The untold truth of Jonathan Van Ness

Jonathan Van Ness first burst onto the scene — and into our hearts — as part of Netflix's rebooted super-hit Queer Eye. As one fifth of the brand new Fab Five, Van Ness was a sparkly, positive, meme-generating breath of fresh air. His outwardly sunny disposition belies a difficult childhood growing up in middle America, during which cruel bullies made his life a living hell. 

Although he never sacrificed who he was, JVN has found fame hard to deal with at times, even wondering whether he might lose his sense of self as a result of being in that glaring spotlight. He's a product of his environment, but he's also 100 percent himself at all times, no matter the circumstances. Whether he's worshiping ice skating legends, providing hair care tips to anybody and everybody who asks, or taking aim at the 45th U.S. President on Twitter, there's only one JVN. This is the untold truth of the inimitable Jonathan Van Ness. 

His idol is Mirai Nagasu

Unsurprisingly, for someone who participated in both gymnastics and cheerleading growing up, Van Ness openly worships figure skaters. In particular, his idol is Mirai Nagasu because, quite simply, she never gave up on her dreams. Nagasu's Olympic story really inspired JVN — so much so that he just had to have her on his podcast, Getting Curious. While visiting a studio for the Ladygang podcast, he described interviewing Nagasu as his own Olympic story. 

The hair care superstar's love for ice skating clearly runs deep, as Van Ness divulged in a group interview with Vulture that Rudy Galindo was the one who "Queer Eye-d" him. "He was the first openly gay man, HIV+, in 1995 he went to the U.S. skating championship for the first time. I can remember exactly what his costume looked like: head-to-toe in black, had white accents. He came in third in the world. It was so major," he gushed. 

He had a breakdown in the infamous Beyonce elevator

Back in 2014, the world was shocked when footage emerged, via TMZ, of Beyoncé's sister, Solange, full-on brawling with brother-in-law Jay-Z in an elevator at the Standard Hotel in NYC. If that weren't dramatic enough, our very own JVN managed to have his own little breakdown just a few years later.

As he regaled the hosts of the Ladygang podcast, Van Ness was surrounded by fans one night while trying to have a few drinks at the hotel, causing the night to feel like an impromptu meet and greet. Recalling how pressured he felt to please everyone, he said he wasn't even allowed to take a bathroom break and was "double-fisting" champagne the whole evening. 

After getting in that infamous elevator to take a breather, Van Ness was accosted by a fan who somehow managed to simultaneously film him with two separate cameras. JVN broke down, "ugly-crying" the rest of the trip, and only pulled himself together right before the doors opened. 

He has a secret nickname

The man we know and love as JVN actually goes by another name entirely, or, at least, he did for most of his younger life. As inadvertently revealed by his co-star Tan France right at the beginning of an episode of the Getting Curious podcast, Van Ness actually goes by Jack or Jackie — just don't ever call him that, or, JVN warned, you won't get a selfie with him.

France recalled once hearing his buddy on the phone, and subsequently asking if he could call JVN by his classic nickname. Although he allowed France to do so, Van Ness was very clear — with his own mother no less — on an episode of his podcast that she's to call him Jonathan and get used to it. Tan may be getting special treatment, but don't expect JVN to turn that gorgeous head if you call him with "Jackie" in the street. 

He was a super eccentric kid

Shocking nobody, glossy-haired Jonathan Van Ness was not your average kid. Aside from being a gymnastics enthusiast and looking up to Olympic figure skaters, young JVN was just generally eccentric. During a rousing chat with his own unbelievably patient mother on his Getting Curious podcast, it was revealed that in second grade his morning routine strangely consisted of coffee and the Today show. 

Young JVN also had obsessions with — among other things — Finland, Beanie Babies, wildflowers, guinea pigs, stamps, the news, true crime, and meteorology. The craziest story about Van Ness' childhood, however, has to be when he dressed up as Judge Ito (who presided over the infamous O.J. Simpson trial, and looks like this) for Halloween. Van Ness drew on a mascara beard himself (of course), his mother borrowed a robe from the local church, and they took little round glasses from a teddy bear to complete the look. 

His strength came from extreme hardship

Although JVN's chat with his mom on Getting Curious was mostly upbeat as the two looked back on years of eccentricity and one-of-a-kind self-expression, things took a dark turn when Van Ness revealed just how badly he was picked on as a kid. "When I say I was bullied, it is not strong enough," he admitted. As a child, he would come home in such distress that it still brings his mother pain to recall all these years later.

JVN got into it further in a deep chat with Vulture, explaining, "Where I come from, I have had people my entire life tell me to my face, 'I don't agree with your lifestyle. You should never be able to be married. You're a f****t.' Pushed down the stairs, 'f****t' spray painted on my car. When I say chased around with pitchforks, I'm halfway kidding." 

Van Ness' mother is glad these difficulties didn't dampen her son's curiosity for the world — something she can now celebrate knowing how tormented he once was for just being himself. 

He's been pushing boundaries his whole life

It's difficult to imagine anything holding Jonathan Van Ness back, but there was a time in his life when he really had to fight to do what he wanted. As he told Time Out, when he originally started gymnastics, boys weren't even allowed to participate. "They had a class with a trampoline in front of a basketball hoop — like, to dunk — because that made [gymnastics] more boyish. … There was some kind of shame baked into gender at a young age," he revealed. 

Likewise, after creating his own costume for a sixth grade talent show, his mother had to warn him that once he went out and did his interpretative dance to Jewel (something they discuss in detail on her episode of Getting Curious), the boys in school would never see JVN the same way again. He bravely told her that he couldn't wait to dance. The moment is immortalized on a VHS tape that, if Van Ness has his way, will never see the light of day.  

Queer Eye was the first gig he ever landed

By JVN's own admission, prior to Queer Eye, he'd gone out for every audition for an "obvious gay" character. As he told Ladygang's trio of hosts during his stint on their podcast, it was only when the makeover show came along that he truly felt he'd found his calling, knowing in his heart that he was meant to be a part of it. 

However, as JVN admitted to Into The Gloss, he never thought he'd get it. "I felt like a contestant on America's Next Top Model who made it into the final two because I was like, 'I really, really want this every moment it gets closer and I want it so bad but you look like a big gay Jesus, girl, you're just not gonna get this job!'" he admitted. The producers were, of course, smitten and not, as Van Ness thought at the time, simply tiring him out because they thought he was "cute." 

He's not afraid to get real

JVN might be the bright spark of Queer Eye, but don't let his sunny disposition fool you. Van Ness is a passionate advocate, unafraid to speak his mind. He told Elle plainly, "I just go and I get all my anger out on Twitter. If I read something on the news that really irritates me, I get my rageful venting out on Twitter."

During a lengthy interview with Vulture, Van Ness got super real with co-star Antoni Porowski regarding the infamous bakers who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. "When I walk out of a room with someone like that, I know very clearly the thoughts that are going through their head. … They'll shake my hand with a smile on their face, and then they're going to go and take your mom's health care, take your children's health care, and they're also going to try to take food stamps from people and make sure women need to qualify how much work [they] can get so they can feed their children," he fumed. 

He's struggled with depression

As difficult as it may be to imagine, JVN hasn't always been the positive, life-affirming, ray of light we've all come to know and love through Queer Eye. Aside from childhood bullying, JVN has struggled with depression — particularly after the death of his beloved stepdad, who passed away due to bladder cancer in 2012. As Van Ness told Elle, "That was the year when I gained all of this weight … There were six months when I don't think I opened my mail, and I definitely forgot to pay my taxes for like a year. I think when you get in that really debilitating clinical depression, you can't get out of bed." 

It took two years for Van Ness to get back on track, but, as he explained to InStyle, he now works out for himself, not anybody else. He shares his fitness journey to help and encourage others, too, stating, "It's something that I choose to share because I want to help people feel better and I found that for me, just sharing myself seems to be helping."

He'd give his worst enemy the 'Lisa Rinna'

During a rousing interview on the Ladygang podcast, Jonathan Van Ness was put on the spot about hair care. Or, more specifically, about the haircut he would give to his worst enemy. 

Van Ness enthusiastically told the ladies that he'd give his worst enemy a "Lisa Rinna" haircut because, let's be honest, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star is the only person who can pull of her iconic look. Pressed on how exactly he'd style it, Van Ness revealed he'd bleach and tone his enemy's hair into a "p**s yellow" color and make it super shaggy — all "at the height of summer" when this particular haircut would be super difficult to maintain.

A cruel punishment for sure, but, considering how JVN is happy to lend his talents in all manner of YouTube tutorials and in practically every interview he's ever done, it's only fitting to give him one (hypothetical) opportunity to do some real damage.