So when I got an email asking if I wanted to interview Queer Eye’s Culture Expert Karamo Brown, I
casually and cooley said yes got tears in my eyes and replied with an email that had more exclamation points than is professionally appropriate.
Karamo Brown is a television show host, activist, parent of two and the author of two books: Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope and I Am Perfectly Designed. Before his work in television, he had extensive experience as a licensed social worker and psychotherapist, skills we see him share with every guest on Queer Eye.
When I was presented with the opportunity to interview Karamo, there were no less than 2,000 questions I wanted to ask him (primarily, “WHY ARE YOU SO AMAZING?”). Ultimately though, we decided to talk about setting boundaries; what they are, why they are so important and how to go about setting boundaries as part of our self-care.
Plus, we learned about a super exciting project he’s been working on, that airs tonight!
Here’s what Karamo Brown told us about setting boundaries as part of self-care:
How is establishing boundaries part of self-care, especially for parents? What might some examples of boundary-setting look like for you?
Brown: Personally, I’ve struggled with taking time for myself for a very long time. I spend so much time giving back and investing in others, but what I’ve learned is that I have to carve out space for myself, too. I have to make sure that my cup is full before I can try to pour into anyone else’s cup.
For myself, I set alarms on my phone that go off throughout the day and say “hey, this is a time for you to evaluate how you are taking care of yourself, or if you need to reevaluate the boundaries with the people in your life.” These alarms go off every single day, at 10 am, 12:30ish, 3 pm. Having these little moments and reminders to take care of myself and set boundaries helps me throughout the day. As a person who has a job and is a parent, I need to take that time for me. The phone alarms help me release that guilt of setting boundaries that I used to have, especially with my kids.
I think sometimes when we hear the word boundaries, we think of them in a negative way. Can you please share some insight that will help people feel less guilty about creating boundaries, especially with the people they love the most?
Brown: Having a relationship with no boundaries is like driving through traffic with no stop signs—it’s reckless. You have to help people understand when to go, stop, slow down, and when they can turn left or right. The only way they can know that is if you set healthy boundaries and communicate your needs with them in a way they can understand and respect.
What advice would you share for someone who has a family member/friend who continues to disrespect the boundaries they have set?
Brown: Before you can set a boundary, you have to be clear on why you’re setting it—when people ignore or step over our boundaries it’s usually because we aren’t clear with them on what that boundary means to us.
If someone does disrespect a boundary you’ve set, hold them accountable for their actions. Don’t just write them off—that’s cancel culture. We need to move past cancel culture into counsel culture, and try to rehab these relationships that maybe aren’t always comfortable.
Do you think that when our kids watch us set boundaries for ourselves, it serves as a good model for them as they grow up?
Brown: Absolutely—no doubt. The best thing we can do for ourselves and for our children is to set boundaries and respect boundaries, and teach them that their boundaries should be—and will be—respected. I remember when my kids were younger, I’d lock myself in the bedroom and tell my kids I was on a call just to get a few minutes for myself.
At first, the kids would be calling for me and trying to get me to open the door—every parent knows that feeling, and it can come with a lot of guilt and shame. Now I’m beyond feeling guilty about that. As I have become more comfortable with setting boundaries, instead of saying I’m on the phone, I can say “I’m setting a boundary for some alone time, you’ll be okay out there for 10 minutes.” By doing that I’m giving them the language to use in their own life, and also helping them understand that they’re going to be okay even if I need to take a little time for myself.
Kids need to hear “this is a boundary I am setting, and you are still safe.” As parents especially we have to feel more comfortable releasing that guilt around boundary setting, especially during quarantine when you’re locked up with people. It’s okay, it’s totally fine to set boundaries.
Often in Queer Eye, you guide people as they push through their self-limiting ideas about themselves so that they can live a fuller more authentic life (and I cry every time). How can we balance continuing to push ourselves past our comfort zones while also understanding where our boundaries are?
Brown: That’s so sweet of you to say. I think to get out of your comfort zone you have to get out of the spaces you’re normally in, whether those are physical spaces or mental spaces or emotional spaces. If you’re always in the same spaces, it won’t happen. But those boundaries have to travel with you from space to space.
What’s next for you?
Brown: Karamo’s Holiday Spectacular, presented by Zelle! It’s going to be like a mini Queer Eye episode that everyone can participate in. A recent study found 35% of consumers are either holding virtual holiday get-togethers or skipping holiday connection altogether, so Zelle and I thought—why not have a virtual holiday spectacular that anyone can access with just their mobile phone?
I’m going to have several guests including Lucifer actress Lesley-Ann Brandt, Emmy-award winning TV Host Zuri Hall, and choreographer and dance sensation Matt Steffanina. We’ll also be revealing the winners of Zelle’s Send Cheer contest, who will be receiving 25K each from Zelle as a reward for keeping the spirit of the holidays around all year round.