Tan France relives horror of being beaten up aged 5 by adults in heartbreaking racism documentary

·3-min read
Tan France told the heartbreaking story of being attacked as a child. (BBC)
Tan France told the heartbreaking story of being attacked as a child. (BBC)

Tan France has relived the horrifying moment he was beaten up aged just five years old by adults in a documentary about racism and colourism.

Known as one of the makeover experts on Queer Eye, France has carved out a successful career in the US where he lives with his husband and their son.

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But in Wednesday night's Tan France: Beauty and the Bleach on BBC Two, he travelled back to the UK to investigate issues of racism and colourism that had destroyed his confidence growing up in Doncaster where he said his South Asian family felt like outsiders.

Viewers were moved by Tan France's story. (BBC)
Viewers were moved by Tan France's story. (BBC)

France recalled: "It was the first time I had to go to school on my own and these men - they were men to me, they were definitely over 18 - decided that they were going to chase me and then kicked the s*** out of me.

"I was five, I was left alone afterwards."

The TV star was in tears as he talked about the traumatic incident and then went on to explain that he hadn't told his family as he was worried his father would be angry with him for not running away faster.

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He said: "I don't know if I passed out but I realised I was on the floor and I had to get home. And I didn't tell my family because I knew that they'd be angry I didn't run faster.

"As a five-year-old you just want to be able to go home and tell your family that somebody f***ing kicked the s*** out of you."

Tan France moved to the US as a result of racist experiences in the UK. (BBC)
Tan France moved to the US as a result of racist experiences in the UK. (BBC)

France had to leave the interview in tears over the memory, but came back to say: "It was without a doubt the moment that made it clear to me I've got to do something about my skin colour, if I don't do something to be less Asian, they're going to kill me."

Talking about having tried to bleach his skin aged nine, he said: "It was about making sure I could get home from school without being attacked."

The documentary was supposed to include France revisiting Doncaster to see the place where he grew up, but at one point he found himself unable to drive to the city because the bad memories still felt so raw.

Tan France
Tan France has a successful career in the US. (Getty Images)

One viewer tweeted: "Is so f*****d up that adults would kick a 5 year old just because he looks different. Why!!!!!"

Someone else agreed: "A 5 year old boy being chased down the street, kicked and beaten by 18 year old boys is heartbreaking."

Another person added: "The poor little boy. Who attacks a child. Im so sad and angry #TanFrance"

Someone else wrote: "Man, Tan France’s colourism documentary is a real eye opener. Him talking about being a 5 year old who got chased and beaten up by adults is f***ing heartbreaking. What is wrong with people?!"

Watch: Tan France says racism in the UK is 'brushed under the carpet'