates everything as a man doesn’t make sense to me. So I don’t understand that. And it’s always it’s also what’s given me my empathy. And what’s given me my clarity is when you’re surrounding a household where people are willing to be vulnerable, while also being strong. Be forward while also understanding that it’s okay to let other people lead. Like when you see just people who, you know, these women in my life that showed me, I just mimic them and mimic them, I really do. And then anytime I have something, I go to them and I say check me, you know, let me know where I’m at. Like, cuz I trust what you have to say.
Samantha Bee 31:20
Do they check you? They’re like, absolutely not.
Absolutely. All the time. Okay. It’s only been in a shift like maybe in this past two years, where now they’ve been calling me oddly, they’re like, but you’re the patriarch of the family. No, like, I’m the oldest, I’m the oldest boy out of all the cousins. So they’re like, you know, you got to handle this now. And I’m like, Girl, when this happened, I’m okay with y’all handling it. Like, y’all been doing a great job. And you know, but, but now they’re checking me. They’re not checking me as much, but they love to check me and tell me like, okay, and I have a sister who is a counselor. She’s a PhD, and she loves to critique my advice all the time. Oh, really. She loves to be like, so. You are right. But, you know, clinically speaking, you could have probably went a little bit further here. And I’m like, Thank you for educating me, she thinks she’s reading me, but she also just makes me better.
Samantha Bee 32:15
That’s amazing. One of the things that I think you’re also so incredible at is getting men to be so vulnerable. Okay, like, we obviously as a country reckon with misogyny and sexism and all kinds of garbage patriarchy, all the time. And so much of that I don’t know feels like is because men are just conditioned to like, not all men, but you know, a lot of them are conditioned to like, hold it all in, like suck it in and try to ride through every situation on a White Stallion and save the day. And it just doesn’t work at all at all. Not wanting to appear emotional is like it’s a crisis. Yes, it’s a crisis. How do you break through to men in particular? I mean, is it becoming easier? The more that you do it, it’s very tricky.
I think for me, it’s become easier because now men know, I’m a safe space to do it. Okay, so we have house parties, and you can always catch a guy in a corner crying with me. I’m not even joking. I’m not even joking. Like, my girlfriend’s would be like, where’s my, where’s my husband? And they’re in a corner somewhere like all my shoulder, and I’m like.
Samantha Bee 33:44
Sometimes I just didn’t want to be the hero.
Okay, maybe it’s okay. But I think I think the steps for men that don’t know my career and don’t know me that I interact with is, a lot of times, the first thing I tell them is not to be afraid of the dictionary, meaning, like these terms of like, patriarchy, vulnerability, they have a connotation in their mind a definition that they put in their mind that they feel like it’s not going to define them. And I’m like, don’t be afraid of these definitions. Like, let’s explore what it actually this is for you, you know, and this is for everything people get so afraid of definitions that then they start to make that their battle. And that’s, that’s the hill they want to die on. It’s like, stop being afraid of the English language. It’s okay. It existed it was there before. But let’s talk about what it could mean for you. And I think once I get them to understand that, like, patriarchy in these words, yes, it’s a word. And yes, you’ve benefited or Yes, you’ve exhibited. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t mean you can’t grow through it doesn’t mean that you can’t be better, doesn’t mean I’m going to define you doesn’t mean that I’m not going to allow you to be better than that moment that you had where you did subscribe to it. That I then see the first brick in that wall go down Then I start to I do a sort of a reverse psychology of like, what are the expectations that the women have for you in your life that that you don’t like? Or that they uphold when it comes to this patriarchy. And it’s, it’s not that I’m actually accusing or putting it on the women, what it is it’s making them to start explore that the same way that you’re saying that this other sex has these things, you have certain things too, that you feel like a pressure that you have, obviously, your pressures are not as bad, but it doesn’t matter right now, we’re not comparing or contrasting what I’m doing is allowing you to say like, Well, yeah, sometimes I don’t like to be the one that has to like you just said, you know, hey, that hero, I don’t like that, you know, she tells me that I can’t do this, or I can’t do that. Because if I do, then, you know, it’s, you know, like, a lot of men feel like they get mixed messages. Obviously, women have been experiencing that their entire lives, you know, so it’s like, What was you, but I’m going to give you a space to express it. Because for me, I’m not going to chastise you for having a feeling I’m going to allow you to feel safe. But once you feel safe enough to express it. Now it’s time for you to grow through it and understand why you have that feeling, why it’s detrimental, and how you can be better than that feeling.
Samantha Bee 36:16
It’s okay to be better.
But you got to be better. Be better, you got to be better. Like, let’s let’s explore the choices, you know, to go back to what we really talked about, how do you explore the choices you made? And how do you be better than those? And yeah, and it’s working.
Samantha Bee 36:33
It’s very, very hard to solve a problem if you can’t articulate it, don’t you think? Yes. If you can’t say the problem out loud. Yeah, you can very rarely fix it.
But most men are afraid to again, afraid because they’re afraid the dictionary. They don’t want to define it. They don’t want to say it because if they own it, then they’re a problem. And they don’t want to. And it’s like you got don’t be afraid of that dictionary. I mean, when there’s an episode on Queer Eye that from this past season, I’m very proud of it. We worked with a frat. And they asked me at the beginning of Episode, like, are you going to take one person? What Who do you want from the frat? And I was like, No, I’m gonna take a hole and pick a whole group.
Samantha Bee 37:14
All of you.
I’ve been doing group sessions forever. Like, I know how to do this. And we’re sitting with these boys. And I’ve just asked them like, what is it? The first question I asked was, What does it mean to be a man? And they were like, they were like going into these definitions. And I was like, they were all wrong. Because they were afraid of like, just the regular definition is that it’s just your chromosomes, right? We’re not the all these other things that you’ve added on. None of these are what is supposed to be it’s you’re talking about chromosomes right now. And I’m you and I’m talking about chromosomes. And you’re talking about feelings and expectations. Now let’s challenge those. And like having these nine boys in a circle crying because they let go of what it was to be a man.
Samantha Bee 38:02
You made so many spouses, future spouses lives better in the moment. That’s a huge that’s a mission going into a frat house and being like, no, no, no, they’re like, which what? Which one of us is has issues you’re like, every single one of you get downstairs right now.
I’m telling you, it’s one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had on TV seeing these young man cry and open up and, and experience of vulnerability and a public and together right and know that it’s okay to talk about it. And she’s, I’m proud of it.
Samantha Bee 38:48
You know, you and activism, so natural to you. I mean, you do a lot of work across a lot of different spaces. But and it’s more bipartisan than you might expect. Yeah. You met with Karen. Karen Pence.
Yeah, it was her, her chief of staff.
Samantha Bee 39:05
Okay. What makes you decide what makes you able to, I think I know what makes you able to reach across the aisle like that you’re just come. You see that goal and see the goal. See the end goal?
I see the end goal. And plus, you know, I really to be honest with you, I never had a choice. You know, when you’re black gay immigrant parents, like I’m first generation American, my parents, I’m from this country, I had no choice but to reach across because otherwise people weren’t gonna reach across to me, right. And it that’s literally what it was, it was like, Well, I know that if I sit here and, and die on my Hill, I it’s not going to benefit me and it’s definitely not going to benefit for the other people who don’t have the access of privilege that I have. So I might as well go try to talk to him. Because, you know, like, whatever. I’m not gonna, like allow you to hurt anybody, and I’m not gonna allow you to do things but like, if we can find some common ground, like why not, you know, and it’s come back to bite me and my ass a couple of times, you know, like people have been like, […]
Samantha Bee 40:04
Listen, there’s no without, you know, without risk. There’s no reward and you can’t listen to people you can’t. There’s a lot of armchair critics a lot of armchair quarterback. Yeah, at all times.
Exactly. And I understand it, I get it, you know, people, you know, they’re we’re in a tense moment where it’s like, Well, are you about to flop? Are you ready? Are you about to start, you know, doing some stuff that is like, Are you about to put on a hat that we’re all like, oh, on, you know, like, you know, we’ve seen it where you’re like, oh, like, yeah, like, I’ve stopped wearing all of my red baseball caps. Like, I love a baseball cap. And I’ve stopped wearing all of the red ones. Because I’m like, I don’t want anybody from the back to be like, what does it say on the front?
Samantha Bee 40:43
Oh, you cannot wear red baseball caps have I can just count for a long time.
It’s gone. It’s gone. I’m like, they’re gone. They’re in the back collecting dust now. Yeah, but I do it because I know that if I don’t put myself in that position. And I believe that part of what I’m on this earth to do is to I can handle it. I can handle it. I’ve gotten the tools. I’ve gotten the skills. I can handle it. And I don’t put anything on myself that I can’t handle. So if I can handle it, and it’s going to help somebody else be a little bit better. Thank God, let’s just keep walking through this fire. Because why not?
Samantha Bee 41:25
Dammit, that was great. I have enjoyed talking. I always enjoy talking to you. But this was this is chef’s kiss. Yes. I enjoy you thoroughly. I think you make the world a better place because you are Anna, and you’re just a calming, you’re just an incredible person. And what a what a damn pleasure.
I gotta tell you, I feel the same way about you. And this is not this is not fake talk. Like I mentioned earlier when I said I watched you and I’m just so amazed by what you do as a host. As someone who shifts culture. You are someone I respect and revere and let’s look up to and so this the feeling.
Samantha Bee 42:09
The feeling is more than mutual.
You’re amazing. Thank you so much.
That was Karamo and I had no choice but to look up one thing. He really made me want a slushy. So I had to know, who do we think first slushies? Well, it all goes back to the 1950s in Kansas when the soda machine at a Dairy Queen stopped working and its owner put all the cokes in the freezer and then sold them frozen. It was a hit I mean, obviously, as soon as delicious, case closed. And good news, there’s more Choice Words with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like a rapid fire trivia based off my interview with Laura Dern and Diane Ladd subscribe now in Apple podcasts. Thank you for listening to Choice Words which was created by and is hosted by me. We’re a production of Lemonada Media, Kathyrn Barnes, […] and Kryssy Pease produce our show. Our mix is by James Barber. Steve Nelson is the vice president of weekly content. Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittles Wachs and I are executive producers. Our theme was composed by […] with help from Johnny Vince Evans . Special thanks to Kristen Everman, Claire Jones, Ivan Kuraev and Rachel Neil. You can find me at @Iamsambee on Twitter and at @realsambee on Instagram. Follow Choice Words wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.