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Netflix show 'Queer Eye' helped Austin rapper BlackLight get his glow back

If you’re among the Central Texans who began 2022 ugly crying through the Austin edition of Netflix reality show “Queer Eye,” then you probably were charmed by the story of BlackLight, a local rapper with a hard-hitting flow and the cutest baby on television. Season 6 episode “The Mis-Inspiration of Reggie DeVore” focuses on his efforts to reinvigorate his music career after a year of pandemic shutdowns.   

DeVore, an Air Force veteran and father to two boys, was familiar with the Emmy Award-winning reality TV show, but he had no idea his wife nominated him to be a “Queer Eye” hero. (That's what the show calls the people who receive life overhauls each episode.)

It was “so left field” from where his mind was at, he said. After a successful 2019, which included a slot opening for Katy Perry and Dua Lipa at a music festival in India, he had fallen into a creative slump as the coronavirus pandemic forced tour cancellations and closures of music venues. Plus: He and his wife, author Sasha DeVore, had just welcomed a surprise second son, Baby Stokely. Their older son, Little Reggie, is 13. 

When Reggie DeVore, second from left, learned the producers of the Netflix reality show "Queer Eye" wanted to focus on his music, "the anxiety came on,” he said. He worried that his music wasn't strong enough, but his week on the show helped rebuild his confidence.

At first, DeVore thought the show’s producers wanted to focus on the family as a whole. He and his wife were high school sweethearts, and the close connection they share is immediately apparent and heartwarming. When he realized the show’s producers were specifically looking for a story about a musician, “that's when all the anxiety came on,” he said. 

His first thought? “Oh my God, is my music good enough for this?” 

Rebuilding his confidence became the theme of the episode. DeVore used the show’s traditional makeover to springboard into a photo shoot for updated artist promo pics and a performance at Empire Control Room.   

Along the way, on camera and off, he addressed some longstanding emotional issues that were holding him back. 

Howdy Texas:Here's what we know about the Austin season of 'Queer Eye' premiering soon

'A world citizen'

DeVore is not an Austinite by birth. He grew up in a military family, moving from base to base throughout his childhood. The experience of meeting different people and learning to integrate into different cultures “groomed me into the man I am,” he said, adding “I'm kind of a world citizen.”

At 19, he enlisted in the Air Force. He served during American engagements in Afghanistan and Qatar. The experience gave him a sense of purpose. It taught him how to work toward goals and “just get things done,” he said. 

It also reshaped his approach to music. He entered the Air Force as a gospel singer, but the military taught him “some bad habits, like how to curse,” he said with a laugh. 

“We had our groups of people who freestyle to different types of music. So that's what actually turned me on to rap,” he said. 

He wrote poetry that he sent to his mother, his sisters and his wife. The correspondence with Sasha DeVore was particularly meaningful. 

“She was a huge part of helping me heal from a lot of things,” he said. 

Stylist Tan France cuddles Reggie and Sasha DeVore's infant son Stokely, who was roughly a month old when they filmed "Queer Eye." The episode was filmed shortly before France's own son, Ismail, was born.

As a youth, DeVore’s mother went through a traumatic divorce, and in the aftermath, he felt neglected and isolated. He found himself slipping into depression. 

Sasha DeVore grew up as an orphan. 

“Her story is way worse than mine. And for her to just to be so strong and be like, ‘Nah, man, you need to get up,’ you know, ‘You need to get on your feet and keep moving,’” snapped him out of the funk, he said. 

In 2012, DeVore left the military to focus on his family. His wife was finishing a degree at Texas State University. After toying with the idea of an engineering degree, he opted to enroll in an Austin-based audio engineering program instead. 

Behind the scenes during the “Queer Eye” shoot, the healing process Sasha DeVore had begun when her husband was a young cadet continued. Though over a decade had passed, DeVore still struggled with a disconnect with his mother related to her divorce. 

“She had to go through the anger before she came out of it. By the time she came out of it, I was already in the military,” he said. 

Karamo Brown, the show’s life coach, helped facilitate a reconciliation. 

“She was actually on set while we filmed, watching my baby,” he said. He was amazed to see the more nurturing side of his mother. Talking through her trauma of “just being so angry and just having to push through life” because she had four children helped reframe his understanding, he said. 

“Karamo was amazing, bro. He did a really good job,” DeVore said. 

The "Queer Eye" crew gave Reggie DeVore's home a makeover. They soundproofed his home studio, built a custom sectional for his living room and upgraded appliances in the kitchen.

'I need to glow and move forward'

It’s been nearly seven months since the show wrapped filming. Baby Stokely, who was barely a month old during the shoot, is settling into a somewhat reasonable sleep pattern. DeVore’s older son, Little Reggie, is an aspiring chef who bonded with food expert Antoni Porowski on the show; the boy has made good use of the family’s remodeled kitchen.

The show really opened his son’s eyes, DeVore said.

“Maybe he was more affected than I was, as far as how the show affected our lives. He's so focused now,” DeVore said. “It's so awesome to see.”

DeVore spent the time before the show’s air date putting the pieces together to capitalize on a newfound fan base. He shot a new music video and booked a Feb. 19 show at Empire Control Room that will essentially be a rerun of the concert from the episode. 

“We're doing the same thing over so everybody can come,” he said. 

This month, the family will celebrate Sasha DeVore’s young adult science fiction trilogy at an early afternoon book signing event on Jan. 22 at Kick Butt Coffee. Reggie DeVore has cleared his schedule to do a meet-and-greet at the event.

As he moves forward from his “Queer Eye” experience, the biggest thing DeVore's trying to carry with him is the sense of empowerment the show’s hosts helped build. 

“My career is going to affect our family in so many different ways,” he said.

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He learned to take pride in the fact “that I can be there for my family and be that rock while we're doing this,” he said.  

“I am actually great at what I do, you know, and I need to show that, I need to glow and move forward," he said.

Looking back, he appreciates his time with all of the Fab 5, but he was most inspired by stylist Jonathan Van Ness. 

“There are boxes that we put ourselves in, you know, through growing up and not wanting to be teased,” he said. With so many people willing to “conform to society” he found it deeply moving “to see someone that free,” he said.  

Van Ness is "unapologetically himself, and just the energy that he has, when you're around him, is really amazing. It's like, ‘You're like this all the time, this is not an act.’”