Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness is set to release his memoir, Over the Top, on September 24th. In anticipation, Van Ness spoke to the New York Times about his harrowing journey to achieving self-love.
Prior to ascending to reality TV stardom as Queer Eye’s self-described “effervescent, gregarious majestic center-part-blow-dry cotton-candy figure-skating queen,” Van Ness’ early years were defined by episodes of abuse and addiction.
As a child, Van Ness said he was the victim of sexual assault by an older boy from his church. In high school, he was bullied for his femininity and met up with older men for sex. During his first year in college, he developed an addiction to cocaine, which he paid for by selling himself for sex. He ultimately flunked out and moved to LA, where got hooked on meth. At the age of 25, after fainting while working at a hair saloon, Van Ness learned that he tested positive for H.I.V.
After multiple stints in rehab, Van Ness achieved sobriety, and at the age of 26, his life was changed forever after meeting Funny or Die comedian Erin Gibson. The two conceived a parody series called Gay of Thrones, which led to opportunities as a red-carpet commentator and, eventually, an audition for Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot. And the rest is history.
“It’s hard for me to be as open as I want to be when there are certain things I haven’t shared publicly,” Van Ness explained to the New York Times. “These are issues that need to be talked about.”
“These are all difficult subjects to talk about on a makeover show about hair and makeup,” he later added. “That doesn’t mean Queer Eye is less valid, but I want people to realize you’re never too broken to be fixed.”