Jonathan Van Ness of ‘Queer Eye’ Comes Out


Jonathan Van Ness was having a late breakfast on the Empire Diner, across the nook from his one-bedroom condominium within the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

Seated in a window sales space, he was serving what he calls his “16th-century Jesus” look: Hollywood-starlet tresses, a mustache à la a Super Mario villain and fingernails painted with cartoon depictions from the 1996 movie “The First Wives Club.”

But Mr. Van Ness was not feeling his regular attractive self, the boisterous “Yass queen” merman that followers of “Queer Eye” adore. He was hung over.

And no, it wasn’t from partying an excessive amount of. It was a “vulnerability hangover,” to make use of a time period coined by Brené Brown, a TED Talk-famous researcher, to explain emotions of dread after being forthcoming.

“For a lot of people who are survivors of sexual assault at a young age, we have a lot of compounded trauma,” he said.

Suddenly, a 20-something woman with a ponytail appeared at the table. “I’m so sorry, I can’t take a picture right now,” he said, discreetly wiping his eyes.

“Oh, that’s fine. I just want to say that I love the show,” she said.

“Thank you. Namaste. Have a nice day,” he said, clasping his hands in prayer.

Mr. Van Ness exhaled and gently took a sip of coffee. “If you’re having a terrible moment or in the middle of a conversation about something serious, people don’t care,” he said. “They want their bubbly J.V.N. and to get that major selfie.”

In a sense, the memoir was a way for Mr. Van Ness to tell his story without interruption. There are certainly moments that may make some readers pause.

His lack of self-esteem ran deep. As therapy would later reveal, the abuse he experienced as a young child planted the seed for other self-destructive behaviors. In his early teens, he spent hours in AOL chat rooms (this was the 1990s) and met up with older men for sex. One man, he recounts in the book, “turned whiter than Ann Coulter’s fan base” after learning he was underage.

But his addiction to sex and drugs got worse. When he was in his early 20s, a couple he met on Grindr introduced him to smoking methamphetamine. He went to rehab twice and relapsed both times.

One day, when he was 25, he fainted in a salon while highlighting a client’s hair. The next day he went to Planned Parenthood to diagnose his flulike symptoms. He tested positive for H.I.V.

“That day was just as devastating as you would think it would be,” he writes.

Mr. Van Ness hopes to bring attention to what he calls “gorgeous beauty moments” like that with his memoir, especially misperceptions about being H.I.V. positive. He is healthy and now describes himself as an out-and-proud “member of the beautiful H.I.V.-positive community.”

“When ‘Queer Eye’ came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?,” he said. “And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the L.G.B.T. community thrive around me.’” He paused before adding, “I do feel the need to talk about this.”

Just as he about to take a bite of his eggs at the diner, Mr. Van Ness was interrupted once again. This time it was a boyish young man who poked his head in the window to profess his admiration.

After another “namaste,” which appears to be his shorthand for “kindly leave,” Mr. Van Ness resumed his thoughts. “These are all difficult subjects to talk about on a makeover show about hair and makeup,” he said. “That doesn’t mean ‘Queer Eye’ is less valid, but I want people to realize you’re never too broken to be fixed.”



Source link Nytimes.com

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