I’ve been thinking about the question, “If you could have dinner with any famous person, dead or alive, who would it be?” a lot lately. I’ve never had a consistent answer to this question — in eighth grade my answer was Justin Bieber and in high school it would’ve been One Direction, so we see what that says about me. However, recently, my response to this age old question has unwaveringly been Jonathan Van Ness.
I was first introduced to Van Ness during the debut of Netflix’s “Queer Eye”. Immediately, I admired his charisma and outgoing, unapologetic personality. When I began listening to the Van Ness’s podcast, Getting Curious, I realized just how much there is to the “Queer Eye” star than just fabulous outfits and flawless hair flips. Van Ness embodies everything that I aspire to be and has quickly topped the list of celebrities I’m fascinated by.
Van Ness, a culture icon, first found the spotlight in 2013 with his web series parody, Gay of Thrones, which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy award in 2016 and 2018. Two years after the web series started, Van Ness debuted his podcast, Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness. Every week, Van Ness interviews an expert regarding something he is curious about [my favorites thus far have been How Do You Ignore Haters & Learn to Love Yourself with Jameela Jamil and Did Social Media Make Artists Need to be Business People Too? With Austyn Weiner]. Even in today’s polarized social and political climate, Van Ness is a prime example of how to maturely approach controversial topics [heard in podcast episodes like Have We Lost the Capacity to be Civil? With Sally Kohn].
Since the revival of Queer Eye in 2018, Van Ness’s social media presence has quickly grown — especially on Instagram. There, his 3.4 million followers eagerly await his frequent ice skating training updates, yoga flows and, of course, his iconic looks while he poses in stiletto heels with the rest of Queer Eye’s Fab Five.
Although Van Ness’s fame provides him with a platform to use his voice, his A-List celebrity status is just a side result of the activism work he was already doing. That’s what makes him so inspiring to me. Van Ness uses the platform he has been granted to continue to stand up to adversity, advocate for the LGBTQ+ community as well as other minority groups, and works to educate society on relevant topics … all in a entertaining way. Without intimidating his audience, Van Ness controls a room and speaks with so much confidence and assurance that you want to listen to him. He is so unapologetic in the way he defies preconceived social norms that it’s hard to not be inspired by him. I believe, no matter what field you’re in, what your political or social views are or how you choose to live your life, we can all learn something from Jonathan Van Ness.