Queer Eye's Antoni Porowski on his insecurities, and how his Canadian roots helped shape his worldview
New project is a deeply personal cookbook-slash-memoir
You might not know who Antoni Porowski is by name, but chances are you know his show, Netflix's pop culture phenomenon Queer Eye.
Fans of the show are about to get to know him better through his new project, a deeply personal cookbook-slash-memoir, Antoni In The Kitchen.
"There's a lot of me in here," Porowski, told The National's Andrew Chang.
"You know, Queer Eye has afforded us the opportunity to help perfect strangers and be of service to them. And then it's like this is my memoir, and these are the dishes … that have kept me alive, as food does in many ways."
Queer Eye made its debut in February 2018. It features five gay men, each with a special skill set — fashion, grooming, decor, culture, and Porowski's specialty, food and wine.
The Montreal-born former actor is often described as the quietest member of the show's cast, known as the "Fab Five" to their fans. Despite the instant superstardom via the show and the heat generated by his Instagram account, Porowski admits to having had a serious case of imposter syndrome.
At the start of Antoni In The Kitchen, he questions whether he's enough of a foodie, or indeed openly gay enough, to be on the show.
Porowski explained that he's had little in the way of formal culinary training. He added that he had also long resisted putting a label on his sexuality.
- WATCH: The National's interview with Antoni Porowski, Sunday night on CBC Television and streamed online
"I don't know if I've ever necessarily had a lot of the struggles that a lot of LGBTQIA+ youth have," Porowski said, adding that he had no formal coming out. He told his father via text message that he was seeing a man.
"I've always known what I liked, I've always known that I was either queer or fluid. Those were the only two words that come as close to how I identify," he told Chang.
"But I've always been very private about it. Everyone in my life just for the most part assumed that I was straight until I told them otherwise."
Queer Eye is a reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a groundbreaking show that aired on the cable channel Bravo about 15 years ago.
The original Queer Eye was primarily a makeover show, likely the first to put five openly gay men on TV, at a time when marriage equality in the United States was still a dream. (Fun fact: Porowski once worked as an assistant for the original Queer Eye's food and wine guy, Ted Allen.)
The reboot takes things a bit further, putting the cast in the heart of what many people call Trump country and showing them building bridges over the social divides.
Porowski credits his upbringing in culturally diverse Montreal for shaping his worldview, his love of food from all over the world being a key part of that.
But in 2019, in an era full of reboots and remakes, does the world need another take on Queer Eye?
For Porowski, the answer is an emphatic yes. He says being on the show has made him realize that despite all the progress made with LGBTQ rights and visibility, there's still much farther to go.
He points to increasingly conservative social climates in places like his parents' homeland of Poland, and in the U.S. where he's now based, as proof.
This month, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearings into whether the country's landmark Civil Rights Act protects LGBT people in the workplace.
In the face of these social pressures, Porowski says the show offers people of very different social values and political beliefs a way to see each other's humanity
"It's kind of like when you learn about somebody who's queer, and you don't understand why they would want to get married or have children or have, like, the same rights that straight cisgender people do," he says.
"But as soon as you get to learn their stories, which is exactly what we do on Queer Eye, and you get to learn who we are as individuals, suddenly it's like you're just a person. You're a human being underneath all of that stuff. And I think Queer Eye has given us an opportunity to do that."
WATCH: The National's interview with Antoni Porowski, Sunday night on CBC Television and streamed online
With files from Andrew Chang