There’s great hair and there are great hairstylists. And at the intersection of the two sits Jonathan Van Ness, a veritable icon so uniquely fabulous that his initials are just as identifying as his full name. JVN may be known best for his grooming techniques, which he lends to Netflix’s Queer Eye, but he’s much more than that.
The podcast host, activist, author, actor, comedian, and all-around personality is majorly multi-talented, but has faced plenty of challenges in his ascent to the top of the entertainment scene. Born in 1987 in Quincy, Illinois, Van Ness comes from “a family of journalists.” In fact, his family owned a media company. From a young age, though, Van Ness knew his future wasn’t in the newspaper business, but rather in hair—though he does also consider himself a storyteller and “truth teller.”
Van Ness has said that he had clarity early on about his sexuality, and was never shy about expressing himself. But it resulted in bullying from peers. Van Ness developed a keen sense of humor as a defense mechanism, and in the decades since, has further honed his sharp wit and turned it into his claim to fame. In 2013, while working at a hair salon in California, Van Ness began recounting episodes of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones with his own colorful commentary, and the web series Gay of Thrones was born. Since then, Van Ness has launched Getting Curious (the podcast and later the Netflix show), published two books, and increasingly become a household name, especially in the LGBTQ community.
While you can catch some of Van Ness’ grooming tips and tricks and insights on life on Queer Eye, we can never get enough. Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite quotes from Van Ness on practicing self-care, finding confidence, being yourself, and pushing the conversation forward.
- “I want people to fall in love with themselves and to be really proud and full of joy for the space they take up. If someone else appreciates the space you take up, then that’s icing on the cake.” —Van Ness, Queer Eye
- “Self-care is the non-negotiable. That’s the thing that you have to do. And beauty is the thing that can be the benefit of the self-care. Beauty is not the point. Beauty is just a cute side-effect from self-care.” —Van Ness, Dazed
- “When people say ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ it’s not true because you can reinvent yourself and learn new things whenever you want.” —Van Ness, Queer Eye
- “Imperfection is beautiful. To anyone who has ever felt broken beyond repair, this is for you. If you’ve ever been excluded, or told you were not enough, know that you are enough, and beautifully complete.” —Van Ness, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love
- “I obviously love to do hair. And I love to do transformation sometimes. But I feel like my passion, and my role, is more about accepting who we are and embracing who we are. I’m a lot of times more of, like, the anti-transformation beauty expert. I really want people to celebrate themselves, and that’s always what I’m trying to do.” —Van Ness, The New Yorker
- “I’m telling my story—the whole story—to show that some masterpieces start off a mess.” —Van Ness, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love
- “Being normal is being completely unique, because nobody’s the same. Normal, honey? Who is she, anyway?” —Van Ness, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love
- “I don’t want to waste any of my life not being who I am.” —Van Ness, Austin360
- “We are all a beautiful jumble of layers, parts, and mixtures of experiences, but my most important part, and in my opinion everyone’s most valuable part, is the one that chooses self-love instead of self-harm in the grand sweeping ways but also the little ways every single day.” —Van Ness, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love
- “It’s important for people to be able to see themselves in entertainment. Will and Grace and Queer as Folk and Queer Eye the first version, they were all indicators that there were a lot of possibilities for me.” —Van Ness, Herald-Whig
- “I do think that in general we are quick to congratulate ourselves for having this sense of representation, but having two shows that we can name off the top of our head that have a queer POV is not enough — no tea, no shade, no pink lemonade to you or anyone else. But we have a huge number of LGBTQ people whose stories do not get told. With all due respect, there should be so many more queer shows.” —Van Ness, The Wrap
- “To my younger self, I would say unless you’re literally in danger, ask forgiveness instead of asking permission.” —Van Ness, Today
- “There’s a lot of people that we just don’t talk to because we think that they disagree, and maybe they do, but let’s be fearless in those conversations.” —Van Ness, NEXT
- “I’m not into creating things for the sake of creating them. I want to move a conversation forward.” —Van Ness, Elle
- “What I thought were my biggest tragedies, like getting HIV and surviving sexual abuse, I’ve been able to use to help people… The goal is using your platform and using your experience to help other people.” —Van Ness, Vanity Fair
- “I can’t use my platform and lift other people up and educate and amplify and do all the things I want to do to help make things better if I’m so burnt out and under so much pressure that everything’s not coming across. You have to have enough gas in your tank to be able to do the work.” —Van Ness, SELF
- “I hate saying no. I love my friends. I get FOMO. But I have to prioritize self-care. Because if I don’t then my candle will burn out.” —Van Ness, Cosmopolitan UK
- “What I’ve realized is that confidence is a daily journey. We always think that confidence is a destination we must get to, but it’s a choice we make. I don’t think it’s something we ever really get to and stay at. And I think once you know that, it takes the pressure off.” —Van Ness, The Zoe Report
- “Whether I fail or succeed, it’s the going for it.” —Van Ness, The Zoe Report