Silly me. I was sure that Queer Eye had already found every possible way to make me sob, blub, cry and weep. Not so. Not so, at all. ‘Black Girl Magic’, the fifth episode of the show’s third season, reaches inside your soul, finds the tear tap and turns it all the way on. For comparison, think back to season one’s ‘To Gay Or Not Too Gay’ and how that shredded your emotions. It’s not a patch on what ‘Black Girl Magic’ will do to you. You’ve been warned.
Hyperbole about my unstable emotions aside, there’s a humanity on display here that is above and beyond anything the show has done before. ‘To Gay Or Not Too Gay’ was a really beautiful tale of one man’s search for himself, but its emotional payoff felt a little too orchestrated and a little too invasive. It feels ridiculous to call Queer Eye subtle, but with ‘Black Girl Magic’, the show’s newfound willingness to let the story speak for itself is plain to see. There’s no need to set up a big dramatic moment when the whole episode is so steeped in empathy, pain and catharsis.
Jess is a young black lesbian who has been through genuine emotional trauma, particularly when her adoptive parents threw her out for being gay. When she first meets the Fab Five, her life is a model of impermanence, from her menial job in a restaurant to her mattress on the floor of a shabby shared apartment. This is a young woman who won’t let anything become a defined part of her life because she knows how painful the absence is once it’s gone. It’s no accident that she’s allowed her relationship with her biological sister to become distant, but the joy they get from each other once they’ve been reunited is unspeakably moving.
The makeover part of Jess’s transformation is easy, mainly because Jess is incredibly beautiful to begin with. Jonathan and Tan still do their magic and make her look even better – that haircut looks insanely good on her – but the real healing work is left to Karamo and Bobby. I always find it fascinating to see which member of the Fab Five the ‘hero’ gravitates towards the most. In this case, Jess and Bobby’s stories contain enough parallels that he’s best equipped to understand what she’s been through. Not only is he an interiors magician, he also possesses a very reassuring and empathetic presence.
Jess deserves every bit of happiness she gets from this episode. I hope her adoptive parents see it and feel like utter arseholes for rejecting someone who already had suffered so much rejection. It should be unforgivable but that would benefit nobody. There’s also a happy postscript, as a gofundme set up by viewers raised $70,000 to send Jess back to college.
Best. Episode. Ever.