29th June 2020

On personal reinvention and Queer Eye

By Dr Caroline Horner

Clients sometimes express an anxiety that reinvention means losing themselves, or being less authentic. I reassure them this is not the case and tell them that it’s actually the opposite. We are made up of lots of ‘selves’ - not just one. Reinvention allows us to show more of those selves.

I'll be honest - I’m more used to citing academic articles to support my ideas than TV shows, but we find ourselves in a new world (!) so I thought I’d embrace a new approach.

For those of you who haven’t watched the Netflix show Queer Eye, a team of five gay professionals in the fields of fashion, grooming, interior design, entertaining and culture give a person a makeover.

The individuals they help all share one thing in common: they’re all stuck in a rut.

The rut can be a professional, romantic, domestic or a sartorial one - it tends to be a combination.

The ‘Fab Five’ as they are known, act as quasi-coaches (advisers is perhaps a more accurate way to describe them). They support the individual through the reinvention process and that process always starts with figuring out who that individual really is.

They do this by snooping around the individual’s house, examining their upbringing and culture, probing their personal relationships and their wardrobes, asking difficult questions about their jobs and understanding as much as they can: from their values to their haircare routine. The Fab Five are, in effect, doing for their subject what we should do for ourselves: enquiring.

This process informs the next step in the reinvention: understanding what works in the individual’s life and what doesn’t. What usually emerges is that fear usually makes the individuals reluctant to try something new or a different approach.

Take the Jones Sisters, who had, until the show, run a small, fairly successful BBQ business in Kansas. For forty years, they woke at 4am every day to start cooking.

They continued this gruelling routine in the knowledge that life would be much easier and profitable if they started to sell their special BBQ sauce. But they didn’t because they were scared of commercialising something which had been kept in the family, they were scared to break their reassuring 4am habit, and were often ‘too busy working to think about it.’

Once they saw the benefits of having a sleek website, met a distributor and saw their sauce in a prototype bottle, they soon got rid of their limiting beliefs. The excuses fell away and the sisters began to engage fully in their reinvention. The sauce business, by the way, is booming: 1.7 bottles are sold every minute.

That’s what personal reinvention is. It’s not about losing your uniqueness or putting on an act, it’s about finding and embracing the tools you need to figure out what drives you and then working out how to amplify that.

Like the clients I’ve worked with, some of the individuals featured on the show acknowledge they’re in a rut immediately and throw themselves willingly into the reinvention.

Others need a bit more time, persuasion. They always need support.

After 40 years of carrying on in the same way, reinvention might seem impossible. It did for the Jones sisters. However, as one of the Fab Five, Jonathan Van Ness says: "When people say, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks,' it's not true. You can reinvent yourself and learn new things whenever you want."

He’s totally right, it’s one of the reasons I became a coach, because I believe that people have limitless potential to adapt, evolve and thrive.

In fact, personal reinvention is something we will do, and must do, repeatedly over the course of our lives, so it makes sense to strengthen the tools that allow us to reinvent ourselves and transition successfully.

The next series of Queer Eye will take place in Philadelphia and sadly all the subjects have already been lined up - but I’m pleased to let you know that it’s not Fab Five or bust - if you think you’re ready for reinvention - or want to be equipped when the time comes, i-coach’s iOpener programme can help you, why not start with i-coach’s values tool - it’ll help you work out who you are and what matters to or join us at an event to learn more about our approach

You’ll finish the programme with an increased sense of clarity and purpose. And you’ll also be equipped with key skills to draw on as you enter the next chapter in your life – and the others that will follow.

It also comes with the added benefit that you won’t have to show the world the contents of your wardrobe. Unless you want to.

Image credit: Netflix