Queer Eye has successfully rebooted the Bush II-era Bravo show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, introducing a new quintet every bit as beloved and obsessed-over as the original five. After a year in the spotlight, one of them has decided to be more open about his private life. In a new profile with The New York Times, Jonathan Van Ness has revealed he’s HIV-Positive.
Van Ness has been promoting his new memoir, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love, out on Sept. 24, and in which he’s open about his tumultuous life, including being the victim of sexual assault and about his addiction to drugs and sex. Now 32, Queer Eye’s resident grooming expert describes testing positive for HIV when he was 25. He had fainted while working on a client’s hair, and he went to Planned Parenthood, although he assumed he merely had the flu. When he discovered it was not the flu, he radically changed his life; in the same book he says he hasn’t done drugs “in years” and is a healthy and proud “member of the beautiful HIV-positive community.”
Elsewhere in the profile, Van Ness also reveals that as a kid he was sexually abused by an older boy from his church. “For a lot of people who are survivors of sexual assault at a young age, we have a lot of compounded trauma,” he said, adding that that had led him to “self-destructive behaviors,” such as becoming a sex worker to fund his drug addiction. He says he’s been to rehab twice and relapsed both times. After cleaning himself up, he launched his viral web series Gay of Thrones, which led to his Queer Eye casting.
Van Ness told NYT that he was reluctant to be so open while in the spotlight. “When Queer Eye came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?” he told them. “And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the LGBT community thrive around me.’ I do feel the need to talk about this … These are all difficult subjects to talk about on a makeover show about hair and makeup. That doesn’t mean Queer Eye is less valid, but I want people to realize you’re never too broken to be fixed.”