Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness only continues to prove why he’s exactly the role-model this world needs in 2019.
After revealing his is living with HIV in an interview with The New York Times last week, the hairdresser and reality TV star has now responded to questions about his health in an interview the TODAY show, making it clear that he is “thriving”.
“I’ve picked up figure skating! I’ve done nothing but get cuter and be able to work harder, longer hours,” Van Ness said of the period since his diagnosis. “I just feel like I’m thriving.”
Van Ness also pointed out that he currently has “an undetectable viral load” – the measurement of how much of the virus is currently in a patient’s blood stream (an undetectable status is widely accepted to mean the virus is transmittable). He described how he takes a daily pill to manage the levels of the virus in his body, and visits his doctor every three months to make sure nothing has changed.
“It was never easy to forge that path with being all this in a place where all this wasn’t always easily accepted. “I wasn’t sure how to be accepted and how to be loved, but I figured it out and I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and I let my spirit in there and I let it shine,” he explained.
“When I got HIV, I felt that I wasn’t allowed to be seen as sexy or desirable,” he continued. “I had to work so much harder to fall in love with and accept where I’d come to in my life, and forgive myself for all the decisions I’d made to get there.”
Having experienced sexual abuse as a young child and turning to drugs and sex to cope throughout his time at university, Van Ness said he tested positive for HIV aged 25. After fainting in the salon he was working in at the time, Van Ness visited Planned Parenthood to have his flulike symptoms tested, and it was then he found out he was living with HIV. It was a day he describes as “just as devastating as you think it would be” in his new memoir Over The Top.
“It feels kind of Twilight Zone-ish, but I do have this very kind of calm sense of ‘I did this for a reason’,” Van Ness added during his TODAY appearance. “And I stand by those reasons, and I think it is really important for me to speak about things I talk about in this book, so I think it was the right thing to do.”
Now, four seasons of Queer Eye later and empowered by the show’s success, Van Ness says he does “feel the need” to talk about being a “member of the beautiful HIV positive community,” and confirmed he was healthy.
“When Queer Eye came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?’,” he explains in his interview with The New York Times. “And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatisation of the LGBT community thrive around me’. I do feel the need to talk about this.”
Taking to Instagram to share the interview, Van Ness said the chance to write his memoir and share his story was “the most important opportunity” he’d ever had.
“I’m relieved I can speak fully about the things that shape my experience in life. The book speaks to some extremely difficult times but it’s also filled with my humour, joy and voice and I can’t wait to share it with you fully. Thanks so much for your support so far, it means the world.”
In response to his incredible honesty, Van Ness’ Queer Eye cast mates were quick to support him in the comments of his Instagram post, with other celebrities and public figures alike also joining in to share their messages of love.
Derry Girls’ Nicola Coughlan also added: “You’re brave and brilliant.”