Netflix star Jonathan Van Ness speaks to students on the power of visibility at the Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth.
Jonathan Van Ness, the effervescent grooming guru who broke out in a major way on Netflix’s “Queer Eye” reboot, will bring his sage advice from behind the salon chair to the Comerica Theatre stage.
The 32-year-old ice-skating enthusiast, who dreams of one day crawling the Aggro Crag in a reboot of Nickelodeon’s “GUTS,” combines his insatiable earnestness with unfiltered and unflinching observations in his “Road to Beijing” world tour.
Van Ness, who’s risen to prominence through the feel-good, binge-worthy “Queer Eye,” a podcast and online web series “Gay of Thrones,” shared he’s gender non-conforming in an interview with Out Magazine earlier this month.
We caught up with Van Ness ahead of his Phoenix stop and chatted about turning red states pink, dancing on Instagram, Twitter tirades and what his life was like in Arizona before becoming a member of the “Fab 5.”
Question: So, you began this morning with an Instastory dancing to Vanessa Carlton and brewing coffee. What motivates you each morning to start your day with a bit of fun when most of us just slog through the A.M.?
Answer: It actually all started when I went through this breakup earlier this year. I was really sad. But, I do like to dance, and I do like to make coffee, and I needed a place to express my rage through the lyrics of the song because I couldn’t say it myself. And then it turned into this way to express my joy. It really only took me two weeks to get through that blip and now I’m obsessed with my morning coffee dances — I just feel so good afterwards!
Q: Your positive attitude is becoming an example for many. Did you ever expect to be celebrated for the very things you were mocked for as a child?
A: No, not at all. I also worry that I’m gonna lose that “positive-icon status” if everyone looks at my Twitter. Like, don’t look at the Twitter if you don’t want that illusion smashed. I think I am a positive person and it’s really part of what got me through so much of that bullying and being ostracized for much of my life. I never thought I’d be celebrated for that. If you can acknowledge the things that are your strengths or even weak spots and laugh at them, it makes you more celebratory. Now, I’m no hero for going through life the way I go through it, but I am able to laugh and support myself. We need to laugh when we can because, honey, there’s so much to be pissed off about.
Q: What’s annoying you these days?
A: You have that (expletive) Martha McSally representing you as your senator and she lost! I cannot wait for Gabby Giffords’ husband — that Mark — to beat her (rear) in 2020! Oh my God. I have to say she’s a nightmare. I’m really excited for him to beat her. I think Arizona has been turning but hope you all push the pedal to the metal and go full purple.
Could ‘Queer Eye’ come to Phoenix?
Q: With “Queer Eye” turning red states pink, do you think there’s a chance the show drop by for a season in Phoenix?
A: If we could come to Arizona between the months of October and May, sign me up! I’m so there. But I don’t know how I survived the summer for three years. It’s really hot. I mean, not to complain on the phone about the weather, but you know how it is. My word.
Q: I read that you used to drive between Phoenix and Los Angeles when you were just staring out for your own “Devil Wears Prada” moment. What was that period like for you?
A: It was really long hours, seven days a week realness. Look at me wrong on a Saturday, and I would cry from pure exhaustion. Also: a lot of Taco Bell bean burritos with no cheese because I was vegan for those years. There was a lot of hard work but I was so happy learning so much and I loved my clients. I learned how to successfully achieve new haircuts and styles when everything I did wound up looking like the Rachel with piano, chunky highlights. I grew and evolved into being much better at hair.
Q: What’s it like coming back, at least, for a one-night show?
A: I’m so excited. It’s gonna be gorgeous. We’re gonna find that air conditioning together and we’re gonna get through it and it’s gonna be so much fun.
Q: And it’ll be in a capacity we haven’t seen you in here before — your own show. What was it like going into comedy?
A: Stand-up comedy was always something that I wanted to do and I looked up to Margaret Cho, Janeane Garofalo and Joan Rivers. The women I grew up idolizing did stand-up and I always knew it was a craft I loved but it was not something I thought was for me. I needed to be myself but also be a self-sufficient adult so I decided to do hair and I think I became on the side a stand-up comedian in the salon without realizing it. Kinda like a Mrs. Maisel. And right before “Queer Eye,” I decided to try real stand-up. Having met Margaret Cho on “Gay of Thrones” and becoming her hairdresser, she gave me the nudge to try it out in January of last year. I was obsessed with it. Felt like I did after the first week of beauty school.
The Road to Beijing
Q: What’s “The Road to Beijing” like? It’s been described as part comedy, part gymnastics routine and a whole lot of heart.
A: With “Getting Curious” and “Gay of Thrones” and “Queer Eye,” it’s always me and a group of people. It’s the first time I’ve gotten to be in the spotlight alone and to figure out what I wanted to say only because I wanted to say it. It was fun to get to produce something that was of myself totally. By and large it’s a time for me to get up and shine and not worry about anything else but performing. I understand why people love doing stand-up. I started doing more “real shows” and I never realized it was my truth.
Q: Is it a struggle to balance all of your projects?
A: It’s been interesting. I initially was supposed to be done with this tour in July and I stretched it out. I didn’t want to be on the road every weekend and extended some dates until the end of the year to be sustainable and bring the best material. It’s been a learning lesson to get everything together and show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It’s been a fun learning curve to go on the road and do this craft.
Q: What does your cat, Larry, think about all your travels?
A: He is fine as long as his uncles Chris, Nate or Marcus, Ian or Mike spends the night. He has a lot of uncles. As long has Larry has someone sleeping here he is fine. What really makes him madder than a wet hen is if he’s left alone overnight without a human.
Q: How has your podcast, “Getting Curious,” helped you with interviewing people when you’re in an endless cycles of promotion and press tours yourself?
A: I actually come from a broadcasting and newspaper family and never thought about journalism school. I’m not educated to be a journalist but I am passionate about learning and the world world we live in. “Getting Curious” started as a passion project like comedy where I’d create content and not have to ask anyone for permission. Originally it was a platform way before “Queer Eye” to learn and share it with people. As it’s had a popularity boost it’s important for me to insulate the integrity I’ve built over the years and stay true to its mission. I want to talk about subjects and values I had when I started.
Q: With the success of “Queer Eye” and becoming a household name, what responsibility do you feel with such a large platform?
A: There are so many issues that are on my mind. I feel a responsibility to be thoughtful, courageous and kind and not lose myself. Because sometimes I’m mad and angry and don’t want to not express myself because I have a platform. I do want to lift people up unless if I’m on Twitter and you’re a GOP leader I want to swat down. Only because they’re going after women and LGBTQ rights. I do feel a sense of responsibility to be authentic and kind, though.
Jonathan Van Ness
When: 7 p.m. Friday, June 21.
Where: Comerica Theatre, 400 W. Washington St., Phoenix.
Additional information: 602-379-2800, jonathanvanness.com
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