Why Jonathan Van Ness Wants More Men To Wear Nail Polish

Photo: Courtesy of Craig Barritt/Essie.
If you've watched even a single episode of Queer Eye, then you know that an eye cream is never just an eye cream to Jonathan Van Ness. It's an opportunity to get "even more gorge." A haircut is a chance to "finally serve FACE." And a color-correcting, green concealer? Oh henny, she is life-changing.
With enthusiasm like that, it's no wonder that nail-care brand Essie picked Van Ness to be its first non-female ambassador in celebration of Pride month. As part of the partnership, Van Ness designed his own Pride-inspired nail art, a fitting rainbow mosaic on his ring and pinkie fingers. And yes, just like his trusty green concealer, Van Ness is insistent that the manicure stands for more than just a few swipes of paint.
"It’s a way to give a little hint of what you’re about and communicate what you believe in — in a way that doesn't have to break the bank," Van Ness tells Refinery29. "I’ve been painting my nails consistently for a few years now and it just makes me feel kinda cute and helps me express myself."
While his go-to manicurist, Mei Kawajiri, often paints miniature cartoon donuts and sushi rolls onto his fingers now, his first-ever manicure — which took place 25 years ago — was much simpler.
View this post on Instagram

Dessert nails ?????? @jvn #nailsbymei #handpainted

A post shared by NAILS by MEI (@nailsbymei) on

"The first time I ever got a mani, I was with my grandma when I was seven," Van Ness says. "She let me go with her to the salon. I was like, 'Please let me get a mani,' and she was like, 'You can only get clear nail polish.' And I was like, 'That’s way better than what I thought you were gonna say! Yes, please!'"
While Van Ness would have loved getting regular manicures, his schedule as an in-demand hairstylist (even before his hit Netflix show) meant that his nails were almost always coated in hair dye and he gave up on the constant upkeep. But with the astronomical success of Queer Eye, Van Ness has learned that taking the time for nails serves as an important form of self care.
"Now that I'm 10 times busier than I've ever been, getting my nails done has been that time to not be on my phone," Van Ness says. "Just having it be 30 minutes where no one’s asking me anything, and I don’t have to be on for anyone. It’s time for me to be a little quiet and that’s really nice."
As someone who's been painting his nails for decades now, Van Ness is excited to see more male celebrities, including Harry Styles and Bad Bunny, rocking manicures on the red carpet with confidence. "With gender, it’s separated in a way that doesn’t empower anyone," Van Ness says. "At the end of the day, we’re all people and we’re all striving for life, liberties, and the pursuit of happiness... Any space where we can aim for that connection and break down this idea that only men do certain things and only women do certain things is really important for everyone."

More from Celebs & Influencers

R29 Original Series