“Who gave Jonathan Van Ness permission to be the radiant human he is today? No one, honey. The truth is, it hasn’t always been gorgeous for this beacon of positivity and joy. Before he stole our hearts as the grooming and self-care expert on Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye, Jonathan was growing up in a small Midwestern town that didn’t understand why he was so…over the top. From choreographed carpet figure skating routines to the unavoidable fact that he was Just. So. Gay., Jonathan was an easy target and endured years of judgement, ridicule and trauma—yet none of it crushed his uniquely effervescent spirit.
Over the Top uncovers the pain and passion it took to end up becoming the model of self-love and acceptance that Jonathan is today. In this revelatory, raw, and rambunctious memoir, Jonathan shares never-before-told secrets and reveals sides of himself that the public has never seen. JVN fans may think they know the man behind the stiletto heels, the crop tops, and the iconic sayings, but there’s much more to him than meets the Queer Eye. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll come away knowing that no matter how broken or lost you may be, you’re a Kelly Clarkson song, you’re strong, and you’ve got this.”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
I first saw Jonathan Van Ness on Queer Eye on Netflix. After just one episode I was so taken with his fun persona and positive attitude! Over the course of the episodes and seasons we get to see a deeper side to each of the guys, and Jonathan in particular shares some personal stories that really made me curious about him.
Over the Top is a delightful read, but let’s be honest there are a lot of sad things discussed, among them abuse, heartbreak, drug addiction and so on. It hurts to know that someone so wonderful as he is went through such terrible things.
One of the things that stood out to me the most was Jonathan’s persistent, positive relationship with his mom and the importance of having people or even just one person in your life who believes in you.
I loved this quote in particular:
“When the people around you believe in you and your potential wholeheartedly, you can make your dreams come true. If they believe your dreams are out of reach, you have to open the door and make your way to people who want to basket-toss your ass right into those dreams. At the end of the day, the people we let in our space affect our ability to get to where we want to go, so if they’re in the way of realizing your potential, it’s okay to disconnect because you must choose yourself. I used to think that was selfish but really it’s just healthy.”
-Jonathan Van Ness, Over the Top
At the beginning of the book, Jonathan asks the reader “Would you love me if you saw me in a bad moment? Would you love me if you saw all my parts?” And that becomes a running theme throughout this book. Jonathan shows us all the parts that encompass him and how they have made him who he is today. Spoiler: like everyone else in the world, not all the parts are what some would consider to be “good.” I think it’s incredibly brave and courageous to share so much about your personal life and childhood the way he has here and it is nothing short of inspiring!
Lastly, Jonathan has such a strong personality and I could hear his voice in my head perfectly as I was reading. This book was like having a conversation with him and at no point was it boring or difficult to read.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a witty, humorous but equally moving memoir, and any fans of Queer Eye.
Goodreads rating: Five stars.