Queer Eye Germany: lost in translation?

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be at least somewhat charmed by Queer Eye. After all, what could be more wholesome, and yes – more escapist – than watching five flamboyant individuals on a quest to build a person back up – one moisturizing act of self-care at a time?

But let’s face it: as a concept, it’s über American. The transformation – we’re talking self-image, home décor, relationship resolution – happens within a week. Monday’s gormless wallflower is Friday’s glamorous socialite. Whether you’re still living in your parents’ basement or burdened by unbearable grief, you can count on the Fab Five to sort you out. In a hyper capitalist world, it’s all in a working week.

So, I’m not going to lie. When I found out Netflix was making a German version of Queer Eye, I was terrified. Scarred by formats such as Das Perfekte Dinner (imagine Come Dine With Me stripped of all humor, irony and editing) I feared the worst. Could literal-minded Germans translate tone? And who could possibly step into the knee-high boots of Jonathan van Ness?

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMQ-ULsJtnY

Reader, I have been surprised. Queer Eye Germany is not at all terrible. In fact, it’s pretty good! Room for improvement? Selbstverständlich. But it would hardly be in the spirit of the show to open with a finished product.

The Fab Five are of course the hardest act to follow. In the American original, the chemistry is undeniably good. For every time Jonathan van Ness caresses someone’s hair and utters the words “Oh my God, you are like so gorgeous,” we get a shot of Tan casting a withering eye over a wardrobe full of outdated garments. As Bobby efficiently puts the builders to work, Karamo tackles his charge’s vast emotional landscape. All while Antoni turns misty-eyed over a plate of Polish potato cakes.

While the German version also casts compelling characters, they don’t mesh quite so well, perhaps because they feel like emulations rather than the real thing. David Jakobs, who describes herself on Instagram as gender non-conforming and has an online clothes shop, faces the impossible task of appearing sincere while trying to live up to Jonathan van Ness’ larger-than-life personality. Leni Bolt, influencer and life coach, scores better on authenticity, perhaps because they have already carved out a niche in the self-love realm and aren’t relying too much on the Karamo template. Aljosha Muttardi, who until recently ran a vegan YouTube channel may need some time to cook up feelings in quite the way that Queer Eye demands, as will bowtie afficionado Jan-Henrik Scheper-Stuke. Doe-eyed designer Ayan Yuruk, on the other hand, benefits from some super emotional storylines that allow his empathy to shine through.

Of course, the true test of Queer Eye isn’t in the hosts but in the people whose lives they promise to transform. Here, the German version has done well. We meet a football-mad single dad with low self-esteem, a hideously overworked mum, a young baker who’s hiding his sexuality, an 18-year-old who has suffered unbearable loss and a 50-something-year-old Star Wars fan scared of ending up alone. I was especially glad to see regional Germany represented, instead of just the urban centers. While the Fab Five communicate in a rather comic Denglisch – “Group Hug” they exclaim, “wir haben fun, oder?” the protagonists are refreshingly true to their roots.

Small touches, like when the fab five munch on Nussecken (nut squares, found in every German bakery) delighted me, as did the Nordic Walking sticks, a piece of sporting equipment stored in many a German home. The shot that best marries the American format with the German landscape is in the final episode, when Leni and Eugen (the Star Wars fan) have a heart-to-heart conversation while out strolling with alpacas. Windmills loom in the background. We are in Heinsberg, near the border with the Netherlands, and the talk is of self-acceptance.

Casting protagonists for a show like Queer Eye is a complex task. Their stories need to pull on your heartstrings, and there should be more than a nod to the Zeitgeist. Queer Eye Germany partially delivers. In episode three, the young baker’s quest to tell his family and football team about his sexuality makes a statement about the lack of openly gay athletes in Germany. Unlike what you’d expect in the American format, his “outing” takes place off-camera and as viewers, we see his parents expressing their acceptance over dinner afterwards. A little understated, but effective.

Not so progressive is the treatment of Ulrike, who has no time for herself after working two jobs, taking care of the kids and doing all the housework. Nominated by her husband, who wants to see his wife let go again, the obvious question of whether he might pull his weight more to offer some relief remains unanswered. Instead, the advice is to schedule time for Nordic walking and date nights. Not tackling the root cause of the problem – that society places unacceptable burdens on mothers – is an oversight.

The bravest episode and the one that made me cry more than once features 18-year-old Marleen, who has lost her mother, father and two brothers to a rare hereditary disease. Left alone in the world and dealing with the medical consequences of a heart transplant, the grace with which she deals with her fate will make you vow never again to complain about your lot. When Ayan helps her paint her father’s old cupboard, they speak intimately about grief, and about the possibilities and impossibilities of living in the moment after suffering loss.

It’s a difficult line to walk but the Fab Five strike the right tone as the narrative flits between light and dark. After all, as Ayan remarks: “wir sind der Regenbogen, wir bringen Farbe und Glitzer!” (we’re the rainbow, we bring color and glitter!).

Five episodes in, this former skeptic says of Queer Eye Germany, let it rain, no let it pour.

Money talks but I’m not buying it (review of JT Foxx mega speaker event published on Deutsche Welle)

UPDATE: You can keep track of  JT Foxx’s encounters with US tax authorities at the following link: https://ustaxcourt.gov/UstcDockInq/DocketSheet.aspx?DocketNo=18008342 

You can always search for updated material by searching for the case number 008 342-18 here: https://www.ustaxcourt.gov/UstcDockInq/Default.aspx?DocketNumber

Here is an overview of cases filed to date.

You can get further insights into the JT Foxx’s business practices at the JT Foxx Information pageon Facebook.

Deutsche Welle has kindly given me the permission to reproduce this article below:

He describes himself as the world’s number one wealth coach, a friend of celebrities and a billionaire in the making. But despite his cunning-sounding surname and the gravity implied by the two initials that precede it, JT Foxx doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page to his name.

The free “Mega Speaker” event in Berlin was held on June 8 in a hotel beyond the city’s Schönefeld airport. It was part of a world tour that kicked off in May and runs until early July. Organizers claim to be looking for people “who want to be known, remembered and significant.”

Who on earth, I wondered, attends such events? I signed up.

JT Foxx (Facebook/JT Foxx) JT Foxx announces his tour dates on Facebook


I prepared for it by watching a poorly produced and comically absurd promotional documentary titled “JT Foxx: A Biography: The Untold Story of a Millionaire Underdog.” It includes awkwardly-staged endorsements from Eric Trump, son of the US President, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and actor Al Pacino. The video claims to have been produced by “Hollywood Kingmaker Films,” an impressive-sounding entity I can’t find mention of anywhere else on the internet.

The walk from the train station to the hotel takes you past fields and down roads decidedly off the beaten track. It wasn’t long before I met others going the same way.

The dress code was the giveaway. The men were in suits and carried briefcases. The women were wearing dresses and heels. One told me she was a musician from London. She’d just brought out an album but needed to make some money. Speaking, she’d thought, could be the way.

At 9 AM the doors opened and we were ushered into a nondescript conference room. The opening act was a man called Reggie Batts. Tall, attractive and self-assured, he told us there were two types of people in the world: “right-brainers” and “left-brainers.”

The former act impulsively, the latter think first. Right-brainers always barge in and sit at the front. Left-brainers wait for the others to shuffle in, and then take their seats at the back. In the front row, a middle-aged woman in a headscarf nodded along enthusiastically, frequently blurting out “yes!”

JT Foxx’s own entrance was underwhelming. Less charismatic than the support act and sporting two pins on his lapel (one the American flag, the other the German) he opened with a rant about Berlin’s airports.

In the hours that followed, JT Foxx fed the 167 people gathered a cocktail of hyperbole concerning his fame and wealth, vacuous clichés masquerading as business advice and menacing sales pitches.

JT Foxx (DW/K. Ferguson) The Berlin hotel where JT Foxx held his free event


He made no secret of the fact that he pays celebrities tens of thousands of dollars to appear on stage with him. He claims to pay John Travolta half a million dollars for a joint appearance. His connection with the Hollywood A-lister apparently earns him enough street cred to multiply the money he invested several times over.

He described an instance when he annoyed Travolta by going off script, putting him on the spot and making him perform a song from Grease during a paid appearance. It was part of a plot engineered to generate more clicks online. He said it worked, though the relationship with Travolta soured as a result. (Footage of that event can be seen here.)

“He’s never quite forgiven me,” Foxx said. “Would I do it again? Definitely.”

The first product JT Foxx tried to sell seemed harmless enough: a set of CDs, apparently featuring business advice he himself had paid a former coach $250,000 for. The catch was that there were only 15 copies available. They would be for sale at the back of the room during the first break. The woman in the headscarf was among several people who joined the line to buy.

As the rest of us filed out, I was desperate to find out how the rest of the crowd felt about JT Foxx.

“He sure knows how to close,” a middle-aged man said in German. “You could learn something from him.”

“I don’t like his way of selling,” a young man said, to which an older woman who frequently attends events like these retorted: “You’ve got the wrong mindset.”

Things took a more sinister turn after the break, when JT Foxx began speaking about women. “Most women can’t sell,” he said, claiming that they “love telling their sad stories.”

This led to an anecdote about a first date with a beautiful woman who told him 36 minutes in that she’d been raped. This proved a massive turn-off for JT, who told us that: “No one cares about your problems. They only care about themselves.” Further enlightened views about women included boasting about his connections with Miss Cape Town 2016 and that he was considering “buying the pageant.”

The purpose of the rest of the event was to “select” people to turn into “mega speakers.” As it turned out, this meant anyone who was willing to spend between 4,000 and 20,000 euros on the spot.

JT Foxx (DW/K. Ferguson) We were given a sheet of paper with four ‘options’


This is how it happened: We were given a sheet of paper with four “options.” Our job was to write down the usual prices and then JT Foxx would announce the incredible, one-day-only-just-for-Berlin offer.

Option 1: A day of one-on-one coaching or four days of group coaching with JT Foxx. The cost: 4,000 euros.

Option 2: Getting coached at one of JT’s mansions, in either Florida or Thailand, costing just 8,000 euros.

Option 3: The opportunity to speak for 15 minutes in front of a large crowd at the “Money, Wealth and Business” conference in South Africa, for 12,500 euros. A unique opportunity to build your brand.

Option 4: The once-in-a-lifetime, career-enhancing opportunity to interview either Al Pacino or Mark Wahlberg for only 20,000 euros.

Not less than eight people chose at least one of the options. Most of them were young women. They were then taken out to the lobby for one-on-one interviews with members of JT Foxx’s team.

It wasn’t long before their credit cards came out and JT Foxx, once again, became tens of thousands of euros richer overnight.

Before the Berlin event, JT Foxx had held similar workshops in Singapore, Dublin, Manchester, London, Birmingham, Stockholm, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Amsterdam. The second leg of the tour sees him speaking in four US cities, as well as Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Adelaide.

And each time, he is likely to get what he needs: a handful of people willing to gamble away their savings for a shot at stardom.

Five reasons The Wolf of Wall Street should not win an Oscar

I went to see The Wolf of Wall Street. I really shouldn’t have. I can’t think of any film I’ve ever enjoyed less. I’ve racked my brains but – nothing. It’s the worst. At 180 minutes, it’s also practically interminable.

It’s about an entirely one-dimensional stockbroker called Jordan Belfort whose primary concerns are making money, snorting cocaine and paying women to have sex with him. So far, so Wall Street cliché.

Belfort starts small by fraudulently trading low-value penny stocks and goes on to develop a financial empire. He becomes addicted to drugs, yachts, sports cars and prostitutes. His relationships crumble and –here’s what you definitely weren’t expecting – so does his business.

Image source: Wikipedia

Image source: Wikipedia

If the story itself is dull, the way it’s told is offensively mundane. The clichés of excess are repeated ad nauseam. When Belfort is not cultivating a cult of personality on the trading floor, he’s either in a drug-induced state of delirium or the company of a prostitute. On two occasions, the twin traits of substance abuse and misogyny are artfully combined when Belfort snorts cocaine from a prostitute’s butt crack and later from his girlfriend’s cleavage.

If that weren’t bad enough, Belfort narrates the film’s events in an amazingly irritating and over-stated voice-over.

You might have guessed by now that I’m not exactly a fan of this film, which has inexplicably been nominated for five Academy Awards. Here are as many reasons The Wolf of Wall Street shouldn’t win any:

1. It’s not believable

Although it’s based on a true story, it manages to come across entirely implausible. Given the insane lifestyle Belfort leads, there’s no way he’d be in a position to develop a multi-billion dollar business in such a short space of time, nor would he be able to train his incestuous and apparently simpleton employees to trick intelligent people into investing millions in stocks they hadn’t heard of.

2. It lacks subtlety.

For three hours, we are subjected to endless scenes of debauchery and excess. The tired stereotype is then drilled in further with Belford’s tedious voice-over in which he reinforces his addiction to money, drugs and sex. It’s just too one-dimensional to be realistic, not funny enough to be a farce and not subtle enough to be poignant. It has no message whatsoever.

3. No character development

None of the characters develop in any way. Belfort remains obsessed with money, power and sex, as do his employees. Belfort’s father is just another flat supporting character with an unexplained anger control problem. Belfort’s first wife doesn’t have any identifiable personality in the first place (she is, after all, a woman) and his second uses sex as a currency from beginning to end. All the other women are prostitutes, who have no discernible thoughts, feelings or intentions.

4. Ridiculous depiction of women

Belfort’s first wife plays an extremely minor role, which is limited to helping him find his job trading penny stocks and being hysterical when she catches him with the woman who is to become his second wife. His second wife, who marries him for his money, communicates entirely through sex. She is more attractive than his first wife, so she doesn’t have to bother giving Belfort any emotional support. Instead, she has sex with him in exchange for yachts and jewellery and deprives him of it as a punishment.

5. It’s too long.

Every time the screen darkened my heart leapt with anticipation. But it carried on, relentlessly. Since there was no character development, no believable plot and no message to interpret, I just sat there, counting down the minutes.

In hindsight, I should really have invested the cost of the ticket into a penny stock… But like so many, I was duped into a highly dodgy investment.


The real Jordan Belfort seems pretty insufferable too. But at least he’s real: