I'm a reality TV casting director — here's what we look for in a contestant on shows like 'Queer Eye'

 I have been working as a casting 
director for ITV America, a large non-scripted production company, for eight years. My career began on Food Network's "Restaurant: Impossible" as a casting scout. Since then, I have worked on many shows, such as "Love Island USA," "Tiny House Hunting," and "Real Housewives of New Jersey". I joined the team for "Queer Eye" in December 2016 and went all the way through season five, which just recently finished airing in June 2020. I love how "Queer Eye" celebrates diversity and has an uplifting and positive message. 

When searching for heroes, my team looks for certain criteria, such as the location, willingness to share their story, and the “why now” element. We also take into consideration the city itself and what it is known for. For example, when filming in Philadelphia we searched ten different cheesesteak restaurants to look for stories to share. To find heroes, we also make use of both traditional methods, like handing out pamphlets, and virtual methods, like advertising on local Facebook groups. Once a potential hero is identified, we meet with them in person to learn more about their life.

We are searching for people who are genuine and authentic, not merely acting. Our utmost priority is to find people who are willing to be vulnerable and open to change. Instead of a "makeover," we offer a "make better"-- a chance to share your story with those who understand and to tackle the daily struggles you may be facing. 

Non-scripted television often involves those who are new to the camera, making it possible to capture true, real experiences. Our role is to make them feel comfortable and at ease when being filmed. We look for the "why now," the specific reason why this person needs the help of the Fab Five, the hosts of the show. For example, if they have just become an empty nester, dating may have not been a priority before, but now it is. 

Heroes of the show are not paid but receive makeovers that include a new wardrobe, furniture, home improvements, and a newfound outlook on life.

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