'Queer Eye' Star Jonathan Van Ness Opens Up About a Troubled Past in His New Memoir

Ever since his youth, Jonathan Van Ness has embraced his identity, even referring to himself as “little baby queen” throughout the years. At his high school, he broke barriers by becoming the first male cheerleader. Despite his bravery, he silently struggled with his self-image. Reminiscing on the fact that he felt “too fat, too unlovable,” Van Ness recalled sexual abuse at the hands of an older boy who attended his same church. He also struggled with binge eating, gaining 70 pounds in three months after the death of his stepfather, as well as unsafe sex practices. To fill the void that he was feeling at the time, Van Ness wrote that he would visit AOL chat rooms and meet up with older men for sex. He flunked out of his first semester of college because he was steadily spending his money and time on cocaine and began pursuing sex work for money. He recounts feeling too embarrassed to ask his mother for money, so sex work was a way for him to garner extra cash as well as combat feelings of self-worthlessness.

Courtesy: Time

Van Ness’s life began turning around when he started his hairstyling career at the Aveda Institute of Minneapolis. He was successful in the salon business but soon fell victim to further drug and sex abuse. Van Ness had been introduced to methamphetamine and was in and out of rehab at this point. While doing a client’s hair, Van Ness fainted and after seeking treatment for his flu-like symptoms, was diagnosed with HIV. Van Ness recalls the diagnosis as being “devastating.” Van Ness says that he feared an HIV diagnosis since childhood, partially due to the fact that he grew up during a time where the HIV-AIDS epidemic was taking out “an entire generation of people.” Van Ness attributes his readiness to share his story of being HIV positive to the Trump administration, commenting that the administration has created a negative stigma around the LGBTQ+ community.

Courtesy: Audible

Despite his dark and troubled past, which has caused him to have horrific nightmares over the months, Van Ness has since gotten his life back on track and looks forward to an even more prosperous future. He’s a beloved cast member of the Netflix series Queer Eye, where he stars as not only a talented hairdresser but also an advocate for self-love and expression. Van Ness also reports that although he still drinks alcohol and smokes marijuana from time-to-time, he hasn’t done any hard drugs in years. He’s reportedly on a medication that reduces the “viral load” of the HIV in his blood by killing copies of the virus and helping the disease become mostly undetectable and un-transmittable. “I feel like I’m thriving,” the Netflix star exclaims.

Courtesy: Amazon

Van Ness refers to himself as being a proud member of the “beautiful HIV positive community.” You can take a look at a memoir of his life in his book, Over The Top, that he just recently published on Tuesday, Sep. 25.

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