Karamo, the culture expert on Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” has always loved reading. Now he’s inspiring adults and kids with two books he’s written.
Earlier this year, Karamo, 39, released his memoir “Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope.” In it, he shares his story about growing up in Florida, his family’s Jamaican and Cuban heritage, and his struggles. He writes about how, as a proud gay man, he overcame physical and emotional abuse, and alcohol and drug addiction.
In November, he released “I Am Perfectly Designed,” a children’s book that celebrates the relationship between a father and son. He wrote it with his 22-year-old son Jason.
The book is named after a mantra Karamo told his kids when they were bullied in their younger years for not having a lot of money. His kids used to tell him they wished they had different lives.
“If you remember you’re perfectly designed, you have all the skills and tools you need to get the life you deserve,” Karamo said. “You won’t ever wish for someone else’s life.”
Karamo wasn’t always pursuing a career in Hollywood. He graduated college after studing to be a social worker and psychologist, then appeared on “The Real World: Philadelphia.”
Growing up as the child of immigrants, he and his parents were always focused on learning.
“Education was a very big piece of it,” he said. “They came here to make sure their children had a better life. “
His family struggled financially but he says the household was full with “inspiration and love.”
Despite challenges, “We always remembered it was our job to learn more, to do more and to give back more.”
While Karamo is known as Queer Eye’s culture expert, he says culture isn’t just the arts.
“For me, it’s about shared attitude and values,” he said. “A lot of those shared attitudes and values that people take on and hold onto that builds their self-confidence is passed on through storytelling.”
Whether that storytelling is verbal or written, he said it’s “so important because it informs what is possible, what we’ve been through, what we’ve overcome, what you can dream about.
“It inspires you to feel like anything in the world that you want, you can achieve.”
Reading has always been important for Karamo, who recalls the many books he had at home as a child. Even when his family didn’t have money for video games or cable TV, he could always count on books for an adventure.
“Picking up a book and learning about a world that I didn’t know made me want to travel,” he said. “Learning about people and different perspectives made me want to meet new people and try new food, try new things.”
Karamo especially loved choose-your-own-adventure books where he had a say in where the character went or what it was doing.
“It made me feel like I could make those same decisions in my own life and that everything would be OK,” he said.
Karamo encourages children to read at whatever level they’re on and to keep reading as they grow up. He said it’s essential for kids to stay curious and for adults to not stifle their curiosity.
“Encourage them to be curious about books,” Karamo said. “When they’re curious about books, they’ll get exposed to the world and the things around them they might never have seen, but in a way that’s going to be healthy and foster growth in them.”