"Hi, Lauren!" Tan France greets me on the phone as we prepared to dive into our interview. Normal. Cheerful. Hearing his adorable British accent instantly put me at ease and weirdly made me feel like I was talking to an old friend—not someone I've religiously watched transform the lives of men around Atlanta on Netflix's Queer Eye. If you somehow aren't familiar with the show's Fab Five, I encourage you to take the time to get to know them. Each member of the iconic crew specializes in something different, with Tan France's fashion peg—hence our conversation—complementing Antoni Porowski's food and wine skills, Jonathan Van Ness's beauty and grooming guidance, Bobby Berk's interior design wisdom, Karamo Brown's culture expertise.
On the show, Tan educates men on how to dress in ways that are approachable yet polished in order to become the best versions of themselves. Off the show, Tan uses his social media to share what he's up to, the ins and outs of his very real friendships with his co-stars, and, of course, his own outfits. The latter has translated to partnerships with brands the likes of American Eagle, for which he is the newly appointed stylist at large. This sidebar social media existence (endorsements aside) is something I relate to all too well as a fashion editor. While my work is published on Who What Wear for you all to read, I'm encouraged to regularly nurture my social presence in an effort to offer a more well-rounded voice to the person delivering you tempting shopping content every day.
Courtesy of American Eagle
Now, I love Instagram, but I certainly am no pro at it, and since Tan wasn't available to come into my home, raid my closet, and take me shopping for a whole new wardrobe (let me know if your schedule ever clears up, though, Tan!), I figured having him makeover my Instagram was the next best thing. After scrolling through my feed just a few short minutes on the phone, Tan had somehow managed to uncover my biggest insecurities when it comes to the social platform, encouraged me to break those bad habits (with tips!), and made me laugh too many times to count. I thought to myself, Wow, he's good.
Here, read our conversation featuring everything from ways I can improve my Instagram to how he manages to stay true to himself on social media.
What instantly stands out to you about my Instagram? Any themes?
I’m nervous! I don’t know how honest you want me to be!
Be honest! I have thick skin.
Okay, so, the obvious is fashion because you’ve got runway show pictures, you’ve got pictures of your outfits; however, the one standout for me is—so I only stalked your Instagram earlier on today, and the one thing I looked at with Jonathan Van Ness (don’t judge me)—well, Jonathan Van Ness and I are both very, very, very engaged with Instagram, and we do outfit posts, and both of us said literally the same thing as we pulled it up. We were like, “Where are her feet? Where are her feet? Where are her feet?”
You’ve got most of your look in, but it’s not your full outfit. I want to see shoes! We were like, “What is it? Does she not like her feet? Does she have large feet?” Anyway, we had a lot of questions and just wanted to know. That’s the biggest standout.
A lot of times I feel awkward when I have a full photo shoot in the middle of the street. Maybe that’s why? But I shouldn’t care about that if I want a good photo.
I get that. Exactly. If you want to post this photo, you’re going to have to commit.
But really, why did I cut off my feet?
This is much better.
What do you think I post too much of?
There’s nothing I think you post too much of. My answer is nothing. If it was a full page of food, let’s say, then I would definitely have something to say, unless you’re a food blogger, but your Instagram is really varied. Like, it’s not just the same pose; it’s not all selfies.
What do you think I post too little of?
The thing I think you need to do more of is commit to your look itself within the photo. I can tell through your form in particular that you just quickly wanted to get the shot so you can move on. Do you get embarrassed when you ask someone to take your picture?
Yes. I do.
Okay, I can tell. So again, if you’re going to do it, just commit. Stick to a pose. If you want that picture, pose. And! Who cares? You’re in New York. That person doesn’t know you. They’re a tourist, they’re going to go back to their own busy life, and in a heartbeat, you’re never going to see them again. So my advice comes down to pure engagement. Commit more, and it feels more authentic.
Can I tell you why? If you’re not committed to that picture, I feel it, and therefore I’m probably not going to engage with you. Whereas if you seem confident AF, I will happily engage. When I post a picture and I am engaging so clearly with my audience, they’re more likely to engage with me.
What’s your favorite photo that I’ve posted semi-recently?
There is this picture that you posted on June 14 that is one of my favorite pictures on your Instagram because it’s funny, and I like that some of your pictures are actually really comical. This one, in particular, you decided to stand in front of a DHL truck—that kind of shit is funny! I would engage with that. The reason I’m saying that is because if you’re feeling awkward about standing in front of just a door, do it in front of shit people aren’t expecting you to.
That’s so true because even when I see my friends posting things on social media, it’s about so much more than just their look. I think people can get so wrapped up in their appearance on Instagram. Before posting a photo, you’re nitpicking every part of yourself, but people are engaging with the entirety of the photo.
Exactly! A couple of weeks ago, I stood in front of a trailer—like, a really badly beat-up trailer in the middle of nowhere, and I mean, I was showing off my outfit because I wanted to click on the tags, but that wasn’t just it. I wanted it to be a complete concept.
What are some of your favorite things to post on Instagram?
My favorite things to post are Instagram Stories. I will post to my feed, but I don’t post as often as maybe I could. I’m not the kind of person who wants to post on my feed every day. I’ll post on my feed if I feel like I’m loving my look, and that’s usually the stuff I want to post. I want to post about my outfits because that’s what I promote on the show is what I wear or what I think other people should wear, so I do tend to post that and people do tend to respond well to that.
However, in my Stories, you really get to understand my personality. So, I really enjoy a story. I love when you get to see the behind the scenes of what people think I am. Yes, in most of my pictures, I’m really feeling my outfit, and I’m posing in a certain way, I’ve stood in a certain place, I’ve chosen my caption, but in my Stories, you realize they’re way more fun. For example, Jonathan’s got his hand down my top—you see the real behind-the-scenes, and I love that. It adds a real personality to what you see on my static feed.
Do you have any tips or tricks on how to stay true to yourself on social media?
When it comes to captions, I think captions can make or break a picture, and I do find that if I don’t have the right caption for a photo—it doesn’t matter how good the photo is—they could have liked something similar three months ago, but if my caption is something that they know isn’t true for me, they won’t engage with it. I try to make mine snarky because I am really snarky. I like to make it not too serious.
When a brand wants to do something together, I try to encourage them to not give me a caption. I’ll say I will still mention the brand, but let me put it in my words so people feel like that is truly me. Yes, I may be promoting something, but I don’t promote something unless I actually like it or I actually want to wear it, and so, therefore, let me put a caption in there that matches; otherwise, you’re not going to get the engagement you want. And again, I honestly think a caption makes or breaks a social post.
Have you ever posted an Instagram and then deleted it later because you regretted it?
Oh, no. Maybe I didn’t like the backdrop or maybe I didn’t like the outfit in the end, but no. Oh, actually yes. [Laughs.] I’m thinking about my feed, but now thinking about my Stories as well. Sometimes I forget that we live in a world where people are very sensitive, so sometimes with me, Jonathan, and Antoni in particular, we’re very inappropriate with each other, but we’re the best of friends, so it’s fine, and sometimes we will touch each other’s body parts—ears, nipples, the fingers, whatever—and sometimes one of the others will film it, and I won’t notice. There was literally one today on my story—Jonathan only realized partway through that I was filming.
Sometimes people don’t know our relationship, they would have discovered us for the first time, and they think that we’re being completely inappropriate, whereas if you knew our relationship, you would realize that’s who we are and, in general, it makes us really happy. And so yeah, a couple of times I’ve had to delete those because it’s not being received well, but then I’ve regretted deleting them, because that’s who we are. We’re a bunch of jokers, and we like to play.