Finding Joy (with Jonathan Van Ness)

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When I think about joy, nobody embodies it better than Jonathan Van Ness. From the perfect oat milk latte to gymnastics, JVN shares what’s bringing them happiness – and how it gives them confidence. We also have a wild conversation about their very first vodka-drinking, mullet-wearing client and their fangirl moment with Simone Biles.

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Elyse Myers, Jonathan Van Ness

Elyse Myers  00:00

When was the last time that finding joy went horribly wrong for me? Great question, I would love to tell you, I was recently invited to one of those public painting classes where you also get to consume an adult beverage while you paint. I had always wanted to go to something like this, but I had never had anybody that was willing to kind of embarrass themselves for the sake of fun, and go with me. See, the way these nights work is you and a class are all given you step by step instructions on how to paint the same scene, you’re given the same materials, same paint colors, and the beautiful thing is, everyone’s Canvas ends up looking just a little bit different. Now, something you might not know about me is I actually paint for fun. Am I good? No, but I have a lot of fun doing it. So in no way did I think that I was any kind of professional walking into this class. But I will not lie to you. I felt so much more confident than I had any business feeling walking into that art studio. So we arrived and we grab our drink. And then the canvases start quickly getting taken up by people one by one. And I just start looking at the reference painting perfectly placed on the stage. I’m partly admiring it, but also partly just trying to wrap my brain around what my hands will be painting that evening, it was an intergalactic lake scene of some sort. This beautifully still water acting as a mirror for many moons and planets hanging in the sky of this fictional scene. surrounding the lake were these tall pine trees that were so tall, it looked like you could have climbed them right to outer space. floating around the clouds were bonus stars and constellations, just your typical space stuff. The painting looked very dark somehow. But it was made up of these like bright neon colors, which still doesn’t make sense to me. And while everyone else in my group was contributing to the dull roar of conversation happening in the room, I was just staring at this reference under a spotlight thinking, this looks deceivingly simple. And that thought was the first of many mistakes I made that evening, the instructor hops up on stage and then puts his Britney Spears headset on and then also his apron to match the rest of us. I take my plate of paint that was already measured for us and I start following along, take your lightest color layer base for the water, layer base for the sky. Great done, boom. I’m incredible at this. Next we’re going to tackle the Umbra galactic sky. And at this point, I start feeling a couple of things. First and foremost, the drink I had immediately before painting. But second to that was impatient. I thought I already know where he is going with this. I’m just going to scoot ahead a couple steps. And then I’ll be available in case anyone needs help. That was mistake number two, I have never seen pink turned into black so fast.

Elyse Myers  02:37

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to blend your way out of a painting mistake. But generally speaking, it works about 0 out of 10 times. I look down at my plate of paint to add more white to what looks like throw up in space. And I’m completely out of paint. How am I out of paint? We started five minutes ago; this is supposed to last me the entire class I think I do not ask for more pain. I do sit in silence and start to laugh so hard that I cry. It’s only after the first big gasp of breath. As I’m trying to hide my emotion that my friend next to me looks over and notices just how badly this is going for me with a singular look in my eye. I am trying to silently communicate to her do not react to what you are seeing. Because I do not want to have a conversation about what you are seeing. Surprisingly, she missed all of that from our two second silent conversation we had only with our eyeballs. The loudest laugh erupts out of my friend’s body. Just as the room had filled with focus and gone completely silent. My friends laughed, teleports the instructor directly to us and he wants to see our progress. It is bad. I said very casually, in an effort to conceal just how much emotion was welling up in my body at this point in the evening. He said it can’t be that bad. But he said it was so much confidence that I almost believed him. Maybe this happens all the time. I thought so. hesitantly, I stopped blocking the painting from his view with my body. And he assesses my work with his Britney Spears headset on full volume. He says I’m feeling I’m reacting to it. Thinking he was going to comfort me well beyond that. I say okay, yeah, no, yeah, great react to it. I was excited. Apparently that was his reaction, because the only other thing he added to his previous encouragement was, yeah, I don’t know. So this isn’t anxiety, blowing it out of proportion. This really is going as bad as I think it is. Maybe I can make a different version of the same painting. That’s what art is right, interpreting one thing a million different ways. Well, apparently I had painted a black hole because there was no amount of white paint that was willing to make itself visible to the human I while living on top of this custom shade of black I created this evening I accepted defeat. The class ended and I reluctantly held up the black hole for a group picture alongside my friends. And they’re beautifully neon intergalactic lakes. Thank you Okay, actually, can you just pretend that you’re listening to a fully complete theme song here, I got really in my head. And I tried to make it perfect, and I couldn’t. So this is going to be the theme song right here.

Elyse Myers  05:47

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Funny Cuz It’s True. I’m Elyse Myers. Today I am so excited to share my conversation with the wonderful human that is Jonathan Van Ness. They are an Emmy nominated television personality, New York Times best-selling author, podcaster and hairstylist and if that’s not enough, they are also a star on the Netflix Emmy award winning reboot series Queer Eye. In 2021. Jonathan launched JVN hair, which is a clean and sustainable haircare line that sees all beauty serves all beauty and honors the uniqueness in each of us. So two things that are funny because they’re true. Number one, I decided to do my hair before this interview, not only with not enough time, but with a hair tool that I had never touched before in my entire life. And it didn’t go super well for me. And number two, I got a full breakdown. I’m talking names history, allergies, mental health, origin stories, fears of […] pets, did I expect it? Did I like it very much. Okay, let’s get into the interviewer. I just want to say thank you. I’m so grateful you’re here and it’s so crazy to connect with you. And this just feels like a long time coming. We’ve been talking so much on social media. Also, what are you drinking right now?

Jonathan Van Ness  07:01

The most delicious fucking coffee.

Elyse Myers  07:04

Okay, there’s gonna be a lot of this. I just needed you to know.

Jonathan Van Ness  07:09

There’s like there’s like gorgeous coffee with like, some like oat milk. It’s like they made it so nice. I’m like, hmm.

Elyse Myers  07:14

What’s your go to coffee order?

Jonathan Van Ness  07:15

Just like coffee with oat milk. Oh, simple. Yeah, I’m just like a simple girl. And, like, very intricate, like, confusing world.

Elyse Myers  07:23

Simple girl in the big city drinking an oat milk coffee. I mean, it really it’s, there needs to be a movie about it.

Jonathan Van Ness  07:29

Oh, when are we writing our feature? I’m so ready.

Elyse Myers  07:32

I think we’re actually writing it now. That’s what the podcast will be is us just writing this movie.

Jonathan Van Ness  07:37

I wonder if in our budget we’ll be able to afford making my way downtown walking. I believe that’s where I think that’s where it opens.

Elyse Myers  07:44

Well, I’ve heard on a few like podcasts or listen to that talk about TV shows that the cost it takes to sample even like 15 seconds of a song of someone seeing it not even the art.

Jonathan Van Ness  07:57

Maybe we won’t spend the money there. We’ll write our own music.

Elyse Myers  08:02

So I did want to chat a little bit about a recent post that you made on Instagram. And it just made my heart really happy. And I felt like that could kind of be what we talked about today. But I want to read the caption cuz I don’t want to get it wrong. But you said that you were seeking out things that bring me joy, and it’s the key to my confidence and trusting myself. And that is like, just so beautiful. And I want to know right now, at least today or this week, like what did you do that kind of brought you joy or something that you saw joy in?

Jonathan Van Ness  08:28

Yeah, this week, I did some gymnastics, which is like kind of like the thing that I do most like consistently for my like little joy getting moments. Also, my I’m in New York City right now. And I love it here and I, I live in Texas, most of the time. But Mark and I and my husband, I have like a little apartment here. So like we get to like, come and like see our friends and like walk the dog and like feel like a big city girl even though like I’m not here very much. And so that’s kind of fun. So we took like a gorgeous, like little walk this morning. And yeah, it was like that was really like Joy bringing.

Elyse Myers  09:04

Okay, so fun fact, I had a gym membership solely to go in the sauna. But I was tired of having like weird conversations with old men that wanted to kind of like hit on you while you’re just trying to have peace and like sit in a sauna. And it was like a co-ed situation. And so I would just sit in there and just dream of the day I could afford a sauna. So one day for like Christmas, there was like this crazy sale at Costco. And I bought myself a sauna for like, like, nope, you just can’t get a sauna for that price ever again. I will literally look at this on every day for the rest of my life and be like, I don’t know how you came into my possession. But we did it. And it sits in my basement and I use it every single night. And that is the way that I do self-care. Oh my gosh, that’s like the dream. I’ve been to New York one time and it was for a couple of days and I was working the whole time. And then all I wanted was to get a hot dog from a cart and it was during Covid, so my manager was like, no.

Jonathan Van Ness  09:57

I literally just ate one really I literally not even like rub it in your fucking face. I’m so sorry. But I literally like the smell of like a hot dog with mustard. It’s that smell on my breath right now like literally because I got on my little thing that I did right before this little early and I was like, I want to get a fucking hot dog.

Elyse Myers  10:14

This is what I was letting you know right here.

Jonathan Van Ness  10:23

I’m not gonna lie. It was like really delish. But yeah, it’s weird. Like talking about it. I just, I think about like, where I was like prior to being able to have an apartment in Manhattan and like have a house in Austin and even hearing myself say it. Like, I have like survivor’s guilt. I feel gross thing. And like, I want to be able to feel more like, proud talking about it. But I sometimes I feel like there’s a part of me where a lot of times I’m like, wow, I can’t believe this is my life. Like I worked so hard to get here. And like, I wanted this for so long. And now I kind of have it and like that’s really surreal.

Elyse Myers  10:57

What do you do in your life when you feel that way? Like how do you soak in and like, that’s what’s happening around you? How do you stay grateful?

Jonathan Van Ness  11:04

I think one thing that my grandmother always told me like, don’t forget where you came from. And like it just she always said that to me like but usually it was in response to my life burning down on fire around me in my 20s, because like, that’s what was going on.  But yeah, I mean, I think for me, that’s part of like, why I love my like animals so much like, we have five cats and two dogs and just taking care of like something other than myself and like I don’t have pets. I don’t have animals sorry. Or Jesus Christ. Thank you. Like no, but I mean not having kids. My pets are like especially important to him because they are like my babies. But they also are like, like my cats are like a huge part of my like recovery from getting away from like, really self-destructive behavior. So yeah, like they were just so helpful to me. Like I still have my first cat that I found in the hood of a car. He was my first baby bug the first he’s still my screensaver. He was the best. He was going to because my grandparents had a black teacup poodle for 35 years named JP because when one went die, they would just get a new black teacup poodle in the […] JP, so they had like 10.

Elyse Myers  12:16

My grandpa was the name Jake with a Rottweiler he literally has had so many Jake’s..

Jonathan Van Ness  12:22

Why they do that and that generation. They just dead.

Elyse Myers  12:27

I love that for them. They’re like, I like one name. And they’re all going to be JP.

Jonathan Van Ness  12:32

And they come in and that’s what they did. And so I thought I would do that with bug but I felt like bug the third was like, too morbid about it so and mark my husband, he’s like obsessed with them. He loves like The Jungle Book. So he named this fifth pet, our new baby Black Cat bag after Bagheera but really it’s bag after like bags because I love purses. And it’s only like one yeah, and it’s like one letter off from bugs so like it kind of is like you know scratching that edge but like not like so creepily the same. You know? One of the biggest fights is like if it’s like […] bags.

Elyse Myers  13:10

I didn’t think that I would be hearing about like the heritage of your pets names today. And honestly, I’m very grateful that I am because I feel like this is a great way to get to know you.

Jonathan Van Ness  13:19

That’s only like a like a seven of them like there’s like actually like there’s Liza Meow Nelly, and then we have Harry Larry who’s a meteorologist you know and then there’s like Matilda she’s […] like the cutest thing you’ve ever seen and then there’s life and then Bag and Larry So yeah, that’s the oh and then Genevieve of course baby G she’s got anxiety she like she’s actually really allergic to like all of these trees in Texas and she like looks bald spots all over herself. She’s really going through it but she’s the cutest cat you’ve ever seen.

Elyse Myers  13:49

So what I’m hearing is pets are a big part of your like self-care, self-love?

Jonathan Van Ness  13:54

I love them so much. I just like hold up.

Elyse Myers  13:56

Really quick while we’re on the subject of JVN’s beautiful feline family members. I was reminded of a dog that we had when I was growing up his name was Bentley the dog I don’t actually know that breed of Bentley the dog but he had curly hair. Hold on. We’re gonna look it up. I almost just googled Bentley the dog. What does Bentley look like? Okay, at least focus curly hair. It was like an English brand, English schnauzer it doesn’t matter I always do this I always go on this like really nonessential it was a normal sort of text my brother very squared knows anyways. We’re gonna take a quick break but when we get back JVN tells me about doing their own stunts in front of Simone Biles. Going back a little bit that was your grandma. That’s like don’t forget where you came from. Was it your grandma? What is it like to think about that like when you think back to your childhood or like to high school or growing up like, are you the same person that you are now that you were when you lived there? Or has that changed a lot?

Jonathan Van Ness  15:07

Yeah, I think about it is like, our personalities have, like so many different parts to them. So I think there’s like parts of me that are still very much the same. There’s parts of me that are really different. But I still feel very much like connected to that like inner child and like it or adolescent that like grew up there.

Elyse Myers  15:23

Who is that person? Like how would you describe that inner child?

Jonathan Van Ness  15:26

I mean, if you like you probably see them on Instagram. Like when I land any tumbling pass. Like they are just really obsessive gymnastics, they’re really working on there. It’s weird, because you know, you think of me as being this like ray of light, and I am a ray of light. But it’s interesting with gymnastics and figure skating if you’re trying to come for team USA, like I’m coming for you like, I want our girls to win. Like even if we fall like I still think we like we are artistic presentation was better as a little stronger. So like, why aren’t our components or the little wear outfits? Presentation Like don’t make we’re never for it as long as we get a medal, you know, so that’s my inner child, like, and then you know, and then But then I gotta be like, no, it’s also about like, you know, like the journey and like everyone like showing up and participating and having fun and stuff. So my inner child just dealing I think, when I think about that, like where does that like internal like Indiana primal man rage come from when it comes to like figure skating and gymnastics. I do a whole set about this on my comedy. I think it’s those like, those like NBC montages that they play during the Olympics. Just basically North Korean propaganda, but for like American gymnastics, you know, and like, just like sports. Look at me, I like I find myself cussing out like teenage girls, like, you know, when they compete against like, you know, and it wasn’t until Simone like, pulled out of the women’s team final. And like, I saw her cheering for people from other countries where I really had to confront that ugliness inside myself and be like, wow, it’s among country for everyone and like, prioritize like mental health and like, prioritize that over medals. Like, you need to be able to do that, too. So I just like really look up, Simone. I love her so much. Like, I feel like I like got so much emotional maturity from that experience.

Elyse Myers  17:07

Have you ever gotten to meet her?

Jonathan Van Ness  17:09

Yeah,not to name drop, but I did do an Uber Eats commercial with her during her really funny story about it. So the creative was that I was that, like, I was going to do a tumbling pass, like in the commercial. And because basically, like I’m obsessed with her in real life, and obviously I was too on the commercial until I kept wanting to be besties with her and like, do the same thing as her like in all these scenes in the commercial. So I was like, yeah, I got it. Like I can do whatever totally paths you want. Like that. Tumbling passes my middle name, like, oh, look at me. I’m a gymnast, you know, I’m saying, you know, then I got there to shoot at and there was this. Can I cuss? Yeah, there’s this fucking man.

Elyse Myers  17:46

JVN saying this after opening our conversation with the most delicious fucking coffee is iconic.

Jonathan Van Ness  17:54

With a glue on beard and a glue on wig. He was my stunt double. And I was like, and I didn’t say this on the outside. But on the inside. I was like, Who the fuck do you think I am? And like, who is that? Like, get them off my set. But that’s not what I said. I just felt like that on the inside, you know, but on the outside. I was like, Oh, darling, I was like, I totally can do this. And then he was like, it was very bring it on. He was like, well, they want you to do this pass. And then he like turned around and did like that pass. And I was like, oh, honey, I can do that pass like a watch this. And so then I did it. And then everyone was kind of like, wow, he didn’t do that.

Elyse Myers  18:33

They wanted to keep you physically safe, or do you think that they just didn’t think you could do it?

Jonathan Van Ness  18:38

I think that they thought that it was gonna take like 10 takes and they were like yeah, once that can you do it? Like 10 times in a row? That’s like, fuck, yes, I can. So I was like, take a seat. You can stop stretching your hamstrings now, honey, because you ain’t using them tonight. Like you. That’s gonna be the easiest check you ever made honey because you aren’t. And so and then they’re like, well, let’s just try shooting. And I was like no, no, no. They’re like, Well, do you know how to do that tumbling pass to a mark like, we need you to lay on that pass like on a mark. And I was like, yeah, I do that all the time. Well, you kind of do in gymnastics because like you like when you learn to tumble like and do new skills. You have to like do it into that pit like that foam block pit, you know, so you kind of have to learn how to like hit a certain spot to like, you know, lean into the pit. But typically you’re not standing you’re not tumbling into the most decorated like American gymnast of all time. I was just like queen like, if it seems like I’m barreling right towards you. Like, don’t be afraid to just like run and jump. Like just I’m like, you know what I mean? Like, I got this, but like, who knows? And so, but I did it, I committed and I did it. I was really proud of it. It was like the best two days of my life. And I felt that I was trying not to like interrogate her about like the Olympic team. And she just like, tried to be really diplomatic. And she’s like, I’m gonna go back to my […] and be like, yeah, but let’s talk for longer about gymnastics and I just got really bad. I just was like obsessed and she was just like..

Elyse Myers  20:02

Did you get to the point where you like stopped asking questions because you were like, if I asked one more question, I’m gonna look like I’m like writing a book about her. Because I feel like that’s how I would feel. This happened when I met Lance Bass. Actually, we were at dinner. And he asked me if I had a podcast because he said, I was a good interviewer. And then I realized I was interviewing him and not having a conversation with him. So now I have a podcast.

Jonathan Van Ness  20:28

No, she did so good. She just because her coach Cecile who was like the nicest person ever. She just like did this expert thing where she was like, oh my god to Cecile,  she like, loves gymnastics. Like, come here, Cecile. And then she like, once we got going, she was like, bye bye. And then I just buy like, I’m obsessed with Cecile, her coach was like, we I just I love her. She’s like, and she. I was like, so in 1996 when you were representing France on the like, because she was like a French gymnast. And she was really impressed that I knew that she was like an Olympian for 96 Olympics, and I was like, what do you think I am some sort of fucking idiot who doesn’t even know what the fuck your career is. Your Simone Biles’ fucking coach, you know what I’m saying? So, yeah, I’m obsessed.

Elyse Myers  21:05

Where does the confidence come? Like how did you get that confidence to do those gymnastic things in front of her like I would have just been like unwell I would have been like I love that they got me a backup person.

Jonathan Van Ness  21:17

Oh no, I’ve been like waiting to like that would really felt like when I walked into that gymnastics place like in my head that song like everybody dance now, that came in my head I was like so ready it was like catwalk, time to go.

Elyse Myers  21:31

This is my moment I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.

Jonathan Van Ness  21:33

I literally got to like deliver a line into the camera and then like run off camera like I was going to do a tumbling pass like when the Olympics are on in my house least I’m not kidding you. I literally if I’m watching gymnastics, I will get up off the couch to go get like a snack and when I get off the couch I will go like, I present like they do admit Olympics like to imaginary judges. And then I will literally like I’ll go like this like oh wait like an imaginary like crowd like how the gymnast still. Yeah, I do that. I also like when it’s a winter games, like I’ll do like my favorite like choreography from like one of the girls like one of the figures getting girls like in and out like from rooms.

Elyse Myers  22:10

know? Have you always been into gymnastics? Like did you do this as a kid?

Jonathan Van Ness  22:14

Yes, obsessed. But I couldn’t really tumble until I was 15. But I was obsessed with gymnastics.

Elyse Myers  22:19

So to hear JVN talk about how they’ve just like followed gymnastics for so many years. It’s really inspiring. And also, it makes me wish I stuck with things a little bit more. I burn so bright and so fast with my hobbies, that I will pour everything I am into something for like a few weeks. And then generally I will kind of drop it once I’ve either mastered it or just lost interest in any way. What did you do gymnastics in school? Or did you like do it outside of school

Jonathan Van Ness  22:46

I got outside of school because they became obsessed with gymnastics and 1992 Barcelona, is incredible games. We got bronze, it was our first like women’s team medal and in an uncontested games, we’ve gotten a medal before but like Russia wasn’t there to like, who really don’t see me I’m saying, but this time we got bronze like with everybody there and 92′, it was really major as a really good games. And so I just got the Olympic bug and I’ve never gotten over it.

Elyse Myers  23:10

That makes me so happy. I have to say that when I watch you and your content of like your gymnastics and your tumbling and all of that, like the video of the caption that I brought up earlier, I like literally cried watching you and you stuck the landing because there genuinely is such a like, you see, like so much like pride in your eyes when you do it. And when you do it well, it’s like you’re proud of yourself and your like, literally bringing people around you on this journey of like, I’m going to do something really hard. And then I’m going to do it and I’m going to celebrate myself in front of you, because I’m proud of me. So you should be proud of you and you do hard things. Like that’s really how it feels like watching your journey with you tumbling and all of that and it’s I just wanna let you know, it’s very powerful. I you never could do that in my life. I would injure myself immediately.

Jonathan Van Ness  23:59

You just have to start with a backward walkover and like getting your back flexibility so you can do like a backbend.

Elyse Myers  24:04

What is it backbend walkover is that I just like.

Jonathan Van Ness  24:07

Like a bridge and it’s like kick over from the bridge. That’s like the foundation to like a back handspring.

Elyse Myers  24:14

Wow, I am going to get off the call after this and try it. I did not try it.

Jonathan Van Ness  24:23

And everyone can start from somewhere.

Elyse Myers  24:24

if we ever hang out, will you will you do gymnastics with me? Will you teach me?

Jonathan Van Ness  24:28

Fuck yes, we got Angel from Queer Eye doing standing back tucks okay. Like she’s got like a really interesting yeah, she has a gorgeous standing back tuck and like really good at teaching people stuff.

Elyse Myers  24:39

What is a standing bactuck?

Jonathan Van Ness  24:41

Standing backflip with no hands.

Elyse Myers  24:43

Oh my gosh. That’s powerful. Yeah. Do you do like cheer or did you do like?

Jonathan Van Ness  24:51

So I tried out in for like my freshman squad like as a joke, and I couldn’t do gymnastics yet and then I made it and then I became obsessed with it now. Like, Oh my god, like I’m part of a group like these girls are nice, like, I want to do it all the time. And so in order for me to try out for the basketball squad, I had to get a back handspring because they tumble that squad. So that’s how I like, got really into it. And I started taking lessons. So I didn’t learn how to tumble until I was like 15, which is like pretty late for most people. And like my coach once told me, I’ve never seen someone with less natural ability, learn how to tumble, you get over on sheer determination, because like, I’m kind of tall, like, I’m like six foot one, like, I don’t have like the most classic like gymnast body like and so it takes a lot to like her all my body upside down. And especially like, because it was so hard for me to learn. And I had such a psychological blocks, I was so terrified of going backwards. Like being able to like, especially like backwards twisting elements, like when I do like, I think that caption you’re talking about, I was doing a half or like a full, but like honest to God, like, there, I get so much joy from those skills, because I really didn’t do them since I was like 18 when I cheered in college. And when I quit cheering in college, I never thought I would do any of this stuff again, like I was a hairdresser after that and needed to like not break my fingers or my wrists and like, you know, obviously really be physically safe. And so I just thought I’d kiss that part of myself goodbye. But I loved that part, like so much. So getting to come back to it, like for fun. And then accidentally like melting it with my stand-up comedy career is just, it’s been so healing, it’s given me like a little bit of extra purpose. It’s like, and even if I didn’t perform gymnastics and stand up, it’s just so joyful to like, get to go do something for the joy of doing it. And which is really what I do it for. Because they don’t have to do to ask somebody stand up. And in fact, I’m sure a lot of people be like, Girl, like, you don’t even need to do that. And I’m like, nobody incest. It’s so much fun.

Elyse Myers  26:43

I love that. I feel like I relate to that only because a lot of times like so I’m a musical person. And in college, I did songwriting and then after I graduated college and went back to the States, I didn’t I mean, I sang song wrote, I wrote music for myself, but it wasn’t ever something I was like, I’m going to be a professional music writer. And I just kept doing it and now is I guess, I’m classified as a comedian, but that always feels weird to say because it’s like, I don’t know, you just feel like that’s a weird thing to call yourself. I feel like that’s something someone has to call you. You can’t just be like, I’m a comedian. I don’t know. I don’t know why I feel that way. But including music into it is kind of my gymnastics in my set. It just it’s like I don’t have to have it here. But it shows you who I am with it.

Jonathan Van Ness  27:27

Okay, but what was that one song on TikTok that you that it was like it was so fucking catchy and it was like, how did that one go? It’s probably gonna be like a literal like top 10, could you just like give us that line again?

Elyse Myers  27:53

You that about me to all your friends you like to say I’m obsessed. Meanwhile, you jump down my phone in the middle of the night when you’re out alone and you. There we go.

Jonathan Van Ness  28:11

My love for you overflows every pore of my queer body. I just love you so much. Like literally hurts. You’re the best

Elyse Myers  28:17

I’m not gonna cry. Okay, perfect. We’re gonna take another break. Stay tuned to hear about JVN first experience cutting a client’s hair it is wild. So going back, I know that you were in cheer, and I know that you did cheer in college.

Jonathan Van Ness  28:46

Yeah, it was like it was a […] squad. And it was, you know, it was good. I didn’t have a very good time in college. I was more concerned with doing drugs. And so I didn’t do very good in school.

Elyse Myers  29:00

I dropped out of college.

Jonathan Van Ness  29:01

I did great in cosmetology school though.

Elyse Myers  29:04

Did you like cosmetology school more? Did you feel like you were able to like dive into it more?

Jonathan Van Ness  29:09

I just loved it. Well, I mean, because I really was like, into what I was learning about but it’s interesting, like what we were talking about earlier about creativity and like consistency, like hairdressing has a lot of like learning like guidelines and parameters and then like you get to like put together your guidelines to like approach that color or that haircut which is like all like an art you know an art form like an expression of like the way that you see the world and the way this like person sees themselves. So I just was like really fascinated with the process and I still am like, I remember the night before school started thinking like oh my god, what if I actually don’t like doing hair as much as I think that I do. But then the first day I was like, oh my god, I’m obsessed like I remember like getting my kit and be like, Oh my god, get to organize everything. Like I can’t wait to get to do some of these hair like yeah, I just I love doing it still.

Elyse Myers  29:57

Because I know that when you said like joy is this is kind of what helps you feel more self-confident and all of that, like, do you feel like that was kind of a moment for you where like you found like, you had so much joy about doing something that you kind of felt like you found yourself a little bit in it?

Jonathan Van Ness  30:11

Yeah. And I think hair also was a huge, like, community for me to feel safe. And for me to come back to no matter how much like my life was spiraling out of control, or like what was going on, like I always had, like, it was also because I needed to make money. And I needed to, like provide for myself. So like, where else was I couldn’t go to do that? Because like I was, yeah, a hairdresser. But like, what an amazing place and what amazing people that I met, and were put in my path that like, helped me, like, navigate all of the things that I was going through.

Elyse Myers  30:41

Was ther any haircut that you did at right at the beginning? Like do you remember what first haircut you did?

Jonathan Van Ness  30:46

Yeah, I actually remember the first time I had to take a client for a haircut. And the hot water heater stopped working in Minneapolis in like November, and I go downstairs to get my client and I call his name. And I remember he had like a water bottle full of orange juice, but I didn’t think anything of it. And so then when we got up to the chair, he like took a swig of it. And like all I could smell was like vodka. It was just like a hardcore like screwdriver in his bottle of water. But I was like, just get excited. I wanted to do the haircut. So he was like, he had long hair kind of like as long as mine. He was like, I want you to take the sides and the top real short, real short, but I want you to leave me some length in the back. And so I was like, you want to do a mullet. And so I was like, I was like, I don’t know how to do that hair. Like we didn’t really learn that. So I’m just like trying to figure out like how to do that. And so we went to the shampoo bowl, and I was like, just so you know, there’s no hot water, like it’s cold. Like there was no hot water today. And so he was like, okay, and so I went to go get the chair because the chair like was it right under the shampoo bowl. And so I went to grab this chair to scoot it over so he could sit there but he just turned around and sat down and there wasn’t a chair there yet. And so he fell like really hard and just like everyone like turned around and looked at me and I was like oh man, and I helped him up and I got the chair there and he was like, that was my bad. That was my bad. I got him sat there. And then when I leaned him back to start washing his hair, he just started like yelling and hooting and hollering about how cold the water was. He was like God dammit, this water so cold like he just was like being like making such a scene did I give him a mullet and he loved his haircut, but it was just a really eventful like hour. And then when I finished his hair, like what did the teachers came over was like, that was a lot for like a first haircut.

Elyse Myers  32:36

This is my nightmare.

Jonathan Van Ness  32:39

And then I was like he was drunk. I was like, that was a screwdriver. And my teacher was like, Why didn’t you say something like, we would it and then I was like, oh, like.

Elyse Myers  32:48

Can I say something? Was this school? Like how did this person find you? Like how do you connect to somebody that’s like drinking a screwdriver wanting a mullet?

Jonathan Van Ness  32:56

No, they just like come in. They get they’re like I want a haircut and then they like give like they make a little ticket and then they like okay, wait for your person cut on the card game. So it’s just like random. It’s like all soup.

Elyse Myers  33:06

You finish school and then you get out? And then did you ever imagine you would become you after all of that like that you would become like JVN.

Jonathan Van Ness  33:16

I mean, it was like a long that was like a long gap. A lot of stuff happened in there. I think the first time that I ever was like, Oh, I’m I could do something else. Besides hairdressing was Game of Thrones, like, I did this like recap series, like called Game of Thrones. And one of my clients like, I was doing her hair. And she was like, Do you watch Game of Thrones, and I was like, Oh, honey, like this one like is gotta sash and they got to call 911 […]

Elyse Myers  33:40

So I’m learning in real time what Game of Thrones isn’t?

Jonathan Van Ness  33:44

Remember, I kind of got done recapping what I thought was Game of Thrones. She was like, we got to do that as like a series. And I was like, what’s a series, but doing Game of Thrones is how I learned about writing jokes about how I learned about producing how I learned about everything on camera. Like that’s really where I kind of grew up. I did it for like six or seven years. And it was doing that like once a year. And then like going back to my day job when Game of Thrones would be over. I was like, how do I make this work? Like I want to keep doing this I want to keep making stuff I want to be on camera I want to write and then queer. I came up and the audition process was like pretty rigorous. And I got it was like my first big huge audition that I like got a yes on because I’ve done a few things like after Game of Thrones but never got through like never like booked the audition. And so here I was the first time where like books the audition was definitely the biggest most important like nerve wracking audition ever. And even when I did that I still was like, you might get like a season and then it’ll be over and this was fine. And like the boys were nice and like this is a cool experience. But like, I mean the whole time like as it’s happened I think it’s just been when people say like, like what is it like being famous really truly feels like this. It feels like being in a constant state of shock you know? Yeah, like I looked at my like life and it’s so unrecognizable from what it was even like 4 years ago, 5 years ago, but on the other And it’s like, well, it is really surreal. At the same time, I’m also keenly aware that I have, like, worked and worked and worked, and that I have, like so much pressure on me and that like now my universe, you know, supports so many people like financially and there’s just like a lot to like the public scrutiny like what to share what not to share, like how to use your platform, I think especially being like so visibly queer and in public right now with like, so much anti-trans bills, and so many anti queer bills and like I live in a state where the governor and the Attorney General like, are empowering the Department of Child and Family Services to investigate parents of queer children for child abuse. Like that’s what’s happening in Texas right now. And so it feels really this like intense dichotomy of like, wow, this is so surreal, and it’s kind of Cinderella and like, it’s really amazing. And then on the other hand, it’s like, I’m working really hard. And I’ve been working really hard. And I see a lot of things deteriorating around me, while my life in a lot of ways is going better than it’s ever gone. And so there’s just like, a lot of dichotomy there. There’s a lot of like, growing pains, and I think there’s just a lot of like, I don’t know, yes, I mean, but to answer your question, no, I didn’t ever see that this would like actually happened. It’s like, I really just, you know, my 20s I really just wanted to survive, I was dealing, you know, with really horrific addiction and compulsive behaviors. And it was really just so touching, go for a while that, in a lot of ways, I just feel so joyful to even be here and like, be alive. And so yeah, it feels joyful. And it also feels somber, sometimes.

Elyse Myers  36:32

I feel like you’ve done so much work in transforming yourself in the best way of, you know, going through, you know, just whole life, just like learning how to become who you are. And then also allowing other people to do that in their life. And I don’t know, like, with your work on like, Queer Eye, or just your work, you know, with your comedy, or your activism or your hairline, how you just are so inclusive, like where do you find that like Courage to help people transform themselves and see themselves like, in a new way, like, where does that come from? How do you pull from that?

Jonathan Van Ness  37:07

I think where that comes from is the knowledge that I know that I can’t make someone do that. So I don’t really try that transformation for someone to see the beauty within themselves is like, ultimately for them to see. I think it’s like, yeah, it’s like, it reminds me of like, in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when the grandma’s like the like, the man may be the head, but the woman’s that neck and I hate a classic binary comparison. But I feel like I can be the neck, I can turn your head towards your beauty. I can like direct you towards it. But ultimately, like that choice lies within like that person. So I think that’s part of like, why we even call them like heroes unclear I, you know, it’s like, because it is really heroic, like, making yourself vulnerable like that, and allowing people into your life and asking for help. But still ultimately, knowing that, like, you can learn how to make some different food, you can learn how to clean your house, you can change your haircut. But if you don’t love who you are, at the end of the day, if you don’t accept who you are, at the end of the day, like none of that stuff matters. And sometimes the reason that those things aren’t working is precisely because you’re not accepting who you are. But I think that like, like my stepdad who I wrote so much about in my first book, over the top, his name was Steve, and he was amazing. He had been sober for like 27 years when he passed away. And so I was really lucky to be around, like, so much recovery and like, you know, doing coloring books like in like 12 step meetings were like right outside the door. And so I think I don’t, there’s really nothing that you Anyone could tell me that would like move a hair on my head. And like I’ve heard it all, like really like doing hair for 15 years, and just going through so much of what I’ve been through, like there really isn’t anything that I haven’t heard. So I do think I have like a higher capacity for like compassion with people than maybe what a lot of other people do. But it’s also really just knowing like boundaries, and like knowing like, I really can’t change anyone, I can’t like really fix anyone. And actually, we’re all really capable of like showing up and supporting ourselves. It’s just sometimes we like forgot that connection to ourselves. And so I think it can remind you of your connection to your highest self, and I can remind you of your most authentic self. And it’s kind of like what you said earlier, like, you see someone being authentic and vulnerable and like me, if that’s what you’re seeing out of me on Instagram, and then it’s like, well, I can do that too. It’s kind of like that. Like, it’s like, when I think of my mission statement in life is like, promote self-acceptance by modeling joy and curiosity. Like that’s what I feel like I was like, put here to do.

Elyse Myers  39:34

That’s absolutely what you do 1,000%. I think that I think that from watching your content, I genuinely feel like it makes me want to enjoy my life. It makes me like want to get a hobby like I was watching you tumble and I was like I need more hobbies in my life. Like it’s really hard sometimes to remember to enjoy your life in and find joy in little things and I get like, really, really caught up in life. Sometimes I just forget to take a second and be like, I’m gonna go to a temple or like, I’m gonna go write a song.

Jonathan Van Ness  40:08

But you do stuff. I mean, I feel like you like show your creativity or and it’s hard. I mean, yeah, you’ve also had like such a, I mean, isn’t it just so weird? Like, having people be all up in your shed all of a sudden, like, it’s fun because you worked for it. But then simultaneously, it’s like, well, this is like, a lot.

Elyse Myers  40:27

Especially someone that struggles with social anxiety, it, it has been a whirlwind. And also, it’s learning like how to stay open to people, because you, it’s hard to be vulnerable without being open. Right? You have to share things in order to be vulnerable. And so it’s learning like, what that boundary is of like, what is healthy to share and what isn’t. And that’s just kind of confusing sometimes.

Jonathan Van Ness  40:53

It’s confusing, and it’s taxing. And when you’re going through all of that, sometimes you’re like, I don’t want to go do a tumble, or write a song. I actually need to decompress and like turn my brain off. And like, watch the housewives and I’m really going to look at your British bake off phase that’s been going on for like ten years, is just not going away. Love it too much.

Elyse Myers  41:15

Obsessed. Oh, my gosh, I haven’t seen the new season. I need to see it.

Jonathan Van Ness  41:18

It’s good. It’s really good.

Elyse Myers  41:20

Well, thank you so much. I love you so much. I hope that we get to meet in person one day,

Jonathan Van Ness  41:24

I love you so much. We absolutely have to meet in person someday. And I want to tell you, not because it needs it just [….] you have great hair and just love any piece.

Elyse Myers  41:33

I would love to get my hair done by you. I will go to wherever you are, seriously. W

Jonathan Van Ness  41:39

Thanks for having me, honey.

Elyse Myers  41:40

Oh, my gosh, I loved my conversation with JVN so much. I think that I was so nervous to talk to them before, like they loaded up in my screen. And then as soon as we started talking, it felt like we were friends. I think that this idea that having courage to go through this transformation, and finding like absolute joy in that. For me personally, I think for a long time when I was younger, I just saw myself and my life as this like equation with like, fill in the blanks of like, blank plus, blank, plus, blank, plus, blank, plus, blank, equals best version of Elyse, right? But the older I get, the more I realize it’s actually the complete opposite. In this like transformation to become exactly myself and love that person and find joy in like the very little things in day to day are a subtraction. So getting all of the things out in my life that don’t allow me like peace and don’t allow me quality time with my family. And don’t allow me to focus and rest. Like, there is so much that objectively looks very good and very attractive, that I have just ripped out of my life. Because I want to make it for the next 30 years I want to be in this career. For the long haul. I want my family to be healthy and together and rest together. But it’s just cool to hear their story and where they come from and like how JVN got to be the JVN we know now. It’s really powerful. And I think that that’s just like the power that comes with someone’s story. Alright, that’s it for my conversation with JVN. I hope that you feel inspired to find just one small thing that brings you joy today, in whatever way that makes sense. I’ll be back next week with more Funny Cuz It’s True. Bye.

CREDITS  43:39

Hey, if you want more Funny Because It’s True, just subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts. Funny Cuz It’s True is a Lemonada Media and Powderkeg production. The show is produced by Claire Jones, Zoe Dennis and […], our associate producer is Tiffany Buoy. Rachel Neil is our senior director of new content and our VP of weekly production is Steve Nelson. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, Paul Feig, Laura Fisher, […] and me Elyse Myers. The show is mixed by Brian Castillo and Johnny Evans. Our theme song music was written by me and scored by Xander Singh.

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