When the gurus of self-care packed their bags and hit the road for Kansas City to film the third season of Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” many of us wondered which Kansas City we’d see.
After all, Kansas City has never been just one thing. Duality is in its DNA, a city straddling the line between Kansas and Missouri, agricultural and urban, historic and cutting-edge.
In the new season dropping on March 15, “Queer Eye” showcases the many facets of Kansas City — while helping deserving men and women rediscover some of theirs. Netflix released four screener episodes to give us a taste of what to expect.
Working from a trendy loft in the historic Firestone Building, the Fab Five — Antoni Porowski (food), Bobby Berk (interior design), Jonathan Van Ness (grooming), Karamo Brown (officially culture, but more like therapist) and Tan France (fashion) — wage war on self-doubt, guiding men and women adrift in these matters.
Together, through tears from their makeover subjects, they disabuse us of the notion that self-care is some sort of crutch for the weak.
On the contrary, season three includes some tough cookies — among them, a penitentiary employee, a summer camp counselor and an Army veteran. No, the Fab Five’s self-care message is a call to mental discipline.
A camo-obsessed outdoors woman from Amazonia, Mo., was taught to reclaim her femininity. A divorced father from La Cygne learned how to let go of guilt over past mistakes.
Deborah “Little” Jones and her sister Mary “Shorty” Jones Mosley, second-generation barbecue experts and among the few female pitmasters in the city, underwent one of the most extreme transformations. (Seriously, their wardrobe makeover alone should win an Emmy.) They were nominated for the show by Deborah Jones’ daughter.
Until the Fab Five got a hold of the sisters, cult-favorite Jones Bar-B-Q operated out of a cramped taco hut in Kansas City, Kan., to feed the long line of loyalists who come for lunch (their hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, or until the food runs out).
Bobby reconfigured their kitchen and added a distinct storefront and a larger patio for patrons to enjoy their meals.
“It’s been overwhelming, I’ll put it that way,” Deborah Jones said of the experience. “But it’s been nice. I’m not complaining because it’s really done well for the business.”
She added that she and her sister plan to get creative with the outdoor space once the weather warms up.
“People think it’s all just marvelous,” she said. “In the summertime we are going to have some jazz out here and they think that’s just high heaven. We have some big plans for the summer, we’re just waiting for it to get here!”
While the sisters’ personal transformations tug at the heartstrings, the Fab Five’s biggest influence was on Jones Bar-B-Q’s future. Antoni and Karamo connected the Jones sisters with specialty food manufacturer Original Juan to bottle their sauce.
“It’s been selling like crazy,” Deborah Jones said. “The Fab Five did the first 700 bottles for us and we don’t even have any more.”
She said the first batch sold out quickly after the sisters appeared on Steve Harvey’s show in December. They hand-shipped every order. While they do sell their sauce out of the restaurant, they’re also setting up a website to better handle the influx of orders they anticipate once “Queer Eye” is released.
“We’ve already ordered another 2,000 bottles and we’re thinking of getting more,” Deborah Jones said.
Other Kansas City cameos in the screener episodes include restaurants like Novel and Rye, where Antoni gave lessons on fine dining and healthy cooking.
Jonathan uses The Glam Room and mobile salon, Box Truck Barber, to serve up his grooming “realness.” Fellow Firestone tenant Skyline Salon operated as a more permanent home for Jonathan, who also used the space to pamper visiting friends when the cameras weren’t rolling.
Being part of the production was particularly special for Skyline Salon owner Josh Crumly, a longtime fan of the show. His youngest son is named after Kyan Douglas, the grooming expert on the show’s first iteration in the early 2000s on Bravo. Crumly said he thought the Fab Five were surprised by Kansas City’s robust culture.
“Any time we have anyone in from a coastal city, they get here and they’re really surprised that we have things like the arts,” he said. “We have everything a coastal city has, we just might not have ton of it.”
That same community pride is why Nicholas Abdos, owner of the Firestone Building, accommodated the production.
“People in Kansas City are the nicest people I’ve ever met, the best friends I have,” he said. “I wanted to help bring Kansas City to the forefront and make sure these kinds of productions come here and not to Detroit or somewhere else.”
All eight episodes of “Queer Eye’s” third season will be available on Netflix on March 15. Be prepared for gorgeous drone shots of the downtown skyline, shopping trips to the Country Club Plaza and fabulous feels about Kansas City.
Just don’t forget the tissues, henny.