In a recent New York Times profile written by Alex Hawgood, the Netflix reality TV star who last weekend destroyed the Creative Arts Emmys red carpet, Van Ness touches on the issues he covers in his upcoming memoir, “Over the Top.” Van Ness talks about his punishing upbringing as a much-bullied, closeted young gay man, as well as his addictions to drugs and anonymous chatroom sex, and being diagnosed with HIV.
“I was too fat, too femme, too loud and too unlovable,” Van Ness said of his childhood in Illinois as the gay son of a family that owns the Wisconsin television empire Quincy Media. An early addiction to binge-eating preceded fixings for cocaine, meth, and internet-arranged sex with older men. When he learned he was HIV-positive, Van Ness recalls, “That day was just as devastating as you would think it would be.” And he’s ready to talk about it.
“When ‘Queer Eye’ came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?,” he told The New York Times. “And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the L.G.B.T. community thrive around me.’ I do feel the need to talk about this.”
Van Ness ended up on “Queer Eye” thanks to “Gay of Thrones,” his gay-themed recaps of a certain HBO fantasy series. Now he’s the iconic star of a reality series that is all about positivity and feeling good about yourself — which is rare in a moment of cynicism and rage onscreen. With his new book, Van Ness is trying to rewrite the narrative that he is “the effervescent, gregarious majestic center-part-blow-dry cotton-candy figure-skating queen” as seen on “Queer Eye.”
“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.”