Thought you’d cried your last tear over Jess, the “strong black lesbian woman” from Queer Eye series three? Think again.
I don’t know if Netflix deliberately made Queer Eye more tear-jerking for its third season or I’m just more of an emotional wreck than I used to be, but the most recent series of the hit makeover show reduced to me to sobs so many times that it began to feel semi-masochistic. I cried when Shorty Jones, one half of the awe-inspiring Jones Bar-B-Q sisters, called Karamo Brown “Mr K”, and then again when she saw her new teeth for the first time. I cried when Jonathan Van Ness gave scruffy summer camp manager Joey Greene a transformative haircut, and Greene’s shy, sweet 13-year-old son gazed at him admiringly. I cried when Krissy Diggs, the world’s best big sister, talked candidly about how she felt she couldn’t move away from Kansas until her reclusive brother Thomas could stand on his own two feet.
But perhaps most of all, I cried at the episode starring Jess Guilbeaux. Like many of the people who appear on Queer Eye (“heroes”, per Fab Five terminology), Guilbeaux has a difficult backstory. Adopted at birth, she was outed as a lesbian at the age of 16 and was immediately kicked out by her adoptive parents, who are extremely religious.
Remarkably, given the fact that she’d effectively been left to fend for herself while still a child, Guilbeaux got into the University of Kansas to study computer science – but subsequently had to drop out due to debt. When the Fab Five caught up with her, she was working as a waitress in a Greek restaurant in Kansas City, and was convinced that people would only want to support her out of patronising pity. She was, by her own admission, close to giving up on the idea of genuine human kindness.
Of course, the whole point of Queer Eye is to remind us of the power of empathy and human connection. By the end of the episode Guilbeaux had a new haircut, a new apartment and a newfound willingness to reach out to others. She had also found a kindred spirit in the best and most criminally underrated member of the Fab Five, Bobby Berk, who was also adopted as a baby and left home as a teenager.
And now, Guilbeaux has more proof of the power of human kindness. Queer Eye fans have raised more than $96,000 to help her get back to university, after a viewer set up a GoFundMe page titled ‘Send Jess Back to College!’
In a statement on the GoFundMe page, Guilbeaux said: “Hello everyone! I wanted to update everyone on what your wonderful gifts have helped me do and my process to getting back to school: I have paid off all my student loans!!
“I’m so excited and ready to continue my education with a fresh new start. Thank you so so so much for everything!”
Goddamnit, Jess Guilbeaux. I thought I’d shed my last tear for you.