Jonathan Van Ness is ready to be vulnerable. In his new memoir, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love, the Queer Eye star opens up about being HIV positive, his addiction to sex and drugs, and how he’s a sexual assault survivor.
Van Ness previewed his book with the New York Times, revealing that when he was young, he was sexually abused by an older boy from 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. That trauma eventually manifested in what he calls his “self-destructive behaviors,” like spending hours in AOL chat rooms as a teen to meet up with older men for sex, drug use paid for by for earning money for sex on Gay.com, and binge eating junk food. He went to rehab twice and relapsed both times.
When he was 25, he fainted while working on a client’s hair in the salon and went to Planned Parenthood for what he thought was a case of the flu. Instead, he tested positive for HIV. “That day was just as devastating as you would think it would be,” he says in the book. As a result, he changed his life. He says he “hasn’t done hard drugs in years” and only drinks and smokes marijuana. Eventually he started his viral web series Gay of Thrones (for which he received an Emmy nomination last year for Outstanding Short-Form Variety Series) which helped pave the way to his current role on Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot as the resident grooming expert.
With both his memoir and on Queer Eye, Van Ness hopes to bring awareness to the realities of being HIV positive. According to the NYT profile, he is now healthy and describes himself as an out-and-proud “member of the beautiful HIV-positive community.”
“When Queer Eye came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?,” he said. “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.”
Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love will be released on Sept. 24.