Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness wants us to start embracing our natural hair texture

The Queer Eye grooming expert talks to Prudence Wade about why it’s important to have fun with hair.

Jonathan Van Ness has opened up about embracing his own natural hair texture
Jonathan Van Ness Jonathan Van Ness has opened up about embracing his own natural hair texture (rodmclean)

Jonathan Van Ness might have worked in salons for 15 years, but it was only in “the last few years” that he embraced his own natural hair texture.

After starting his career as a hair stylist, Van Ness soon burst into the public eye – first through his show on Funny Or Die where he recapped Game Of Thrones episodes (called Gay Of Thrones) and then in 2018 when he was cast as the grooming expert in Netflix’s reboot Queer Eye.

In 2022, Texas-based Van Ness, 37, launched his own haircare line, JVN Hair, taking him even deeper into the world of hair.

Jonathan Van Ness launched his own haircare line in 2022
Jonathan Van Ness launched his own haircare line in 2022

“It’s really funny, I knew how to style my client’s hair curly so much better than I knew how to style my own,” Van Ness says, noting that it’s only been “in the last few years” that he’s embraced his natural curls.

“On Queer Eye, I shied away from wearing my hair curly for the first few years, because if I had to redo a scene… Like in the interviews, if I needed to hit a pickup from a different thing, my curls always looked a bit different.”

This sent Van Ness on a journey to discovering how to care for his own curls – calling air dry cream “part of what saved my life” (the JVN Hair Complete Air Dry Cream retails for £24 at SpaceNK), and finding out “that I just wasn’t using enough product to control my curls”.

Not using enough product is, according to Van Ness, a key mistake many curly-haired people make.

“When I started using more product, that allowed my hair to retain the shape and the form so much better. I think a lot of curly haired people are just not using enough product – and it also has to be on very wet hair. Really, really wet curls and a lot of product – that’s the key to achieving your best curls.”

And it’s time to start embracing your natural texture, Van Ness suggests – particularly in summer.

“The further away your desired style result is from your natural texture, it is harder. Then when you add heat and humidity into it, it’s even harder,” he admits.

“So I think finding a way that you can embrace your natural texture – whatever your natural texture is – especially in summer, is going to be helpful.”

But what if you don’t know where to start? Van Ness’ top piece of advice is to “have fun”.

He explains: “It reminds me when my auntie was teaching me how to cook back in the day. She was like – and I’m paraphrasing here – if you try cook something and it just doesn’t turn out right, you can order a pizza and try again later.

“So if you try to do your natural curls and it doesn’t turn out [how you wanted], break out some gel, slick it back or do a little half-up-half-down and try it again next time. It’s patience, and remembering it’s confidence, really.

“It starts as an illusion. If you can give off a feeling of confidence – even if you’re not feeling confident – no one’s looking at your hair, unless you act all insecure about it. Just know you’re doing your best, I know you’re gorgeous – we are all beautiful.

“The reason why people don’t think that they’re beautiful is because of these expectations of us comparing ourselves to each other.

“It’s so exciting that we get to be here and live this life. It’s so exciting that we are alive and breathing and we get to style our freaking hair.”

This is the Van Ness you might recognise from Queer Eye – inspirational and effusively positive. He continues: “Finding the fun in [hair] and the joy in it is certainly what keeps me going, and that is what makes me feel more confident.”

Van Ness, who is non-binary and uses he/she/they pronouns, is married to an Englishman, Mark Peacock, and has spent a fair amount of time in the UK – and he’s noticed a general difference between the British and US approach to hair.

Van Ness with his husband, Mark Peacock
Van Ness with his husband, Mark Peacock (Alamy Stock Photo)

“I think British people are generally less fussy about it – and I don’t know how beneficial that is,” he muses.

“I don’t like such gigantic generalisations, but I do find in the US, if someone isn’t happy with their hair, they’re going to be like, ‘Oh, this feels a little bit too blonde’. But I feel like in the UK, it’s like you don’t want to offend, don’t want to rock the boat.

“So even if you bloody hate your hair, you don’t necessarily say that to your hairdresser – you might just switch and go somewhere else, because you don’t want to have this uncomfortable conversation.

One of JVN Hair’s new releases is the Nurture Intense Hydration Mask, available from SpaceNK for £29
One of JVN Hair’s new releases is the Nurture Intense Hydration Mask, available from SpaceNK for £29

“But as my therapist says, relationships grow through disruption. So being able to say, ‘I was wanting something more like this’, or ‘I’m not happy with this one thing, can you teach me?’ I always said to my clients, our best hair is going to happen on the second and third appointment.

“I need to get to know you, I need to see you – not that it’s not going to be great the first appointment, but it does take time for someone to get your lifestyle, get your texture, see you come into the salon and see your outfit.”

Ultimately, Van Ness wants people in the UK to stop being “so freaking nice”, because “being willing to have an uncomfortable conversation yields better results”.