December 14, 2019

Spring headliners Bobby Berk and Karamo Brown teach importance of self-worth

“I want you to know things do get better,” Brown told headliner attendees. 

When “Queer Eye” stars Bobby Berk and Karamo Brown came to Webster on April 8, Webster senior Isaac Knopf had his business card ready in hand.

Knopf draws influence from Berk and Brown to be confident in his own identity.  To Berk and Brown, that confidence stems from one key factor they iterate on and off the show: everyone deserves to realize their own self-worth.

Knopf, a film, television, video and production major, said he tried every avenue to work on the show.  He said he ‘stalked’ the show’s filming locations while they filmed in Knopf’s hometown

Brown said he considers his work with “Queer Eye” make-betters, not makeovers. The show tells the stories of ‘heroes’ who need help accessing the best version of themselves. Berk and Brown are two of the ‘Fab Five’ experts who teach design and culture respectively to their heroes.

Karamo Brown from Netflix’s “Queer Eye” (right) hugs student Isaac Knopf after accepting his business card. Photo by Ryan Gines.

Brown said he and Berk work to allow their heroes to see the best versions of themselves.   

“We don’t believe that anyone needs to be made over,” Brown said.  “We believe that each of us are perfectly designed.”

According to Brown there’s an opportunity for each person to realize their own self-worth

Knopf said everyone’s strengths have the power to overshadow the flaws people see in themselves.

Berk said the first step toward realizing self-worth begins with self-care.

“It’s not selfish to self-care,” Berk said.

Berk said if he had not left his religious household at age 15, he would have committed suicide.  He said he put on the mask of a straight boy for his religious family.

“Nobody in the world knew who I was,” Berk said.

Berk said he attributes the high suicide rate of LGBTQ+ teens to the loneliness many feel.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are three times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers.  

Webster student Elliot Laurence said he had twice the experience with loneliness because he identifies as both bisexual and transgender

“Being unsure what exactly it is you are feeling can be isolating,” Laurence said.

Laurence credited “Queer Eye” with introducing him to the idea that a man does not have to conform to gender roles.  

Laurence said the clothes he wears contributes to his idea of self-worth.

“It’s about how you choose to present yourself,” Laurence said.  “It’s about dressing in a way that makes you feel good or comfortable or beautiful without caring about what other people expect from you.”

Even though “Queer Eye” appeals to LGBTQ+ people like Laurence and Knopf, Knopf said he would have watched the show even if he identified as straight.  The experts are that influential, Knopf said.

“Queer Eye” also helped Gabrielle Lynn.  Lynn admitted she binge-watched the March 15 release of season three of “Queer Eye.” Lynn consumed all eight new episodes in one sitting.  

To Lynn, the show is a life-changer full of lessons for everyday life.

“I think an important lesson for me was learning to be confident,” Lynn said.  “I’ve been finding little ways to be courageous and confident everyday, even if it’s something small like complimenting a stranger on the street.”

Brown and Berk also discussed the ways social media has affected the perception of self-worth.  Brown said people need to stop comparing their everyday lives with the highlights peers post on social media.  

Knopf said he ‘falls into the trap’ of valuing how many likes, comments, and shares his posts receive on social media.

“It takes away from the quality of living your life,” Knopf said.

Lynn said she is guilty of comparing herself to models on Instagram.

“Something I’ve been doing to combat that is following more accounts that focus on body positivity, self-esteem, and inner beauty,” Lynn said.

Brown gives his followers advice on motivation, setting boundaries, and self-care.  In one Instagram video, Brown recounted his own 2006 experience with suicide.

“I want you to know that things do get better,” Brown said.  “If you get help and you do the work daily, your life can change.  I’m living proof of that.”

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