How Tan France’s ‘Civic Duty as a New American’ Factors Into His Self-Care Routine

How Tan France’s ‘Civic Duty as a New American’ Factors Into His Self-Care Routine
Photo: EyeBuyDirect.

The self-care narrative has become so synonymous with luxurious baths, spa life, and me, me, me time that it’s easy to confuse “wellness” with straight-up indulgence. While $90 bath salts may be the hallmark of self-care sessions for the rich and famous, Tan France takes another approach entirely by exercising his right to vote as a newly-minted American citizen; cultivating societal wellness through civic duty; and teaching others to bake. The idea of caring for yourself by thinking of others is, quite frankly, radical—and Tan France is here to show us how it’s done.

“To me, self-care means doing all you can to bring joy and find pockets of happiness wherever you can, whether that be in spiritual wellness or physical wellness. Us boys, and in particular on the show, we talk self-care so heavily that we understand the importance of it ourselves,” he says. “It’s something I’ve always practiced and will continue to do. I’ve always been aware that if I’m not taking care of myself, I’m definitely not going to be in the position to take care of anyone else or to be the best version of myself for other people to benefit them in any way.”

Ahead, the resident  Queer Eye sartorialist, and EyeBuyDirect eyeglasses designer (who recently launched The Freedom Collection in celebration of Pride month) makes us rethink what it means to optimize mental and spiritual health by performing acts of love and taking simple pleasures (like singing in the shower every night). Cue up your Adele-meets-Bollywood playlist and grab the Head & Shoulders (like we said, it’s the little things, okay?): This is how Tan France does wellness, in the most democratic way. 

Better Living Through Civic Engagement

A lot of my mental well-being is based on what is going on around me and how peaceful things are. Things aren’t peaceful or in a place where they should be right now, so my civic duty as a new American is very important. Being able to vote locally and the presidential election later this year definitely factors into self-care because if we don’t vote for the people that are going to take care of what’s important to us, that’s not great for us, [then it affects our overall wellness].

Honestly, it just makes me feel like I’m contributing somehow and like I’m doing something. I think the times when I’m not feeling great is when I’m in a position where my hands are somewhat tied or I’ve made no effort to really change the situation I’m in, whether it be personal or societal. So for me, it puts me in a much better headspace to know I’ve made an effort to encourage people to vote and be that change. Especially now, when I’ve been in lockdown for three-and-a-half months and being in my home, I’m doing what I can to find that moment of happiness—and that’s partly through contributing to society, that’s what’s getting me through.

Comfort Dressing

Being in quarantine, I’ve come to appreciate comfort more than ever before. I used to think, ‘comfort is fine as long as I look [good].’ However comfort has become super important to me even when I get “dressed up —and when I say “dressed up”, I mean an actual pair of pants or a suit. I’ll go for pants with a stretch or elastic waist (or drawstring) or something that’s in a softer fabric because I cannot be uncomfortable when I’m on those four hour Zoom calls.

Finding options that make me feel comfortable is something I didn’t focus on before and I’ve got a feeling that as I come out of lockdown, this is something that I’ll gravitate toward still. So I’ve found ways to look nice and look the way I want to look, but without compromising on comfort. I’ve also been wearing frames and I think a lot of people have because if you’re at home, why put on contacts?  They’re not very comfortable, so why not wear a pair of frames that actually look nice than suffer through with contacts? 

Tan France Eye Buy Direct Collection

EyeBuyDirect.

There are two styles of frames in particular that I’ve been rotating from my collection with EyeBuyDirect: the Nola and Lighthouse. I love both and they go with pretty much everything. They also work with most face shapes. Everytime I put glasses on somebody on Queer Eye, I get so many DMs asking which I would suggest for different face shapes. So I’ve given a full explanation on the EyeBuyDirect website for which styles will best work for which face shapes. I answered every question that I can possibly think there.

I love all of the frames in the collection but I can’t wear all of them because my face shape is my face shape and not everything works for me but those two in particular, I think, are pretty universal. For Pride, we’ve also launched the The Freedom Collection with EyeBuyDirect, with a portion of sales going to The Trevor Project—it’s really on the forefront of providing LGBTQ+ people with resources and support. 

The Joy in Dressing Well

The reason why I’m so engrossed in what people wear, whether it’s an accessory or clothing, is because it really does make you feel a certain way. Even during quarantine, most of us are thinking ‘I’m not going to put in any effort today. I can’t be bothered.’ But that is going to affect your mental health if you look in the mirror and see a version of yourself you don’t like because you no longer look like the person you used to be when you would put on something that made you feel good. I know it seems like such a simple concept, but putting on an outfit or even specs that make you think ‘I look nice’ does do something for your well-being. 

The other thing is, it’s so important to kind to yourself when you look at the mirror. Don’t point out all the things that you hate about yourself and your body because the world’s going to do that for you. We don’t need that to be the reason we’re unhappy, and so just focus on the things that you like about yourself and try to remember that throughout the day.

Quarantine Lessons

What I’ve learned in quarantine is that I need to take more time for myself. I have spent the last two-and-a-half to three years shooting Queer Eye and it’s been go, go, go. I’m always on a flight. I’m always in a new city. I can visit three or four cities across the U.S. in a week. That’s very normal. Now, I’m in a position where I can take a look at what actually makes me happy outside of work and that’s being at home with my husband. It’s actually really important to me. As far as what I can take out of pandemic when lockdown eases up, I want to spend at least a few weeks every year, maybe scattered throughout the year, where I can be home, slow down, take a breather and focus on some things that I really like, such as baking.

If you haven’t seen ’13th’ yet on Netflix, please watch it. It’s so timely. I think they should be teaching it in schools.

Baking With Friends

I’ve been obsessed with baking for years.  My castmate Jonathan Van Ness and I are obsessed with The Great British Baking Show and we’ve watched every episode at least 10 times. We watch it while we’re filming—it’s a full-on obsession. This is totally just a brag but last year I did the celebrity version and won so I really am a keen baker. That’s why I want to continue to do it on my social [media], to share my passion.

I’ve been baking everything. It’s easier to tell you what I haven’t baked and what I haven’t spent every day eating than what I have. As soon as lockdown kicked in, I was doing two or three and Instagram lives a week, where I would teach my celebrity friends how to bake (usually cookies). I was baking so often, I’d eat that tray of cookies—five or six or eight or 10 or 12 daily.  It was becoming a real problem, so I stopped eating sugar about six weeks ago. I do this every four or five months where I’ll go for at least three or four weeks with no sugar. For the first few days, I won’t have anything to compensate for the lack of sugar, but then but then I’ll have—and this is going to sound so lame—but I’ll have one or two medjool dates a day and that really helps [with sugar cravings]. Dates are really common in my culture. Medjool dates in particular are incredibly sweet, so you get the hit that you need without having pie (or a whole pie to yourself).

Comfort Food From The Culture

My husband’s from Wyoming and they live on burgers in Wyoming, so I make a Pakistani version, which is basically a really spicy burger so it’s so good. But my ultimate comfort meal is Indian food—any kind of Indian food. My followers might be angry, so I’ll say Pakistani food (which is the same as Indian food). I love curry very much, so usually I’ll cook an okra or cauliflower curry with homemade flatbread we call roti. That’s my favorite meal. It’s so comforting. I know in the west you guys have mac and cheese as comfort food and I think it’s really lovely but for me, I was raised on Indian food and have been eating it since I started eating solids at four or five months old. I think Indian food in general needs to hit the US in a bigger way. In England, the most popular food is an Indian dish called vindaloo and I don’t know why that’s never hit America, so I’m hoping there will be a wave of Indian food that hits America at some point.

TV=Relaxation

This is sad, but watching TV brings me so much joy. I think people seem embarrassed to say they watch TV, but there’s no harm in doing it. I don’t watch TV very often, so if I have a week off every few months and I just want to sit and watch TV, then there’s no shame in that—especially if it means I get time to decompress and not stress about what’s going on in the world and just focus on what’s going on in that show.

This is going to sound like a plug-in and it’s so not a plug, but I just finished watching season five of Queer Eye. We only get the episodes five days before you guys all see it and I’d been working so much that I didn’t get to watch when I got the episodes so I just finished that two days ago. I started watching Padma Lakshmi’s new show on Hulu call Taste The Nation which is beautiful and so well done. It gives us an interesting perspective of what immigrants bring to this country as far as cuisine goes. Then I finally started watching Little Fires Everywhere. I’m a little bit late to the party, but I’m really enjoying it. If you haven’t seen Mrs. America, watch it—it’s wicked. It’s so good. And if you haven’t seen 13th yet on Netflix, please watch it. It’s so timely. I think they should be teaching it in schools.

Singing in the Rain

Even before the pandemic, I would always sneak a couple of minutes away for self-care everyday, no matter how busy my work life would get. When I’m working, I spend a lot of evenings on my own so when I get to the hotel, I’ll have a long shower and just take time to not be inundated with information and any kind of negativity.

For me, an ultimate shower would include the Tata Harper Clarifying Blemish & Oil Control Cleanser cleanser that I love. You’re going to judge me so hard, but I’m not one for fancy shampoos or anything. I use Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo. I always have and I always will. I’m so cheap that I’ll buy the generic version at the store—I will always fight for a deal. Then on my body, it’s simple: I use Dove Moisturizing Beauty Bar

When I’m in the shower, I play music on my phone. Usually, I’ll play Bollywood songs, 1995 to 1999 Bollywood. There’s a movie which is one of the most successful movies of all time in India: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Any song from that is what I will sing in the shower. After all these years—25 years!—it’s still those songs that I’m listening to. If I had to listen to something not Asian, I’d listen to Adele, “Someone Like You” or “All I Have.” It’s so good.

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