After watching just one episode of Netflix’s latest series reboot, Queer Eye, you immediately understand the essence of Karamo Brown, the token culture expert of the present-day cast dubbed the Fab Five. Brown’s infectious energy, innate caretaker persona, and heightened social awareness shine on camera as he works with his fellow castmates to better the lives of others while representing the LGBTQ community. Observing Brown as his authentic self on Queer Eye clearly exposes a Southern gentleman’s spirit groomed by a life of challenges and purpose—a legacy he hopes will teach his two sons to, “Never give up on themselves or the good in people around them.”
For Brown, 37, every major life milestone came to fruition in the same fashion: abruptly and unapologetically. For starters, he fearlessly made waves as the first openly-gay African-American in the history of reality TV during his time on The Real World: Philadelphia back in 2004.
Although monumental, becoming the public face of a community at 25-years-old was hardly the moment that changed Brown’s life. Soon after his time on MTV, the reality star learned he was the father of a 10-year-old son.
“I came out at 16 years old as a proud, gay man. My last girlfriend in high school—when I was 15—became pregnant with my child but did not tell me," Brown shared with Parents.com. "She moved away, and I never had contact with her again; remember this is before social media." Ten years later, he received a subpoena for child support on his doorstep. This is how he learned about his son. "I was confused, sad, angry, and weirdly excited to be a dad, but felt lost nonetheless," Brown says. "We were both kids and don’t blame her for the decision she made because the choice was not hers, it was the adults around us."
Brown, who immediately took full custody of his son, Jason, humbly describes getting to know his son as a natural progression and credits the mother of his child for supporting them in finding the best ways to connect. “It wasn’t always easy, but when it comes to your children, giving up is never an option.”
With fatherhood came a full lifestyle overhaul. This meant cleaning up his “functioning addict” habits—ones he describes as a college campus culture normality encouraged by those around him. “It wasn’t until I became a dad that I asked myself how would I feel if my son had the same relationship with drugs and alcohol as I did,” Brown explained. He continued, “I quit and have never looked back.”
In the beginning stages of Brown's fatherhood journey, he discovered his son, Jason, had a half-brother, Chris. The then father-of-one stepped away from the spotlight and went on to dedicate ten years of his life to being a social worker while adopting Chris in order to keep the family unit together. “I took legal guardianship of Chris [in 2011]. Chris was nine at the time, and it has been an amazing journey. Again, I give my son’s mother so much praise for allowing me to step in and support her in raising our kids,” Brown explained.
Brown dove into fatherhood with zero hesitation, focusing on making their home the perfect haven for his beautifully blended family. “The adjustment process was challenging at times. New house means new rules and expectations not just for the children but for me—the parent—as well. Navigating each other’s expectations, the move-in, diet, friends, school, and homework can be overwhelming,” Brown recalls. The main piece of advice he can share from his experience: “Take it one day at a time, never lose your cool and do just as much listening as you do talking.”
Brown’s calm, cool, and collected attitude doesn’t take away from how difficult times got. He is the first to admit, “Any parent who says parenting came easily to them is not being honest with themselves. Parenting is hard.” He describes navigating his needs and his children’s needs to be challenging—even after 10 years of parenting, Brown says he still learns something new every day.
Brown's sons are now 21 and 17, old enough to take on more responsibility around the house and give their father the opportunity to fulfill his professional dreams. Since 2014, Brown has been a host and segment producer for the OWN Show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, a host for Huffington Post Live, a Family Advocate contributor for HLN/CNN, a cast member on TV One’s hit docs-series #TheNext15, and the host of MTV’s Are You The One: Second Chances.
Brown's passion for providing a better life to those around him hasn’t stopped with his kids. In 2016, Brown was invited to work with the White House under the Obama Administration to create policy and legislation to support LGBTQ youth and their allies after school hours. The star also began his own non-profit organization, 6in10.org, which provides tailored mental health support for black gay and bisexual men to eradicate the six in 10 HIV statistic plaguing many communities.
As Brown becomes a household name, he understands the gravity in which his platform encompasses, and hopes he can inspire other modern-day parents. “When people hear my story, my hope is always that they start to believe that the life they want is possible for them because I am living the life I’ve always dreamed,” Brown said. “In our country being from immigrant parents, growing up black in the South, coming out at 16-years-old, being a teen parent… you would assume that my life would amount to nothing. And here I stand today. So, if I can do it… you can too!”