Pride Month Spotlight: Jonathan Van Ness
Welcome to the 25th article in our 2019 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
If you have been even slightly active on social media since March 2018, you have probably heard about Jonathan Van Ness. He stars in Queer Eye on Netflix, which the reboot of the show Queer Eye For The Straight Guy from the early 2000s. While the original show aimed to bring awareness to the fight for acceptance, the new show is aiming to fight for more tolerance and exposure of all aspects of queer life.
On the show, Jonathan is the “grooming expert,” focusing on all things hair, skin care and make-up. During the show’s first three seasons, he has become a favorite among fans because of his bubbly personality, his insistence on self-care, and his humor. He has also recently starred in Taylor Swift’s new video!
Besides Queer Eye, Jonathan works on several other projects. He has a successful weekly podcast titled Getting Curious, in which he explores different fields of interest ranging from politics, science, pop culture, and history with a guest. Jonathan has also been exploring an athletic side of him, learning how to figure skate and expanding on his skills of dance and gymnastics, all of which he demonstrates on his worldwide tour called Road to Beijing, which is accompanied by his book Over The Top: A Raw Journey To Self-Love.
Jonathan also has two new seasons of starring in Queer Eye to look forward to, he recently starred in the hilarious Game Of Thrones parody called Gay Of Thrones.
Jonathan has shared several times that, while he never had to come out, he faced a lot of struggle growing up with a flamboyant and outgoing personality in a society that frowns upon these expressions and behaviors from men. If you see Jonathan Van Ness, you see a person who is not afraid to talk about his struggles, who also unapologetically celebrates his success and flaws in a way that can only be described as encouraging. Take for example his Instagram stories in which he dances around topless to empowering songs by various female artists, shaking his hips and booty without fear of ridicule. Not only that, his way of openly talking and dealing with his self-image are helpful to all the people who are witnessing his presence on social media or on the screen.
Adding to all of the above, in a recent interview with Out Magazine, Jonathan Van Ness came out as non-binary. (While Jonathan identifies as non-binary, he still prefers he/him pronouns, which is why I’ve used them in this article.) In the interview, he’s quoted saying: “The older I get, the more I think that I’m nonbinary — I’m gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman. Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I’m here for it. I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It’s this social construct that I don’t really feel like I fit into the way I used to.”
— Out Magazine (@outmagazine) June 10, 2019
Furthermore, Jonathan says that the part of his identity that is female is the most inspiring and strongest to him:
All the people that I look up to the most, that I want to emulate the most are like 90% women. The people who shaped me the most was my mom, my grandma — it’s Gloria, Celine, Aretha, Shania, Mariah.
It is certainly inspiring to see someone in the spotlight break down stereotypes: yes, this is a gay individual who is unapologetic about his love for nail polish, who wears dresses, high heels and makeup to red carpets. But he is also educated on the struggles of female-identifying individuals of society and does his best to not only lift them up, but to celebrate things and details that are usually female-coded.
All in all, Jonathan is a person that just makes you happy instantly. He is positive but not afraid to touch upon the darker places to which a mind can wander. We might still have a long way to go as a society, but people like Jonathan Van Ness are the kind of people we should be celebrating and paying attention to, because exposure to individuals who don’t confirm to the “gender norm” and who celebrate being different will help not only a strengthening of tolerance, but also a strengthening of acceptance.
Stay tuned for our next installment in our 2019 Pride Month Series tomorrow, and check out the rest of the articles in the series here.