Bobby Berk Talks New Lowe's Partnership And Queer Eye - Exclusive Interview

We know them, we love them, and we know they're called the Fab Five for a reason. Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with "Queer Eye" star Bobby Berk, the team's design expert, about not only Netflix's premier feel-good reality series but also his new partnership with the home renovation store chain Lowe's. 

Berk — who stars alongside Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, and Tan France — is no stranger to giving individuals shocking transformations on "Queer Eye," specifically in their homes. Now, however, he's taking over the United States through his Lowe's partnership. As explained by WCNC, the partnership works like this: People across the nation can "nominate a deserving hometown project that needs to be restored." This isn't a small — or short — undertaking, though. Lowe's will run the program for five years and has committed to a $100 million investment. 

Bringing community spaces back to life or simply giving them a face lift is important perhaps now more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has separated people in a big way, and the current political landscape hasn't helped, either. This project will bring people together — and in style — and in our exclusive interview with Berk, the "Queer Eye" star revealed how the program will work, the location he nominated to kick it off, his personal heroes before he became one to others, and more.

How Bobby Berk's Lowe's partnership formed

You're partnering with Lowe's on a new initiative to provide grants for community projects. What specifically can you tell us about the initiative?

It's amazing. I'm friends with Marisa [Thalberg], who is the CMO of Lowe's, and she sent me a text one day and she was like, "Hey, we're doing this thing with communities. It's kind of like what you do with 'Queer Eye' but on a much, much larger scale. Can I get you to be a part of it somehow?" And I was like, "Well, duh." Then she told me more, and it's called the Hometown Initiative, and basically what they're doing is, over the next five years, they're spending $100 million on community improvement initiatives — nonprofit organizations, community centers, families in need.

Over the next five years, they're going to do about 1,800 projects a year, which is insane. They asked me to come on and be the Hometown Ambassador, which basically means I'm coming in and I'm helping select some of the nominations. I have nominated an organization myself that I'm actually going to personally design this space for. It's a lot of fun. Any opportunity that I can work with a company to kind of help people like we do on "Queer Eye" is a great partnership to me.

That's really amazing. I was reading that you specifically nominated My Friend's Place in Los Angeles. Tell us about this place and why you chose them.

My first place is a nonprofit here in L.A. that is a shelter for homeless youth. I'm sure you've heard that over 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQIA, and it had a special place in my heart because, at 15, I left home when I came out, and there were multiple times throughout the next few years that I was homeless myself and there were organizations back home, like My Friend's Place, that really helped me. To be able to give back to an organization that is helping youth go through the same situations that I went through, I won't say how long ago, but a while back, it was really close to my heart. I love that Lowe's is giving me the opportunity to really give back to an organization that's really close to my heart.

Bobby reveals the icons he looked up to before Queer Eye

You've become a hero to many because of "Queer Eye" and undoubtedly many more because of this partnership. How have you personally handled this exposure to the world since being on "Queer Eye?" and who were maybe some of your heroes, queer or otherwise, leading up to the show?

One of my heroes was Elton John. He was one of the first iconic, globally iconic celebrities that came out and gave me a role model because there weren't many back then. I grew up in the '80s and '90s, and there was really nobody out then. I definitely have to say the original Fab Five. They were the first gay people, real gay people, that I saw as [successful]. 

It was hard for me as a young person, because growing up, all I heard was, "Oh, gays aren't going to have a great life. You're not going to have a family. You're not going to be loved. You're not going to find success. No one's going to accept you." Then, here were these five guys living their best life, living their true authentic self and finding success and love and acceptance at the same time. To see them in that way really inspired me and gave me hope.

You've been taking on these partnerships and initiatives before. I know you've worked with Jill Biden on campaign stuff, and you've worked with Lizzo before. What are your favorite partnerships you've done? And maybe who are other celebrities you'd like to work with or other companies you'd like to work with?

One of the favorite partnerships we did was doing a music video [for "You Need to Calm Down"] with Taylor Swift. Yeah. She is amazing and lovely and wonderful and everything you'd hope she'd be. The video with Lizzo was great, but it was animated, so we actually didn't get to do it with her. Originally, it was supposed to be a real video, but then COVID hit. Netflix was like, "Oh, it's going to be animated now," which was a big disappointment because she's phenomenal. Presenting at the Emmy's has been insane — the opportunities that we've had to be on "The Tonight Show" and things like that, it's mind-blowing and I would've never have imagined that as a child.

On using his platform for political awareness and good

Speaking of working with Jill Biden, what does it mean to you to be able to use your platform for political awareness or partnerships like your Lowe's Initiative that are really going to affect real people?

To be able to use our "celebrity" to get awareness out there has been a dream come true. I never thought I'd be able to have this type of reach to really help change minds and policy and the direction of our country. It's a bit of a coincidence that every state we filmed in turned blue in the last election. I'm not saying we had everything to do with that, but it's kind of a cool coincidence.

Missouri didn't, but we were in Kansas city, Kansas as well, and they got a Democratic governor and I believe Democratic governor and Congressman, which was the first in a very, very long time. We're very proud of that and we hope that we've had a little bit to do with it. It's insane that we're able to help move the needle politically.

In the same vein of your work with Jill Biden or your work with Lowe's, do you have any specific goals you want to achieve in that realm?

My goal is to always use design as a way to help change people's lives. That's what I do on "Queer Eye." That's what we're doing with our Lowe's Initiative, and I love being able to do that because design has changed my life. I have definitely seen how design of my home and organization and cleanliness affects my mental wellbeing, and I love sharing that with people.

That's really interesting because I'm the exact same way. I have to have everything neat and organized. I wanted to ask you in that same vein for everyone that's going to read this interview, if there was one design tip, just one you could give to our readers that everyday people could employ in their homes, what would that be?

Keep in mind that chaos around you creates chaos in your mind. A lot of people these days, with everything going on in the world, are suffering from anxiety. You sit there and you start thinking about everything that's going on and it's not a great feeling at the moment. Remember that the chaos inside your home makes that worse. Try to really focus on making sure you keep your home nice and tidy and you will absolutely notice a difference in how your home is in a place of comfort and a place that makes that anxiety less instead of worse.

On his relationship with Thom Filicia

I think that's a really good tip that really everyone could apply. I know earlier you mentioned the original "Queer Eye" series, do you have any relationship with the original "Queer Eye" guys today?

Yeah. I talk with Carson [Kressley] and Thom [Filicia] all the time, actually.

I know that Thom was the design expert of the original series — is that something you were able to bond over?

Thom and I had been friends way before I was actually on "Queer Eye," way before I had any idea that I would be on it because we've been in the same design industry for so many years. Actually, our offices used to be in the same building in New York years ago. We bonded over that, but we bonded because we've known each other for a very long time. I first met Thom when I was managing the restoration hardware in New York and he was filming "Queer Eye" in the store and then he filmed in another company that I worked for as well. I've known Thom, God, since he filmed the original show back in 2004. Going on 18 years, I've known Thom.

Last year, you were on [Fox's] "Masked Singer." What are some of your other passions outside of design that you want to explore?

Definitely singing. When I get off this [interview] with you, I'm actually heading over to my vocal coach. We're working on some music. Singing's definitely a passion of mine. It's always been a passion of mine. That's definitely something that I'm working on, and hopefully, we'll be doing more with soon.

On RuPaul's Drag Race and what's next for him

We cover a lot of reality television in general here at The List. One thing we like to ask everybody we talk to is: What are some of your favorite reality shows to watch, and then are there any other ones you'd specifically like to be on?

I am honestly not a big reality show fan. I love sci-fi. I love crime drama. When I do watch TV, which isn't that often, I want to be transported to not real life. Recently though, "Celebrity Big Brother," I had never watched "Big Brother" before, but because Carson [Kressley] was on it and Cynthia Bailey was on it, I was like, "Oh, I know them, I love them. I want to watch it." I became obsessed with it. It's so good, it's so good. I started watching live feed. I've always been like, "Who would watch live feed? Who has time for that?" I like it. I'm like, "What's going on in the house? I want to know." It was definitely because I had a personal connection and I love Carson and I wanted to see how he was doing and holding up. It was really great. I was shocked at some of the things that went on.

I know you're close with Carson, and he's on "RuPaul's Drag Race." Do you watch "Drag Race?"

My husband was watching the Italian one and I was like, "No, that's it, enough." We watch all the ones in English. He watched the Dutch one, the Thai one. I'm like, "Enough." There is never not a night there's not an episode of "Drag Race" on from somewhere in the world. I'm like, "We need to not watch it as much so we continue to love it."

Finally, what can you tell us about what's next for you?

Not a lot I can talk about right now. There's a lot of things in the work that haven't been announced yet. We're waiting on timing based on some possible "Queer Eye" announcements. Unfortunately, not a lot I can talk about, but one of my passions outside of music is my site, It's an editorial site where we talk about social issues and health and fitness and design. Today, we did an article about "Where are they now?" with "Queer Eye" heroes. That's not necessarily what's next, but something that's always evolving and changing and a really great place to find a lot of good information about what's going on with me and "Queer Eye."

You can catch Bobby Berk in Netflix's "Queer Eye." At the same time, Lowe's is accepting nominations for its Hometown Grants Program with Berk through April 4.