Jonathan Van Ness is living his truth and it’s more than cute; it’s momentous. The Queer Eye star not only landed the January cover of Cosmopolitan UK, he’s also the first non-female to do so since Boy George was featured in 1984. Can you believe?
Technically, JVN’s not the first non-female in recent years to grace the mag’s cover—the boys of One Direction did it in 2012. But this is the the first time for this honour to happen solo — and, more specifically, a non-binary person—and if that’s not fabulously historic, we don’t know what is. The back-flipping, figure-skating, positivity-oozing grooming guru, comedian and podcast host couldn’t be prettier in a pouffy peach Christian Siriano gown, perfectly coordinated with athletic crew socks and fresh Nikes. “My body is ready,” Van Ness wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of the cover. He revealed to Cosmo how sharing his HIV-positive status in his memoir, Over The Top, has turned him into an activist. As if he wasn’t doing enough already, what with Queer Eye, his Road to Beijing tour, and advocating for women and the LGBTQ+ community.
“This is only the beginning,” he told Cosmo. “I’m quickly realising that there is still so much misunderstanding, so much sensationalising of living with HIV. The stigma and the difficulty around the process of getting treatment is creating that. My work has only really just begun.” And JVN is ready to tackle it head-on, even though he’s faced some backlash as well. People dug up some old footage of Jonathan “obviously joking” about Bernie Sanders, but haters ran with it and people started tweeted him terrible things. “It was the first time I ever cried from feedback on Twitter – like ugly-cry in a foetal position.”
Van Ness admitted that he “always used comedy as a way to soothe myself and move forward,” so he gets why people came for him. “If I saw the headlines of ‘Queer Eye star reveals devastating HIV diagnosis’ and then, two days later, you see this one-minute video of me cracking jokes about Ronald Reagan’s treatment of people living with HIV, I would hate me too,” he acknowledged. “But they also don’t understand that I’m someone who is living with HIV; that that was the first press tour I’d ever done; that I’m also a comedian who makes jokes out of stuff because if I didn’t make jokes about it, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.”
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It’s #worldaidsday 💗 Being able to write about my HIV status was hugely scary but even scarier is the continued lack of knowledge & understanding around HIV. Thank god for people like @jimmykimmellive who allowed me to come and talk about living with HIV, what undetectable = untransmitable means, and how important a role @plannedparenthood played in my journey to health & happiness. Take some time to educate yourself on what HIV+ people living in poverty have to go through to get treatment. Do you know what PREP is? Do you know the fastest growing group of newly infected HIV+ people are? The time for silence is over. #endhivstigma For the full interview- please head over to @jimmykimmellive YouTube channel 🏳️🌈
It’s all a learning curve, though. Jonathan sees a therapist, practices yoga and meditation, and smokes marijuana to deal with all the pressure that comes with being him, but he’s also learned to say no and focus more on himself.
“The other day, Taylor [Swift] and I were making soup and she asked me to go to a Madonna concert with her,” he recalled in what might be the best name-drop ever. “That was the day before my 5am flight to London to come here for this shoot and my tour. I knew it would be an amazing experience.”
Jonathan continued: “But I hate saying no. I love my friends. I get FOMO. But I have to prioritise self-care. Because if I don’t then my candle will burn out.”
Let’s all put that on our vision boards. The January issue of Cosmopolitan UK will be available Dec. 5.