Karamo Brown, 37, is the culture expert for the current incarnation of Queer Eye. His goal with the guys getting a makeover, however, extends beyond simply updating their CD collection. Brown, who comes across as deeply empathetic and socially aware on the series, also tries to instill the values of purpose and kindness into his two sons, telling them to “Never give up on themselves or the good in people around them.”
Brown has always been ahead of the curve. He was the first openly-gay African-American in the history of reality TV when he debuted on The Real World: Philadelphia in 2004. Soon after debuting on the MTV show, he was surprised to learn that he was the father of a 10-year-old son.
“I came out at 16 years old as a proud, gay man. My last girlfriend in high school—when I was 15—became pregnant with my child but did not tell me," Brown told Parents.com. "She moved away, and I never had contact with her again; remember this is before social media."
Ten years after last seeing his ex-girlfriend, he received a subpoena for child support, which is how he learned he had a son. "I was confused, sad, angry, and weirdly excited to be a dad, but felt lost nonetheless," Brown says. "We were both kids and don’t blame her for the decision she made because the choice was not hers, it was the adults around us."
Brown responded by immediately assuming full custody of his son, Jason. He says getting to know his son took time, but it was a natural progression. Thankfully, his son’s mother facilitated the process. “It wasn’t always easy, but when it comes to your children, giving up is never an option.”
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I’ve been traveling a lot for work lately which is great... but as a single dad it’s really hard to leave my sons constantly! I am missing these two so much right now! 😢😢 Every decision I make is to better their lives.... but that still doesn’t stop the guilt I feel for being on the road. I’m so thankful for the opportunities so I’m not complaining. Any parents out there who get my pain? #MyloandPrince Aba loves and misses you both.
Fatherhood forced Brown to mature quickly and leave behind his partying ways. “It wasn’t until I became a dad that I asked myself how would I feel if my son had the same relationship with drugs and alcohol as I did,” Brown says. “I quit and have never looked back.”
Along with Jason, Brown decided to also take responsibility for his son’s half-brother, Chris. He eventually adopted the boy in order to keep the family together. “I took legal guardianship of Chris [in 2011]. Chris was nine at the time, and it has been an amazing journey. Again, I give my son’s mother so much praise for allowing me to step in and support her in raising our kids,” Brown says.
While balancing family life and his job as a social worker, Brown also focused on making his home the ideal family environment. “The adjustment process was challenging at times. New house means new rules and expectations not just for the children but for me—the parent—as well. Navigating each other’s expectations, the move-in, diet, friends, school, and homework can be overwhelming,” Brown says.
For those in similar circumstances, Brown recommends taking it one day at a time, keeping your cool and listening as well as talking, qualities that seem to come naturally to the reality star. He does, however, admit that parenting is hard at times, but he also takes each day as a learning experience.
Brown's sons are now 21 and 17 and mature enough to be responsible for themselves most of the time, which has allowed Brown to pursue his professional goals. Since 2014, he has been a host and segment producer for the OWN Show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, a host for Huffington Post Live, a Family Advocate contributor for HLN/CNN, a cast member on TV One’s hit docu-series #TheNext15, and the host of MTV’s Are You The One: Second Chances.
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Wanted to wish all the fellow dads out there a #HappyFathersDay! My children are my world. I love them more than anything in this world! Today I feel so blessed to have the best job in the world... #BeingADad. Ohhh, and Happy Pop’s Day to my fiancé @theianjordan too. @rachelssideburns and @yung_cvo
He is also an activist and advocate. In 2016, Brown was chosen to work with the White House under the Obama Administration to create policy and legislation to support LGBTQ youth and their allies during after school hours. He also founded his own non-profit organization, 6in10.org, which provides personalized mental health support for black gay and bisexual men to help eradicate the six in 10 HIV statistic that affects many communities.
As a TV star, Brown hopes to use his platform to encourage other modern-day parents. “When people hear my story, my hope is always that they start to believe that the life they want is possible for them because I am living the life I’ve always dreamed,” he says. “In our country being from immigrant parents, growing up black in the South, coming out at 16-years-old, being a teen parent… you would assume that my life would amount to nothing. And here I stand today. So, if I can do it… you can too!”