Over the Top by Johnathan Van Ness
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.
You know those plants that are always trying to find the light? Maybe they were planted in a location that didn’t necessarily facilitate growth, but inexplicably they make a continuous route to not only survive but to bloom into a beautiful plant. That was me- my whole life.
I absolutely adore Johnathan Van Ness, but this memoir made me realize just how much I didn’t know about him and his past. I will start of this review by saying that JVN is non-binary and prefers the he/him/his pronouns, so that it what I will be using in my review.
I always talk about how I love memoirs that are candid and an honest look at the author’s life, I do not think you can get more candid than JVN did in his memoir. It was so powerful, I was moved to tears. Learning about his life was a great reminder that you can not judge a book by its cover. We see Johnathan as such a positive and outgoing person, and he is, but that is even more incredible once you know what he has been through. He starts off his memoir asking if we would still love him if we truly knew him, and my answer is a resounding yes! JVN is such an inspiration and a great example of human resilience.
While a lot of the memoir is dark, there is also a lot of the humour and delight that you would expect from JVN. At one point he shares a report that he wrote as a kid addressing the Bill Clinton cheating scandal. It was comedy gold! There are also a lot of fun pop culture references that made it relatable.
Much like in Tan France’s memoir, JVN shares some behind the scene information on how they casted Queer Eye. I just found that to be incredibly interesting. I love when he talked about his co-stars because it was so obvious that he sees them as family.
I love that JVN is so open about his HIV status. He really emphasis the fact that he knows he has a platform and he wants to use it to spread awareness- I think that is fantastic.
Another thing that I thought was refreshing is that even when he is sharing his hardships and struggles, he acknowledges that he has/had certain privileges that others are not so lucky to have.
If you are going to read Over the Top, you have to listen to the audiobook. JVN is the narrator and it is a pure delight to listen to him tell his story. He could read the phone book and make it hilarious!
Yes! I do not even think you need to be a fan of Queer Eye to appreciate this memoir.