Why Jonathan Van Ness Wants to Redefine Self-Care As Tuning In, Not Numbing Out
Today's creative human truly needs no introduction — from Queer Eye fame to social advocacy across the board, Jonathan Van Ness is a true force for change, good and, of course, beauty. In this edition of Creative Crushin', JVN shares with us his revelation about redefining self-care as tuning in instead of numbing out, and how his five fur babies have helped ground him in being more present, especially during the pandemic.
Anjelika Temple here, co-founder of Brit + Co, and fellow fan of taking time to tune wayyyy in. I was lucky enough to connect with JVN thanks to his partnership with Purina, and feel like I had several epiphany moments in our 18 Zoom minutes together. Read on to learn more about JVN's journey, why he considers advocacy a form of self-care, and the trials and tribulations of pet parenthood ;)
Anjelika Temple: To kick things off, where did you grow up? What was your career path like before the Queer Eye Reboot?
Jonathan Van Ness: Sure, I'm from Quincy, Illinois, then I briefly went to college, that didn't go well, and then I went to hair school. Fell in love with doing hair, and then I did hair full-time until I did Gay of Thrones, which was my first web series. And was still doing hair full-time throughout the first four years of that. I booked Queer Eye in 2017, it came out in 2018 and my life has changed so much since Queer Eye has come out, and it's almost going to be three years since it's been out, which is really surreal.
Anj: Was there a particular spark moment when you realized that you had struck a chord? You have a different take on skincare and self care, and it's more than just what you put on your face and in your hair and so on. What was it like when you realized that your point of view was really resonating with people?
JVN: I think I had my first experience a little bit with Gay of Thrones, but then the whole time that we were filming season one and two of Queer Eye, it hadn't come out yet, and so I wasn't sure how we would be received or how I would be received, or if it was really sparking. I think pretty soon after it came out in the first season, I was like, "Oh my gosh." I think I did feel like it was sparking and it was resonating, and it's really just been such an honor to be able to be someone who can advocate and give visibility for people that come from experiences like mine.
Anj: How would you define your personal mission and purpose? I know that it's always going to be evolving, so how about in this moment?
JVN: Right now, really, I feel like my mission is to... I want other non-binary HIV positive recovering addicts to know that they can achieve their wildest dreams, and that they can be valued and have worth and contribute. They can contribute and they can really believe that dreams come true. I think outside of that, I just want to get a world with more love and more compassion, and that's so much of what I'm focusing on.
Anj: I love that. I know that for you self-care is about so much more than skincare, beauty and hair. Talk to us about your definition of self-care.
JVN: You know, I used to think that self-care was more about kind of numbing out, and now I'm realizing that my advocacy is self-care, using my voice to stand up for trans and non binary people, using my voice to stand up for black people, using my voice to stand up for the HIV social safety net or lack thereof. I mean, using my voice to talk about all of those things, whether it's on my platform, in my private life — that is self-care. But also, so is yoga, and so can be watching The Undoing last night, because I was up until 11. I couldn't turn it off. And also, so is playing with my cats. So really, so much can be self-care. It's a matter of shifting your perspective, but I think my biggest revelation this year... Well, that's not my biggest, but one of my biggest revelations is that it's not numbing out. It's actually tuning in.
Anj: I think that's so true, the idea of tuning in. It's better for everybody, around you, for yourself, just in everything you do. So on that note, let's talk about your fur family and partnership with Purina. Tell me more about your pets and what you've got planned for the holidays.
JVN: Yes. So I've got five babies. I've got four cats and a dog. I've got Larry who is seven, then I've got Liza who's two and a half, and then Matilda and Lady G are just over a year. And then I've got my dog Pablo, who we think is about two years old, but we just adopted him in June. He's a Texan and he's a feisty little pepper and we love him so much. And yeah, really what we're planning on doing is staying away from people and hanging with each other.
As part of my partnership with Purina, I've been learning how to focus more on quality time with my pets. With integrating the dog with the cats, we really had to make a conscientious play time with the cats every day where the dog's not a part of it, and we wear them out. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour, but if we won't do that, they get aggressively mad at each other, not really getting along with the dog very well because it was such a shift for them.
Now they're less stressed, they're visibly more relaxed in the house with each other, and that's really been from I think... I think so many times we think like, "Oh, cats are low maintenance, just scoop the poop and they're fine," but the more I've been able to really get them on a consistent schedule with playing different games, different enrichment activities, whether that's keeping a delivery box, making some of the games that we played, they are just better adjusted. They don't wake me up at four in the morning anymore, meowing ;)
Anj: Pandemic pets are definitely a thing, and a lot of us turn to our animals to help us feel less anxiety, but obviously, they feel anxiety and stress too. Any stress relief tips for pets and humans alike?
JVN: I think really for both of us, it's kind of the same. It's about taking the expectations off. When we think about expectations, they are really the cause of a lot of suffering, and we've got to have healthy boundaries for ourselves and for our pets and people around us. I'm not saying have no expectations, but I think when we're trying to compare this year to previous times, when the holidays can already be stressful and things could already be a lot, we're in uncharted territory now, and I think just taking the expectations off of how something has to be… It's about being patient and compassionate with ourselves and with our puppies, our kittens, our family members, trying to find some compassion for each other. It can be really helpful and healing.
Anj: On that note, how do you strike the balance between your own mental health and the cultural pressure to always be ahead? How do you reset?
JVN: Sometimes, I think I just deal with it easier at times than others. I mean honestly, I think lately I've been feeling really challenged by it, and it's been more challenging lately, but I think that that's part of life and we're going to have moments of growth and moments of discomfort, and it is what it is, and really, I can't change other people's reactions. I can change how I react in situations, so I really am just trying to take that pressure down and take the compassion up. And that's easier said than done, because it's so easy to spiral in negativity, but when I catch myself, I'm just trying to gently, like, "Can you stop? Can you come back over, above that non self destructive line please?" With really self destructive behaviors, ones that are going to really hurt me, I've been able to do that.
Anj: Okay, now totally switching gears to your beauty expertise and how you take care of that gorgeous face yours! What is your skincare routine like at the moment?
JVN: Basically I am a cleanser person. Then after cleanser, eye cream, then a serum. I rub all that in, then I do my moisturizer everywhere, let that soak in, then I cover that with my oil, let that soak in, then I do my sunscreen on top of that. If I'm doing makeup for media, then I'll put that on after all of that. I really only use Biossance for skincare when it comes to those daily things, then I'll bring the moisturizer a little bit on my lips, and then I seal it in with BITE Beauty. Then when it comes to makeup, I like Cover FX and Algenist. I use Algenist Primer, Cover FX concealer. Sometimes I'll use a little bit of Cover FX bronzer on my hairline. Right now, less makeup than I was doing for sure, and probably more masks. More baths, more masks and that's very much kind of what my daily is.
Anj: Now moving to trends; What are a couple recent style and beauty trends that you love?
JVN: I think people are just having fun right now. The really DIY at-home short haircuts, like I'm into Antony's hair growing back out after his buzz, all the boys that quarantine buzz their hair off and now it's kind of mediumly coming back is fun. Maggie Rogers just cut her hair off and it looks amazing, so yeah, I just think bold, fun, new looks are always fun for quarantine, because f*ck it.
Anj: Last question. If you could give your younger self a pep-talk, or get them out of a rut, what would it sound like?
JVN: Love yourself. Don't do hardcore drugs, but then I wouldn't have turned out how I am, so maybe don't butterfly effect yourself. I don't know. You know what I really think it is, and what I would really say to myself? Not everyone is going to like you, not everyone's going to agree with you, but if you know where your heart is and you know what you're putting out, then you really can only do your best, and it's okay to do your best. That's what I would say.
Photos courtesy of Purina