March 18, 2019, 4:04 pm.
(Note: This article contains some spoilers for Queer Eye season 3.)

Season 3 of Queer Eye is out on Netflix, and if you're anything like me, it ate your weekend whole. It'll make you laugh, it might make you want to buy barbeque sauce, and it may very well make you cry. How much will it make you cry, exactly? Glad you asked.

I present to you my official ranking of all Queer Eye season 3 episodes, in order from "didn't make me cry at all" to "oh God oh no I can't see the screen through my tears."


The season kicks off with an episode of pure, lighthearted fun. A hunter named Jody learns to feel more comfortable in her skin, and it's a joy to watch. Not much crying to speak of, but I'm always here for Jonathan Van Ness saying, "She looks at him the way I look at a fresh family-sized box of Pop Tarts."


This episode didn't make me tear up, but it did give me pangs of sadness. Joey, an outdoorsy camp counselor, hasn't been close to his son for years, and that's not the kind of thing you can heal in one episode of reality television. All in all, this episode was more of a bittersweet reflection than a sob-fest – I wanted to cry, but the tears didn't quite come.


We still haven't reached cry territory, but we're getting close. The feelings hit when I least expected them – Jonathan, in his inimitable style, is liberally complimenting Tony (this episode's contestant) while trimming his hair.

"You can say 'Stop harassin' me' anytime," Jonathan adds.

Tony takes a moment, and then earnestly replies, "You're good."

It was simple, it was quick, but there was power in its subtlety. Jonathan checks in with Tony without breaking with the playfulness of the moment, and thus gives Tony an easy way to set limits. When Tony affirms his consent, it's unambiguously given. Queer Eye gives viewers the words to take care of other people, and I think that's why it almost brought a tear to my eye.


Here come the feels. When Karamo brings Robert (who constantly cracks self-deprecating jokes) in front of a mirror and makes him say good things about himself, I couldn't help choking up. Maybe it's because it reminds me of this scene from My Mad Fat Diary (which, if you haven't seen, I highly recommend) where the protagonist, Rae, must tell her ten-year-old self that she is beautiful. I would wager that almost all of us have been there at some point, looking in the mirror and only hearing cruel voices. It moved me to see Karamo equip Robert with the tools to combat those voices, because there are times when we all need a Karamo.


Oh boy. I shed tears during this one, and we aren't even in the top three yet. Thomas, a timid gamer who spends most of his time in his room, attends a meeting of the Kansas City Japan Society. It's small-talk purgatory, and Thomas is quickly overwhelmed by it all. He slips away from the crowd and checks in with Bobby and Karamo, and that's when I lost it. They create a space that he can return to – in the middle of a social event – to refuel on confidence. Karamo reminds him of how far he's come already, and Thomas gives the event a second go.

The Fab Five go beyond imparting life lessons to him. They stand nearby as he tries those lessons out, allowing him to come back for support when he needs it. I think that's an amazing strategy to model for people who struggle with social anxiety – if you're in a social situation that's overwhelming, you can escape for a moment for an imaginary check-in with Karamo and Bobby. You're allowed to take a break; it doesn't have to be easy the first time around. Anyway, I definitely cried.


In an episode about a widower moving on from his recently deceased wife, yeah, there are going to be tears. But beyond the big moments when I obviously couldn't stop from sobbing (I mean, who is immune to Bobby Berk engraving a dead mother's handwriting into a dresser for her sons), there was a small moment that really touched me, too.

While getting his hair done, contestant Rob offhandedly says to Jonathan, "How can anybody be depressed with these two kids around?" With Jonathan's bubbly, chatty nature, you almost expect him to chirp, "I know, right!" and move to the next thing. But he doesn't.

"Well..." Jonathan says softly, "I dunno, people can. They do all the time."

I felt a lump grow in my throat. It takes courage to counter a casual generalization that someone else makes; it isn't easy to remind people how complex mental health is. But when you do it, you validate so many people. Many children blame themselves for their parents' depression; this show is here to remind you that there is no formula that can guarantee happiness, and that it's okay to be sad even when you're surrounded with love.


We're getting to the real heavy-hitters now. This episode sees a pair of sisters, Mary and Deb, reinvent their family business and (of course) their images of themselves. What really got to me about this episode was seeing the two sisters start to feel beautiful – at slightly different paces.

At first, both Mary and Deb lack confidence. Then Tan France outfits Deb in a leather skirt, and when she sees herself strutting in the mirror, you can tell her journey has completed – and that's where her sister's journey begins. Previously skeptical, once Mary sees Deb in her swanky business outfit, her face transforms – "My turn!" she cries.

But Mary's journey isn't over yet. I broke down (and so did the rest of Twitter) when Jonathan did her hair, and then again (along with Twitter, of course) when Jonathan and Tan took her to get her teeth fixed. When she sees her new smile, she clasps their hands, sobbing, and calls them angels. Waterworks. Absolute waterworks.

These women, who have been fiercely independent for so long, finally enjoy indulgences. Finally, someone's taking care of them. Black women are constantly asked to be strong, to be brave, to be tough. But that doesn't mean Black women don't need care; don't need love and affection; don't need to break down and cry and be the sweet little princess sometimes. Queer Eye gave them the tenderness they were long since due.


And finally, here it is. The Queer Eye episode that actually made me bawl my eyes out. The Fab Five take in Jess, a young Black lesbian woman who was disowned by her adoptive family, and help her heal from her deep-seated fear of abandonment. Witnessing Jess's pain made me – and by the sound of it, the rest of the Internet, too – want to surround her with family, with love, with a home.

I cried happy tears for the influence Queer Eye has. I'm already moved by stories of young queers who are disowned. But not all of America is. Besides the tangible, material change the show is causing for Jess, they paint a young Black lesbian in an unbelievably tender, loving light. Why does this matter so much? At the end of the episode, Jess says to Karamo, "Honestly, you are... a huge Black role model for me... You are yourself and that's beautiful." The representation in Queer Eye has already helped Jess. And by elevating her story, they have made the face of sympathy in America look a little bit more like Jess. This can shift the way people look at Black lesbians; this can shift the way Black lesbians see themselves.

I love what Queer Eye is doing. It's not a perfect show, of course, but it normalizes conversations about mental health, breaks down the walls of masculinity, and gives people – contestants and viewers alike – the language to talk about self-love. And I believe these things are radical.