How Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown Learned to Love His Bald Head

Written Oscar Holland, CNN

This article is part of a new CNN Style beauty series. “As we are.”
Karamo Brown is a self-esteem guru of sorts. Whether giving motivational speeches, campaigning for mental health, or teaching life on the popular makeover show Queer Eye, he’s built a career on his seemingly infectious sense of confidence.

But while the TV star handed out self-love lessons during the first and second seasons of the Netflix series, he also struggled with his own insecurities — and used makeup to hide his bald patches.

When he was in his early 20s, Brown realized his hairline was “about to hit the road” and the moment, he recalls, was “nervous”.

“I was no longer desirable, no one was going to appreciate me anymore, because my hairline was slipping… When you are young, you are not taught how to deal with it; you are not taught how ((love) is what naturally happens to you.

“Our hair is very personal to us,” he adds. “It’s how you present yourself to the world, it’s how you show your style… When I went to the hairdresser, when I had full hair, it was the moment when I felt the coolest, I felt the most proud, I felt herself as the sexiest.”

Brown decided to completely shave his head after filming the second season of Deep Look. Credit: Contributed by Karamo Brown

In addition to using makeup to give himself the appearance of hair, Brown also amassed a sizable collection of hats. (“I thought, ‘Oh, if I’m going to go out into the gay community, then I need a cool hat to match my outfit so no one wonders what’s underneath,'” he says.) The decision to shave completely, he says, that with his hair after filming the second season of “Queer Eye” was difficult.

“I wish I could say I felt energized, but I didn’t,” explains the 41-year-old. “I was nervous. I felt uncomfortable. I thought, “Are people judging me?”

Hailing from Houston, Texas, Brown rose to fame with The Real World: Philadelphia before taking on various reality shows and taking on various roles. In 2018, he joined Queer Eye as one of the “Fab Five” along with fashion specialist Tan France, food and wine expert Anthony Porowski, design guru Bobby Burke and stylist Jonathan Van Ness.

In the makeover show, Brown takes on the role of a “culture expert”, half mentor, half therapist, who encourages contestants to look inside themselves, not others, for verification. Accepting his baldness meant practicing what he preaches.

“Everyone immediately said: “Oh, your head looks good. Oh, you look smooth. Oh, let me touch your head.” I thought, “Wait. I’m not going to do what I used to do, which is to validate myself through (others’) comments.”

“So I went home and thought, ‘OK, I’ve got to fall in love with this… I spent an hour or two in my bathroom just rubbing my head, feeling on my head like, ‘Oh, you’re smooth.’ And that’s how I fell in love with him.

“And that day, I was the happiest person I’ve ever been because I no longer hid or tried to be something I’m not.”

Brown is pictured with full head of hair in a yearbook photo.

Brown is pictured with full head of hair in a yearbook photo. Credit: Contributed by Karamo Brown

In 2020, Brown launched Mantl, a skincare line for bald (and balding) men. With products that include a cleanser and moisturizer for the face and scalp, the brand was designed to “empower men who embrace their baldness” and “leave outdated notions of masculinity behind,” he says.

“We should not say to each other: “Look at your hair, this is what will make you beautiful. We say, ‘Look at you, because you’re beautiful.'”

“My biggest goal is to make people feel good (and) look good in their skin,” he adds. “It’s about helping men and women understand that yes, it happens, but you can still love yourself and stay beautiful.”

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