How Karamo Went From Crazy to Compassionate
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because growth takes unconditional love.
By Pallabi Munsi
The reality television shows that bookend Karamo Brown’s career on our screens show remarkably different sides to the 39-year-old Florida native.
On Real World: Philadelphia, he was known as “Crazy Karamo,” inclined to throw a chair and spew profanity. On Queer Eye, he’s been dubbed “Compassionate Karamo,” always lending a supportive ear or shoulder. “So people can actually look at my journey and be like, ‘Oh, growth happened. Work happened,'” Brown says on the latest episode of The Carlos Watson Show, hosted by OZY’s co-founder and CEO.
To get there, Brown had to shed a lot of baggage.
While he figured out that he was gay at the tender age of 7 or 8, it took him a good seven years to finally come out. “Being a first-generation American” — his family is Jamaican and Cuban — “there’s a lot of machismo, a lot of homophobia that permeates those communities,” Brown says. “It’s getting better now. I’m so proud of that. But there was still a lot. And so I was scared to let everyone in my life in my family because I thought I would be either abused or rejected.”
[When] I look in the mirror, instead of saying something I don’t like about myself, I focus on the one thing I love.
In high school in Parkland, Florida (the same Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School made famous by the 2018 shooting), those around Brown wanted him to go to a community college — but he proved them wrong. “Girl, I’m smart … I’m gonna go for a four-year degree,” he recalls thinking.
The degree came from Florida A&M University, a historically Black school where everyone finally knew how to pronounce his name. The journey continued from The Real World to fatherhood — after he discovered a decade late that a woman he’d had a teenage heterosexual relationship with had given birth to his son. And now he’s engaged to Ian Jordan, whom Brown calls as “white as white can get from Maine.”
Through it all, it wasn’t just simple maturity that allowed Brown to shed the bad-boy persona from 15 years ago. It was the power of unconditional love.
“When I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror, instead of saying something I don’t like about myself, I focus on the one thing I love,” he says. “And I’m telling you, some days it could just be my pinky toe. … What happens is, as you’re practicing saying good things to yourself, you’re also practicing boosting your self-esteem. And eventually you’ll find that unconditional love. And once you have it, scream it to the world, because when you can love yourself, that’s when you can love others.”
- Pallabi Munsi, OZY Author Contact Pallabi Munsi