'Queer Eye' makeovers, progressive-style with NLC Austin

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by Nikki Metzger, 2018 NLC Austin Fellow

Is everyone watching the new “Queer Eye” reboot? It’s great so I’ll assume that you are and you know the premise of the show: Five fabulous coaches tear apart your life, throw away your baggy cargo shorts, shave off your unkempt beard, and then build you back up a new man who can make guacamole. This is, essentially, the same process you go through at NLC.

On the first day of NLC, we were asked to find our places on a graph where the two axes were direction and drive. It was illustrated with duct tape on the ground so we could swarm into packs with people we had just met. The vast majority of my fellow fellows grouped in the high drive, high direction quadrant dubbed “Captains,” or people who live creatively, proactively and deliberately. This was not surprising, given the amount they have all accomplished. A few, the “Seekers,” found themselves in the high drive, low direction quadrant; they are ambitious but seeking the right life path.

I was the only person on the high direction, low drive quadrant, a risk-averse “Passenger.” It didn’t feel great.

The next day, we were asked, “Where do you want to be in 20 years?” Some of the sub-questions included, “Do you want to own a house? How are you going to get there?” and “Do you want to have a family? How are you going to get there?” We were encouraged to dream big! I nearly cried.

Sometimes when I’m watching “Queer Eye,” I question how these men can undergo such total transformation in a single week. How do men living in the thick of toxic masculinity so quickly understand the benefits of emotional vulnerability and a bold pattern? But in two days, NLC had not only shown me that I have been holding myself back for years because of my fear of disappointment, it had also then pushed me to start new projects and name my dreams – live in a big city, write a novel – instead of refusing to speak them, even to myself.

The capstone project alone is something I would never have done without NLC. It asks us what we would create if we had no barriers, and applies all the talents and connections of the NLC network to take those barriers away. I am in the very beginning stages of my project, which is centered on anti-abortion bias in Texas media. I have months of research ahead of me, then a two-stage end product, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have all the skills I need to make it happen. But that’s what my fellows are for, and the classes in the upcoming months.

Plus, I already know how to make guacamole.