wellness

I met Jonathan Van Ness and within minutes, he Queer Eyed me with life-changing real talk.

I remember exactly where I was the moment I fell in love with Jonathan Van Ness.

It was a Sunday afternoon in 2018. I’d been sitting on the couch for several hours and was 33 minutes through watching the very first episode of Netflix’s reboot of Queer Eye, titled ‘You Can’t Fix Ugly’.

“If you’re ever going to a major night and you want to calm your redness down, put this green [colour-correcting makeup] stick on your face. It won’t get rid of the redness completely, but it tones it down,” the makeover show’s hair and skincare expert told 57-year-old Tom, a “dumb, old country boy from Kentucky” who signed up to be made over by five gay men.

Wearing his green stick, Tom felt good about what he saw looking in the mirror, perhaps for the first time in his life. That to me sums up the transformative power of Jonathan Van Ness, who is affectionately referred to as JVN.

This week, JVN has been touring Australia with his sold out stand up show Road to Beijing. In between charming audiences in Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, he’s been relaxing on our beaches, exploring our cities and getting selfies with kangaroos and koalas.

He also met me.

No, we didn’t catch up for coffee or catch up for brunch. I was one in a group of lucky journalists who had the chance to say hello and ask the comedian and New York Times best-selling author questions at an Australian launch event for Biossance, the skincare brand he’s an ambassador for.

You can watch Jonathan Van Ness giving me some of his advice on how to find self acceptance in the video below. Post continues after video.

Video via Amy Clark

Listening to him speak about everything from clean beauty and climate change to his favourite beauty tips and what it’s like touring the country as an “accidental comedian”, JVN was as candid and captivating and joyous in real life as he is on TV and in his Instagram feed.

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The 32-year-old also talked about his experience of living with psoriasis, a systemic autoimmune disease that causes the overproduction of skin cells, leading to painful rash-like lesions that present in different parts of the body. JVN is one of the 125 million people around the world affected by psoriasis – physically and emotionally.

JVN is loved by so many for, among other things, his unique ability to help a person see themselves in the same light the rest of the world does. Having been so open about his own life experiences – in 2019, JVN made public his history of being abused as a child, drug and alcohol addiction and testing positive to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – he encourages all of us not to hide the parts of ourselves we’re ashamed of, but to use them as a tool to create real change.

So when I had an opportunity to ask him a question, I wanted to know: how do you overcome all the unattainable ideals of perfection that have been pre-programmed into our minds over the years, and not let your perceived flaws affect the way you live your life?

In a matter of minutes, JVN well and truly Queer Eyed me with some of the most helpful insights of self acceptance I’ve ever heard.

“For me, it really took the years between 20 and 28 to get to a place where now, my psoriasis, something that used to bother me, doesn’t bother me anymore. That’s a long time,” he said.

“Everyone has their own journey and their own experience of getting to a place of acceptance with whatever is making them feel insecure. But I also think that process of acceptance is not linear – you can be in a place of acceptance today and not be there tomorrow.”

JVN
Behold, the transformative smile of Jonathan Van Ness. Image: Supplied/Jack Henry Photography.
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JVN
Here's me and JVN (I'm the redhead in the front) just after he Queer Eyed me. Image: Supplied/Jack Henry Photography.

Right now, when we're constantly being told to feel positive all the time about all the things, and accept our bodies exactly as they are, it was refreshing to hear that changing the way you think and feel about yourself does in fact take longer than it does to order Uber Eats. That unpicking the thread that holds together our image of what perfect looks like is a lengthy process.

Then, JVN delivered an absolute nugget of wholesome wisdom:

"I am always more comfortable when I realise whatever I'm feeling is not abnormal - I talk a lot about the fear of not being normal. What's 'normal' is literally as unique as however many people there are in the world."

"There is something in everyone that is beautiful, so it's about turning up the volume on that and then being aware it's OK and very human to feel insecure about a whole bunch of things. Normal is really just a figment of our imaginations."

So, thank you, JVN, for giving me those words to live by.

Feature image: Instagram/@jvn and Jack Henry Photography.

Are you a Jonathan Van Ness fan? Tell us what you love about him in the comments below!

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