‘Queer Eye’ star dazzles campus

By Julia Dzurillay
Staff Writer

CUB’s 2018 Fall Lecture was filled with many “gorgeous moments,” courtesy of Jonathan Van Ness, the featured speaker. The bubbly and energetic grooming expert, who came to visit Kendall Hall Thursday, on Nov. 29, stars in Netflix’s Emmy-award winning series, “Queer Eye.” He is also the creator and host of the bi-weekly podcast series, “Getting Curious.”

Van Ness stresses the importance of political involvement (Miguel Gonzalez / News Editor).

“Queer Eye” stars a new cast of men, the Fab Five, that transforms local heroes into better versions of themselves through food, fashion, culture, interior design and grooming. The show has received praise from celebrities, such as Chrissy Teigen and Gigi Hadid. Season three is expected to premiere in 2019, according to Variety.

Most of the attendees were great fans of his show and felt starstruck at the chance to meet the young celebrity. Hailey Ruderman, a sophomore journalism and professional writing major and CUB volunteer, said that she was excited that this was her first opportunity to help work a CUB event.

“I’ve watched every single season of ‘Queer Eye,’ well there’s only two, but as soon as they’d come out, I’d binge watch the entire season,” Ruderman said. “I was so nervous getting ready today, too, I was like ‘can I wear gray on gray, is my hair okay?’ I was so nervous.”

Students like Shannon Cestero, a senior finance major, admired Van Ness for his candidness and sincerity.

“I just finished watching ‘Queer Eye’ and I’m just obsessed with Jonathan,” Cestero said at the lecture. “He’s fabulous and I can’t believe he’s here.”

As one of the most outgoing members of the Fab Five, Van Ness is known for his long hair and infectious energy. During his presentation, he discussed beauty tips, the secrets to living one’s best life and the importance of voting and staying politically active.

“‘Queer Eye’ is me but there’s also an angry me on Twitter,” Van Ness said, referencing his frequent online critiques of President Donald Trump.

While Van Ness addresses political and social issues on the show, his carefree disposition helps make deep topics more approachable and less intimidating.

“I think Jonathan’s role in pop culture is so important,” said Olivia Grasing, a senior journalism and professional writing major. “He’s super engaged politically, which some might not expect out of him, but I think his political moments… show just how much he cares about the wellbeing of everyone in this country.”

Aside from being a hair stylist and grooming expert, Van Ness also shares videos of professors and politicians on his social media platforms to keep his audience involved and informed about current events. At the College, Van Ness did not stray from discussions about the political climate and the importance of voting.

“We think we’re a lot farther along than we are,” Van Ness said. “I feel a little bit better after the midterm (elections), as much as I can … but we are in a make-or-break time when it comes to the health and the safety, really, of our country.”

Van Ness also spoke on the issues of inequality in America, both in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Growing up in the “downstate” part of Illinois, an area far from the state’s larger cities, Van Ness noticed the distribution of largely conservative views that affected his small community, referring to the difference in political affiliations in urban versus rural areas.

Van Ness explained that growing up gay in a small community was challenging, but he never let negativity stop him from “living his truth,” especially when it came to his love of figure skating and gymnastics.

“This is a shame-free zone,” Van Ness said referring to the lecture, before diving into his love for figure skating. He shared that yoga helps him keep his balance while on the ice more than his cheerleading experience or his love of gymnastics.

“I did a figure skating routine for the sixth grade talent show completely in socks and a shirt with a bejeweled question mark on the front,” Van Ness said with the flip of his hair.

This lecture took place less than a week after the College’s ‘I Am TCNJ’ forum, which focused on creating systemic change and an open dialogue about inclusivity on campus. Some students recognized Van Ness’ role in fostering this inclusivity on “Queer Eye,” his podcast and even during his lecture.

Emily Beggiato, a senior psychology major, also expressed her excitement over seeing Van Ness’ lecture due to the inclusivity his presence brought to the campus.

“I have two moms, so I’m pretty involved in the LGBTQ+ community,” Beggiato said. “I just really like the premise of the show and how they’re promoting healthy masculinity and helping people improve their mental and physical wellbeing.”

When asked about the topic of self-love from members in the audience, Van Ness said that the most important relationship a person can have is with themselves.

“I think it’s about self-soothing and finding ways that you can fall madly in love with spending time with yourself,” Van Ness said. “Not to quote ‘Finding Nemo,’ but … just keep going.”

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