While Jonathan Van Ness is best known for his makeover skills and bright personality on the show “Queer EyeHe is also an aspiring figure skater in training. For Van Ness, acquiring this new skill has not gone without its problems.
“Well, skating wasn’t easy,” said Van Ness. “It’s so much more scary than I thought – you’re definitely 4 inches off the floor, moving very quickly, and my hips saw and felt some things that I didn’t know I could feel.”
Van Ness discussed his experiences with ice skating and more on Monday night when he attended “A Conversation with Jonathan Van Ness,” a talk by Pitt Program Council in cooperation with Rainbow alliance. The organizations hosted the event as part of Campus Pride Month, which colleges celebrate in April rather than June as part of National Pride Month, and it was PPC’s last lecture event of the year.
Students had the opportunity to pre-submit questions for the event via Instagram DMs, as well as submit questions during the event during the event. Quincey Johnston, Speaker of PPC, and Barrie Wiener, President of the Rainbow Alliance, moderated the event together.
During the hour-long talk, Van Ness discussed his career, hobbies and activism interests. Van Ness identified his role models as trans rights activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnsoncomedian Margaret Cho and Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan.
He also touched on the impact of the reality TV show. “Queer Eye, “Netflix’s 2003 series rework”Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, “In which Van Ness appears as one of the Fab Five. Along with his four other co-stars – including Antoni Porowski, the visited Pitt 2018 – Van Ness meets people in the US and tries to change their lives for the better.
Van Ness spoke about his passion for activism in the LGBTQ + community throughout the event. Van Ness, who identifies as gay and non-binary, said Pitt students would have to drop out and vote in major states like Pennsylvania to be a community ally.
“Vote – your state is crucial,” said Van Ness. “There are 38 state lawmakers currently trying to pass transphobic laws. We still don’t have enough access to the social safety net for HIV, and there is still so much to do.”
In addition to voting, Van Ness said students should explain systemic problems such as transphobia and homophobia to their families in order to raise awareness of the harm these things are causing to the LBGTQ + community.
“It is really important to explain to your families the existence of white supremacy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and the many ways these things continue to kill our fellow human beings.” Said Van Ness.
Johnston also asked Van Ness how he felt about the use of the word “queer”. For Van Ness, the word is not derogatory at all.
“I love the word ‘queer’, I think it’s a fabulous word,” said Van Ness. “I’ve got people screaming disparagingly at me from their windows all my life, but I don’t think it’s a dirty word – I think it’s a beautiful word, so if someone is going to offend me with a beautiful word, the joke is yours. “
According to Van Ness, he and his co-stars play “Queer Eye” wanted to make sure the restart was on par with the original series.
“I think I was hoping we would do justice to the original justice and I wanted people to like our show,” Van Ness said. “I think it’s fair to say I felt the pressure, but it wasn’t really from one person – I just think we all really wanted to do a good job with the opportunity.”
According to Van Ness, he’s excited to have the opportunity to work with Netflix and looks forward to filming the next season in the coming days.
“Well, I mean, I’m really happy to have this opportunity to keep working with Netflix,” said Van Ness. “We’re actually starting filming season six this week, it’s really exciting.”
Although the show has been popular since 2018, Van Ness said he is still processing the fact that he is a celebrity.
“When people ask me what it’s like to be famous or what it’s like to work with these people and opportunities, I feel like I’m in constant shock,” said Van Ness. “I can’t even believe I’m getting these opportunities.”
In addition to discussing his career with Queer Eye, Van Ness Pitt students also gave some self-care tips to take the stress out of the upcoming finale.
“One thing I’ve learned is that self-care doesn’t have to be where we have to put a hair mask on or do a face mask. For some people, self-care means taking a virtual yoga class, doing yoga in the park, going for a walk, or volunteering somewhere, ”said Van Ness. “Self-care doesn’t have to be aesthetic.”
The Rainbow Alliance helped PPC write questions for the event, according to Wiener, a French major in politics and philosophy. Wiener said moderating the event would be a helpful learning exercise for the future lectures the Rainbow Alliance is planning.
“It’s really nice to work with an organization like PPC because they have a lot of money and resources to do some really cool things,” said Wiener. “It’s also really helpful as we’re trying to give a talk later in the year, so it’s nice to see how you deal with big celebrity guests.”
It made sense to partner with the Rainbow Alliance on this event to celebrate Pride Month, according to Nicholas Jones, junior media and communications-focused junior and PR director for PPC.
“We are very excited to be partnering with Rainbow Alliance on this event,” said Jones. “As part of Pride Month, we think it’s very important to make the community stand out, and we thought this partnership just made sense.”
In Queer Eye, Van Ness met people from all over the country, all of whom are in their own different situations. In his experience with the show, Van Ness said he learned a universal truth about all of the people he met.
“I think what I would say is the most universal thing I’ve learned that at the end of the day we all really want to be loved,” said Van Ness. “We really want to be loved and we want to be loved because we are only living our authentic truth, which is different for everyone.”