It’s been over a year and a half since the Fab Five teased Instagram feeds, cheekily posing in front of Austin’s famous El Arroyo sign, announcing they would film season six of Queer Eye in the capital city.
Though the onset of the pandemic put just over a year pause on production, the season finally made its Netflix debut on Friday to close out 2021.
The show follows beauty expert Jonathan Van Ness, stylist Tan France, foodie Antoni Porowski, designer Bobby Berk and lifestyle coach Karamo Brown as they work together to transform the image of fashionably challenged people.
The team got a bit more of Austin than they bargained for—while three of the famed cast members spent part of their quarantine in Austin, hair stylist Van Ness moved his New York home to the Hill Country while filming was postponed.
Get ready for a season of southern goodness—the Fab Five went all out in Texas, even collaborating for the new song "Y'all Means All" with Texas-born Miranda Lambert for the premiere. The group promises it will be the most fabulous thing in Texas since chaps and have the Austinites in the room going like…
Who are the heroes?
The Fab Five’s subjects are called “heroes”—the everyday people who are in search of a life change. This season, the Fab Five will focus on people of all shapes and sizes, while touching on the unique qualities that make Austin special.
Terri White, Broken Spoke dancing queen
Terri and James ran the Broken Spoke together. (Broken Spoke/Facebook)
The daughter of James White, former owner of the Broken Spoke, opens the show with a display of honky-tonk hospitality. White is a self-professed “older woman,” who isn’t afraid to show a little cleavage and loves to carry on her late father’s dancehall. White brings out a little southern charm from the Fab Five and makes sure they leave doing the two-step. Catch White in “Showdown at the Broken Spoke.”
Angel Flores, Olympic weightlifting coach
A University of Texas alumna and trans athlete in Austin, Angel Flores recently began transitioning and has struggled with her self image. The Fab Five help revive Flores in the episode “Angel Gets Her Wings.”
The prom committee, Navarro Early College High School
We could not be more excited to announce that Navarro ECHS and our Class of 2021 students will be featured on season 6 of Queer Eye.— Navarro ECHS (@navarro_vikings) December 27, 2021
Thank you again to each of the guys and @netflix for all their love and support! @AustinISDhttps://t.co/LCNTf6foxI
Though the group only has a week to help bring prom to life at Navarro High School in North Austin due to COVID, Van ness was shown in the preview hyping students up about how they’re going to “slay this prom so hard.” Catch the party on “Navarro High Prom.”
Josh, cowboy and aspiring DJ
Josh, who is a father and a classic Texas cowboy, is featured in “No More Bull,” where the Fab Five strive to help him stop smelling “like a ranch.”
Chris Baker, executive director of Austin nonprofit The Other Ones Foundation
It wouldn’t be a trip to Austin without touching on some of the more serious issues that trouble the city. The group sits down with Chris Baker, who is in need of a little TLC of his own after helping people cope with homelessness. Catch the “potty-mouthed humanitarian” in the episode “Gimme Shelter.”
The group will work some magic in the episode “Craw-Zaddy,” which focuses on Todd, who is supposed to be retired but is still running his restaurant.
Jamie Wallace-Griner, SAFE in Austin
Being called the “Snow White of Central Texas” is no accident, as Jamie Wallace-Griner has spent her life caring for special needs or neglected animals at her nonprofit, SAFE in Austin. After being “needed at all times,” for so long, Wallace-Griner is ready to focus on herself.
Dr. Jereka Thomas, Central Texas Allied Health Institute
Dr. Jereka Thomas has been moving non-stop since she founded a COVID testing center for underserved communities. On top of that, Thomas leads the Central Texas Allied Health Institute, the only black-led medical learning institution in Central Texas. It’s safe to say Thomas is ready for a break in “Community Allied."
Sarah Lim, OMG Squee owner
Showing the severity of the impact COVID-19 had on small businesses, the Fab Five met Sarah Lim, owner of gluten-free Asian-inspired bakery OMG Squee. Lim is ready for a makeover since pandemic strain led her to focus more on her business, less on herself, in “A Legend in the Baking.”
Reggie DeVore, musician
Another pandemic-based struggle, musician Reggie DeVore said he’s starting to lose his drive and passion for art in the episode “The Mis-Inspiration of Reggie DeVore."
Other locales to look out for
The trailer opens with the cast strutting in some cowboy boots, western garb and teasing skyline views. In addition to the many Texas businesses that make up the season, you’ll also be able to spot the scenes of The Long Center and Eastside Pedal Pushers Bike Shop.
Both Fab Five member Van Ness and Porowski also adopted dogs from Austin Pets Alive!, so the furry friends are sure to make some cameos.
Season six is streaming now on Netflix.
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It's been a few weeks since a viral TikTok revealed poor working conditions at the Montopolis Dollar Tree in southeast Austin, and employee Maggie Lopez is still feeling its effects.
Lopez was filmed working alone at the location May 1 in a since-deleted video that saw 2.9 million views and over 450,000 likes.
In the video, stacked boxes littered the floor, shelves were left unstocked and a leaky, broken air conditioning unit welcomed customers into the understaffed storefront.
@trishmartinez32#x_bazan06#fyp#fypシ#tiktok#friends#like#comment#4upage#4u#share#viralvideo#trending#wow#4upageシ♬ original sound - Patricia Martinez
Lopez, who now works at the dollar store's Springdale location, says she was left with the aftermath of a 90-hour workweek, lost wages and a mystery illness after the store closed a few days later.
"Nobody ever told me... that there was no air conditioning. They didn't tell me there was danger of getting robbed," Lopez told Austonia. "Nobody said anything... they didn't care."
The location didn't shut its doors because of the TikTok exposure: instead, an AC unit specialist doing routine maintenance found employees working in extreme heat and said it was too hot for employees to continue working.
"To operate a business, you have to have your temperature within a certain parameter," Ikaika, the specialist who didn't disclose his full name to protect his job, told Austonia. "As soon as you walk in, you start sweating... it's not good at all."
Lopez said working in 90+ degree heat became the norm in her two months at the location as air conditioning units remained broken for months before the closure. She added some employees, including her former manager and several customers, passed out in the store due to the heat. But she said company leadership remained unresponsive.
Lopez said she sent her district manager, Veronica Oyervides, screenshots of 90+ degree temperatures inside the store. (Maggie Lopez)
Four days after the air conditioning repairman told employees they should no longer keep working at the store, Lopez said her district manager, Veronica Oyervides, was asking her to come back in to prep the location for reopening. Lopez worked May 8 in the shuttered store prepping it for a reopening, which has yet to happen. Oyervides has declined to comment.
Ever since she started working in the deteriorating Dollar Tree, Lopez said she often wakes up with nosebleeds. She said she's constantly thirsty, her hands shake, and she's experiencing headaches and mood swings—symptoms she believes are due to long-term exposure to mold.
Former assistant manager Linnea Bradley told Austonia she has been hospitalized with symptoms linked to heat and stress after working at the store.
"We are sick and corporate does not give a shit," Lopez said. "What kind of damage did these stupid units do to our bodies?"
Lopez hasn't sought care for her symptoms. She says she makes $13.50 an hour and doesn't have health insurance.
Former employees have more complaints than just the heat: Lopez said that personal safety became a concern in the understaffed store. Catherine, a former employee who wished to only reveal her first name, said she's witnessed large-scale theft and instances of mismanagement in her months as a stocker at the location.
"They have no security, no cameras... they don't want you to have anything in writing," Catherine told Austonia. "It's just complete chaos."
Catherine said that she and other hourly employees were given zero hours for weeks on end as managers, who work on salary, were left to run the store alone from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. She said some managers became so desperate they were hiring homeless people to help stock shelves in exchange for a drink and a bite to eat.
While Catherine (top, middle) often had zero-hour weekly schedules, Martinez, who was paid on salary, worked back-to-back 90-hour workweeks. (Catherine) (Claire Partain)
"They actually did have people willing to work, they just refused to give them hours," Catherine said. "I'm not understanding whether Dollar Tree wants to go under... are they doing this as a tax break?"
Other Austin Dollar Tree locations have reported similar issues. Former manager Jonathan Martinez, who says he was supposed to work 45 hours a week, says he was racking up 90+ hour workweeks and sleeping in the store as he shouldered both the Montopolis and William Cannon locations while his newborn baby was in the ICU in March.
Martinez kept extra clothes in this office after working seven-day weeks at two Dollar Tree locations. (Claire Partain)
Martinez said he slept on boxes as he juggled the job and visiting his newborn in the ICU. (Claire Partain)
Martinez said he slept on boxes as he juggled the job and visiting his newborn in the ICU. (Claire Partain)
"As long as the store stays open, there are corporate people getting bonuses," Martinez, who quit last week after receiving a $100 annual bonus, told Austonia. "Six months ago, when corporate people had a shitload of bonuses, that's when they upped the price (of everything in the store from $1 to $1.25)."
In the six months since Dollar Tree hiked its prices to $1.25, it's gained plenty of mostly negative national attention. In February, the Food and Drug Administration shut down an Arkansas distribution plant due to a massive rodent infestation, and several lawsuits have ensued. The company has also come under fire for selling allegedly expired over-the-counter medicine and its worker shortage at locations across the country.
One employee, who still works for Dollar Tree and wished to remain anonymous, said that they've seen or heard that many area locations are near their breaking point.
"I've seen the good, the bad, the bad to worse," they said. "And it's always a rinse repeat kind of thing... How many more (stores) will go? And what about the employees?"
"Every time I would tell (Oyervides) 'I'm just going to close, I can't stand it anymore,' she would say, 'No, no, no,'" Lopez said. "And I'd be so upset because why? They have my paycheck. It's just been mortifying... the most horrible year of my life."
Dollar Tree's regional director did not respond to requests for comment from Austonia.
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Grab a helmet and get active this morning by celebrating Bike to Work Day alongside the city.
The community will gather for a celebration at Austin City Hall starting at 8 a.m. with free tacos, coffee and giveaways.
A few things to remember around bikes:
- Over 80% of bicycle crashes happen at intersections
- It’s important to wear reflective clothing during dark hours
- Drivers should keep a distance—take at least three feet of space when passing.
Residents can find the most comfortable, safe bike routes via the 2022 Austin Bike Map, or rent a MetroBike with the code B2WD2022.