As the grooming expert on Netflix's Queer Eye, Jonathan Van Ness doubles as a fountain of wisdom. Or more accurately, a glowing, sparkly fountain — with flawless hair — that spews out inspirational quotes, referencing everything from Kelly Clarkson songs to Golden Girls characters. And in real life, he's equally effervescent, which is immediately obvious when we chat on the phone early November about Jonathan's new Hotels.com series following his comedy career.
His bubbly personality isn't an act — if anything, it's his superpower. Jonathan has built a career being open and letting people in, and that's a theme in the four-part web series (the first episode is now on YouTube), which according to him, "feels more like a fly on the wall, observing what I was doing," compared to Queer Eye, where the focus is on the heroes receiving makeovers. "In this, I am the story. It's more Jonathan-centric, which I apologize for ahead of time."
But fans won't want him to say sorry; if anything, they'll be asking for more. The short-but-sweet series, titled Hotels.comedy Presents: 10 Nights with Jonathan Van Ness, will leave you laughing and admiring the reality star in a deeper way. "I'm not an expert in being a comedian, so it was a more vulnerable experience," Jonathan admits.
Before Jonathan appeared on Queer Eye, he started a Funny Or Die web series called Gay of Thrones and the popular Getting Curious podcast, and he earned Emmy nominations this past year — not only for QE, but also Gay of Thrones. He's now soaking it all in, and continuing to chase bigger dreams.
"I always felt like I was a bit of a comic at heart, but this is definitely the first time of really getting out there in a classic stand-up platform and practicing it," he says over the phone. "So it was very nerve-wracking, because I haven't learned something new to do in front of people in this way in a long time."
"I was working so hard for so long and kind of turning down opportunities that came my way... Don't limit yourself."
He compares the experience to "falling in love with the artistry of performing hair services." Considering himself an on-stage storyteller, he adds, "I was really passionate about learning how to take people on this journey."
And what a journey it's been. "When Hotels.com called with this opportunity, my first instinct was to say 'no,'" he says, before realizing he was just as deserving as anyone else. "If you have that dream, say yes. I was working so hard for so long and kind of turning down opportunities that came my way. Say yes, don't limit yourself."
In the first two seasons of Queer Eye — by the way, he teases Season 3 will be "more inclusive than ever" — he's all about inspiring people to be their best selves, usually from the outside, in. He prioritizes compassion, and self-care is top of that list. And yes, he practices what he preaches.
"To balance everything that I balanced this summer, and be able to give myself love and slow down and be healthy, I just really have impressed myself," Jonathan explains, giving himself a metaphorical pat on the back. When filming his stand-up tour for Hotels.com, he was also shooting Queer Eye and starting a new relationship with Wilco Froneman (who, yes, was in the audience at his recent premiere party).
"It's been challenging, but it has just been so worth it," Jonathan adds.
Even when he's not on screen, he's teaching invaluable lessons, including how to power through self-doubt. During our chat, he recalls his first comedy show, where he second-guessed heading on stage after SNL alum Sasheer Zamata.
She killed her set, Jonathan says, noting that he watched with his mouth "agape." But he got up there anyway and totally held his own, noting, "I wasn't on her level, but I was on her block."
"I was like, OK, if you can overcome the aggressive heartburn that you've had for the past 12 minutes and love it the whole time... you need to just get over your imposter's fear and go for it," Jonathan concludes. And really, there's no better motivation than that.