Among those are coming out about his struggles with sex and drug addiction to the day of his diagnosis as HIV-positive.
Offering a Cliff Notes of the new autobiography, the Times includes details from Van Ness’s life like growing up in Quincy, Illinois, as a self-described “little baby queen;” the taunts he was subjected to throughout school years (“I was too fat, too femme, too loud and too unlovable”); and spending early teen years in AOL chat rooms where he would learn to meet older men for sex.
Exalting in the freedom felt after moving from Illinois to Arizona for college, his first month he blew his monthly allowance on cocaine. Embarrassed by his own recklessness, rather than ask his mother for more money, he began to advertise sex for money on a gay personals site.
He would end up flunking out of college at the end of his first year.
But years of styling his Barbie dolls’ hair would lead him to his current career as a beautician.
But as his drug and sex addictions continued, he spiraled downward while working and living in Los Angeles.
After a fainting episode, while coloring a client’s hair, he went to Planned Parenthood where a blood test would reveal his HIV-positive status. He was 25-years-old.
“That day was just as devastating as you would think it would be,” he tells the Times.
Since that time, he’s gotten his addictions under control, his parody series Gay of Thrones brought him public attention (it was nominated for 3 Creative Arts Emmys), and ultimately found his place as a cast member of the Emmy Award-winning reboot of Queer Eye.
The Times article closes by writing:
He is healthy and now describes himself as an out-and-proud “member of the beautiful H.I.V.-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 L.G.B.T. community thrive around me.’”
He paused before adding, “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,” he said. “That doesn’t mean ‘Queer Eye’ is less valid, but I want people to realize you’re never too broken to be fixed.”
“Having the opportunity to write my book and share my story with you is the most important opportunity I’ve ever had,” shared Van Ness on his Instagram today. “The first article about the book came out today from the @nytimes & I’m relieved I can speak fully about the things that shape my experience in life.”
“The book speaks to some extremely difficult times but it’s also filled with my humor, joy and voice & I can’t wait to share it with you fully,” he adds. “Thanks so much for your support so far, it means the world.”
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Having the opportunity to write my book and share my story with you is the most important opportunity I’ve ever had. The first article about the book came out today from the @nytimes & I’m relieved I can speak fully about the things that shape my experience in life. The book speaks to some extremely difficult times but it’s also filled with my humor, joy and voice & I can’t wait to share it with you fully. Thanks so much for your support so far, it means the world. Article link in bio 🏳️🌈 📸 Isak Tiner words by Alex Hawgood
Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love will be released September 24.