The Star of the Netflix Original Series Gets Real About Life, the Show and What’s Next
Written By: Chelsea Raineri
Photographed By: Wil Cohen
Photography Provided By: Netflix Jonathan Van Ness
When the new “Queer Eye” series came out, I was ecstatic. If you’re anything like me, you immediately fell in love with the longhaired, spirited grooming expert who “hunny-ed” his way through the show and gave life advice that brought a tear, or several, to your eye. Jonathan Van Ness, the man behind the stylists’ chair on the reboot, has blown up overnight. From hanging with celebrities like Emma Stone to his podcast topping the charts, he has become the person millions of Netflix viewers long to be besties with. I had the pleasure of meeting my newfound celeb crush where we talked about “Game of Thrones,” all things hair and new ways to use the word “cute.”
Meeting Jonathan, it’s hard to believe that someone so comfortable with his femininity, referring to almost everything as “she,” grew up in a small town in Illinois where he was one of the only openly gay kids. In an episode on his podcast, he referred to the way he was treated as “tormented,” and that bullied really didn’t cover the extent of it. Despite the challenges he faced, he pushed through, stayed true to himself and became the amazing person you’ve see using a blow dryer to get some wind in his locks for a photo. “I’m grateful for going through what I went through because it made me a very resourceful, funny, quick-witted person. It was tough, but I think that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he said nodding his head. For kids growing up in a similar situation, Jonathan advises, “to remember that everything is impermanent, it won’t last forever and you will get out.”
And get out he did! Having always had an interest in styling hair, Jonathan completed hair school before making his way down to Arizona where he pursued his career. But he didn’t stay put for long—in 2009 he decided to move to California. “I felt like I wasn’t really learning so much straight out of hair school and then going to work for myself, so coming to California from Arizona felt like the next natural step,” he explained.
Jonathan found a job working at a salon, and a few years later in 2013, he made his big break while doing his friend’s hair, an employee of Funnyordie.com. He began recapping “Game of Thrones” in a way only Jonathan can when the idea for “Gay of Thrones” was born. “I thought she meant something [where] we would like selfie on the phone. I didn’t realize she meant such a proper thing,” he said with wide eyes. The hilarious, Emmy-nominated web-show features guests who sit in Jonathan’s chair while they recap the show like you’ve never heard before, giving each character a nickname like Christina Aguilera for Khaleesi and Baby Kill Bill for Arya. Although he’s not quite sure who we’ll see in his chair for the final season, Jonathan hopes to have Vintage Mia Farrow, aka Cersei, help recap season nine.
Jonathan’s unique perspective can also be enjoyed on his podcast, “Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness,” which, at the time of our interview, was ranked second among the top trending podcasts on iTunes. From discussing interior design trends to the bail system, Jonathan approaches each episode with honesty and genuine curiosity as he asks the expert on the show questions about the topic, making sure nothing remains unclear. “I’m not afraid to sound stupid. I think that you have to ask questions if you don’t know [the answer], even if you’re afraid that it might be basic,” he smiled.
Although Jonathan’s been successful in every field he’s touched, “Queer Eye” is what really brought him into the spotlight and all over your Instagram feed. But landing the spot was no easy feat. “It was like cheerleading tryouts from hell,” he joked. After several rounds of auditions, he was finally called back with around 80 people to come to LA for a group audition. “It was a really interesting energy because everyone was there to make the best show and get the best chemistry that there could be. Everyone wanted the show to be successful,” he said. “But it was stressful because obviously everyone wanted to get that job.”
Fortunately, Jonathan landed the part, assisting the guys in creating a self-care routine by giving them a new ‘do or simply providing them with the courage they need to step out of their comfort zone and spend some time on themselves. “Actions speak louder than words so it’s your way of showing up for yourself, even if it’s a small amount of time. And I think that that little commitment can positively charge your day,” he said.
With the second season of “Queer Eye,” the final season of “Gay of Thrones” and more curiousness on his podcast to come, we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for this Netflix sensation with the good hair.
Netflix and Chill: After a long day of doing hair, Jonathan enjoys Postmates and hanging with his cats on Saturday nights.
Top 3 Grooming Tips
-Don’t be impulsive.
#GOT: Jonathan most identifies with Arya from Game of Thrones.
Native Knowledge: Jonathan is the sixth generation of one of the oldest family-owned media companies in the country. “I think it gave me a unique perspective because I grew up running around in the newsroom of the newspaper and that was really normal for me,” he explained.
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