Jonathan Van Ness, the flamboyant and comedic grooming guy from the Netflix makeover series “Queer Eye,” has come out as a former meth addict, a former sex worker and HIV-positive in an emotional interview with The New York Times.
While discussing his upcoming memoir “Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love,” the 32-year-old revealed that he was a flamboyant child with supportive parents. He was sexually abused by an older boy from church while they played together during his childhood. He then gained 70 pounds in three months when he began binge eating donuts after his stepfather died.
Van Ness became high school’s first male cheerleader: Calling his teen self “fat, femme and unlovable,” he says football fans from his hometown of Quincy, Illinois threw beer bottles at him during games.
As an early teen, he sought sexual encounters with older men in the chatrooms of America On-Line (AOL), During his first year at the University of Arizona in Tucson, he blew $200 of money his mom gave him on weekend cocaine binges and then began selling sex for money on the now defunct dating website Gay.com.
He ended up dropping out at age 19 and eventually “enrolled in an 11-month beautician program at the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis,” the Times reports. In his early 20s, Van Ness moved to Los Angeles to begin work as a hair stylist and he became addicted to meth after a couple from Grindr introduced him to the drug. He later went to rehab twice for his addiction.
Then, after fainting while styling someone’s hair, he discovered that his flu-like symptoms were signs of undiagnosed HIV. “He cleaned up his act,” the Times writes. “He still drinks and smokes marijuana but says he hasn’t done hard drugs in years. And, using money from a family trust, he started anew in Los Angeles.”
“The Van Ness family owns Quincy Media, a media company that operates 16 televisions stations in Illinois, Wisconsin and elsewhere, as well as two local newspapers,” the Times reports.
Van Ness got his break into entertainment in 2013 when a friend who works for the comedy website Funny or Die suggested that he start doing a comedic series entitled “Gay of Thrones” in which he and joke-cracking clients provide campy recaps of the HBO fantasy drama series “Game of Thrones.”
Since appearing in Netflix reality makeover series “Queer Eye,” Van Ness felt unsure whether to discuss his HIV-status in the show. He decided that he needed to publicly address it to counter Trump administration’s continued stigmatization of the LGBTQ community.