Pride Month at Laurier begins as Students’ Union hosts ‘An Evening with Jonathan Van Ness’

Pride Month was kicked off for the Laurier community this year with the event ‘An Evening with Jonathan Van Ness,’ hosted by the WLU Students’ Union in collaboration with nine other Ontario colleges and universities.

Spencer West, disability advocate and motivational speaker, had a virtual, hour-long chat with Queer Eye celebrity and nonbinary influencer Jonathan Van Ness (JVN) on June 2.

Laurier students were treated to their first Queer Eye star presence on campus back in 2019 when Antoni Porowski visited for a similar-style interview.

Through Vimeo, students were treated to a light-hearted discussion that touched on many aspects surrounding Van Ness’ flourishing career and life as a prominent member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The conversation opened with JVN sitting casually in their Texas home, signature brunette hair pulled back into a ponytail.

Jonathan Van Ness talking about their marriage and early-pandemic wedding to their husband of nearly one year, Mark Peacock.

They discussed their marriage to now-husband Mark Peacock and their wedding ceremony that was held at the beginning of the pandemic when there was uncertainty about how long they would have to spend apart from each other.

Although COVID-19 brought on some significant challenges for Van Ness, which included the passing of a close family member, they reiterated how fortunate they are to have privileges like a steady job and place to live with no imminent threat of losing their financial security.

Van Ness made a continued point regarding their advantages as a white celebrity, especially in the context of the pandemic and the struggles countless people are currently experiencing as a result.

West navigated their conversation with natural warmth and ease, steering an often endearingly off-topic Van Ness into moments that highlighted how simultaneously insightful and effortlessly witty they are.

Van Ness described the process of writing their 2019 memoir, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love, as “putting my soul into a blender.”

Despite the self-professed emotional upheaval involved with divulging intimate details of their life, Van Ness expressed the ultimate satisfaction that writing gave them and exclaimed, “I realized that I am a writer, girl!”

The book navigates many aspects of Van Ness’ professional and personal journey and is where they first revealed they are HIV positive. They wanted to be in control of their own narrative and expressed the desire to share their “lived experience perspective.”

Along with their memoir, JVN published a children’s book in 2020 about a gender nonbinary, gymnast guinea pig entitled, Peanut goes for the Gold.

“Who knew, authorship — obsessed.”

Alluding to another writing project in the works, JVN also discussed their popular podcast Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, which will feature an upcoming episode with their Queer Eye co-stars and close friends as guests.

Van Ness touched on the importance of honouring Pride through allyship beyond the month of June and the work that needs to be done during the other 365 days of the year.

“Part of celebrating Pride is also being a better ally,” Van Ness said.

“It’s about showing solidarity for all marginalized people. It’s about making sure that we are combating antisemitism, it’s making sure that we are combating Islamophobia, it’s making sure that places are accessible for folx.” 

Watching Van Ness felt like catching up with a friend and West contributed equally meaningful comments to their easy-going, back-and-forth conversation.

The questions West asked were exploratory and thoughtful, without being intrusive or prying, which was refreshing to watch and kept their discussion comfortable and lively.

It wouldn’t have been an hour with JVN if they didn’t share some beauty advice. According to Van Ness, re-applying some translucent powder to avoid looking “glossy” during Zoom calls can be a lifesaver.

As the question and answer period came to a close, Van Ness excitedly introduced the 300 viewers who were present to their four cats: Larry, Liza, Matilda and Genevieve.

The evening was a terrific way to celebrate the beginning of Pride Month and was a testament to Van Ness’ unending positivity — a much-needed ray of light while the province is still in lockdown.

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