Jonathan Van Ness is a comedian. And he’s also just a person. These are two things that may be forgotten as he’s made his name internationally as the hair expert on Queer Eye, but they are true! And, in his recent Cosmopolitan U.K. Van Ness shed light on to just how extreme things can get when people forget those two facts.
Earlier this year, Van Ness became the center of controversy when Bernie Sanders reporters reupped a short clip of the comedian from a Queer Eye press tour. In the video, the Fab Five provide their thoughts on presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for the now defunct site INTO. Karamo Brown said he’s not into Sanders’ hair, suit or politics. Van Ness agreed. But at the end of the video, Van Ness went further.
“Ronald Reagan, could he be bothered to mention HIV/AIDS?” he asked. “No, but he could be bothered to put some gel in his hair, and I just feel like that is a thing.” The remark was intended to be a joke but was almost universally criticized on Twitter. So much so, Van Ness now reveals, that the occasion marked the first time he had ever cried from social media backlash.
“My whole thing with Bernie was: I love his policies and his advocacy, but if a woman presented herself the way he does, she would never become a mayor, a congressperson or a senator,” Van Ness told Cosmopolitan in his historic cover story. “If a female politician was walking around that disheveled, she would never have got a foot in the door. No matter how much I agree with Bernie, I am just much more comfortable with a smart, strong female leader.” And thus his remark.
“I’m obviously joking, but Bernie’s fans find that one minute of video and put it on twitter,” Van Ness continued. The remark caused universal criticism from not only those within the LGBTQ+ community but also a ton of straight men according to the star.
“They were tagging me, saying the most horrific, vile things,” he said. “It was the first time I ever cried from feedback on Twitter – like ugly-cry in a fetal position.”
Van Ness went on to acknowledge that the situation was all about context; many of those commenting were otherwise unaware of who he was and what he did and what he stood for. So left with the one minute clip, they assumed the worst. And while certainly understandable, maybe we all could do with just taking a breath before marching into someone’s mentions and telling them to choke.