Book Nook: A Guide To Loving Yourself As-Is in “Over The Top: A Raw Journey To Self Love”

by Kelly Kennedy, Asst. Production Editor 

Two years ago in 2018, the reboot of “Queer Eye” came out on Netflix. A reality show about five gay men who make over the lives of straight men in need; it’s nothing less than a modern masterpiece. Everyone was talking about it, especially about one of the gurus, Jonathan Van Ness. Jonathan appeared as a completely confident and hilarious hairdresser, with absolutely no hesitation to be anything less than his true self. Van Ness defies almost all heteronormative standards, and yet it seemed as if the hurtful comments of others had no effect on him. It seemed as if he only ever radiated pure joy, which may lead viewers to wonder how he acquired this model of self-love and positivity.

A year after the show’s first season aired, Van Ness came out with his autobiography, “Over The Top: A Raw Journey To Self Love.” In his autobiography, he dives deep into his childhood life, years of bullying, coming to terms with his sexuality, and all the hardships. Van Ness discusses his trauma by comparing his life to the gorgeous gymnasts he idolized as a kid. To maintain a level of privacy, Van Ness uses extravagant Russian aliases for some of the real-life characters in his story. It’s easy to assume that someone on television can have it all, and that it is oblivious to the pain ordinary people feel. But after reading, it’s obvious that it was a long and hard journey for Jonathan to become who he is today. 

As Van Ness says in his autobiography, “There’s a rhyme and reason behind my effervescent spirit, and no, I did not wake up like this. It took a lot of trauma and tears to become the person you see today.”

Van Ness’s book is available as an audible version, which he narrates himself. His emotion and iconic language known to all “Queer Eye” fans adds another dimension to his stories. And while Van Ness is able to maintain an uplifting tone to his book, that doesn’t stop him from digging deep into the not so picture-perfect times in his life. 

Van Ness grew up in a small midwestern town, Quincy, Illinois. As someone who knew his sexuality and was true to himself from a young age, there were many who tried to bring him down. He was deemed too bold, too loud, too feminine. He spent his childhood dreaming of getting out, but when he did the troubles didn’t stop there. He goes into sensitive topics that can be triggering to some, discussing topics such as sexual abuse, mental health and drug use. By discussing these harsh subjects, it makes his story just so raw, and readers get to truly see the good, the bad, and everything that made him who he is today. 

Readers learn to never judge someone until they can “walk a mile in their shoes.” There is so much that goes on behind the curtains that he never let on as a television personality. But through all the hardships he never let anyone change him, and after everything he’s been through, he came out on top.