Jonathan Van Ness talks HIV diagnosis: “These are issues that need to be talked about”
Most of us know Jonathan Van Ness from the hit Netflix show Queer Eye — a self-described “effervescent, gregarious majestic center-part-blow-dry cotton-candy figure-skating queen” who can rock a red carpet gown harder than a starlet. However, in a new interview with the New York Times centered around the forthcoming release of his memoir, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love, the 32-year-old gives us a glimpse into his life, revealing that he is H.I.V. positive.
“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 confessed in the interview. “These are issues that need to be talked about.”
View this post on Instagram
Having the opportunity to write my book and share my story with you is the most important opportunity I’ve ever had. The first article about the book came out today from the @nytimes & I’m relieved I can speak fully about the things that shape my experience in life. The book speaks to some extremely difficult times but it’s also filled with my humor, joy and voice & I can’t wait to share it with you fully. Thanks so much for your support so far, it means the world. Article link in bio 🏳️🌈 📸 Isak Tiner words by Alex Hawgood
In his early teens, Van Ness was sexually abused. “For a lot of people who are survivors of sexual assault at a young age, we have a lot of compounded trauma,” he said. High school wasn’t easy for him. “I was too fat, too femme, too loud and too unlovable,” he added. He started spending hours a day in AOL chat rooms with older men, even meeting up with them for sex.
The next decade or so, he struggled with an addiction to hard drugs, sex, and even food. At 25-years-old, when he was working as a hairdresser, he started experiencing flu-like symptoms, including fainting. One day he walked into Planned Parenthood where he tested positive to H.I.V. “That day was just as devastating as you would think it would be,” he writes in the new memoir out September 24.
Shortly after he quit hard drugs and moved to Los Angeles, his career in entertainment took off when his Emmy-nominated parody series Gay of Thrones premiered in 2013. Now healthy, he hopes to blast misconceptions about being H.I.V. positive, describing himself as an out-and-proud “member of the beautiful H.I.V.-positive community.”
When he was first cast on the reboot in 2016, he was reluctant to talk about his diagnosis. “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.’” Because of this, he said, “I do feel the need to talk about this.”
He offers up another reason why he hasn’t spoken up about his past on the show, and we get it. “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.”
The public response to this new interview has been so supportive. He is an inspiration to so many of us, regardless of gender, sexual identity, or experience with H.I.V.
@jvn thank you SO MUCH for speaking out publicly about being HIV positive. It’s so important to help change the stigma surrounding this condition. You’re the queen!!!! #jonathanvanness pic.twitter.com/2LiJ79eEcx
— concrete jungle (@blanket1734) September 21, 2019
Thank you Jonathan Van Ness for being you and trusting the world with your truth. By coming out about your H.I.V status you are going to help so many people, not just those living with H.I.V., but in educating the rest of the world about it too.