Jonathan Van Ness On Debt, The Fab Five & His Biggest Splurge (Other Than Shoes)

Photo: Ilya Savenok / Credit Karma.
Jonathan Van Ness wants to talk about money, honey. When he was cast on Queer Eye in 2017, JVN was on the cusp of turning 30 with 11 years of experience doing hair — but as a small business owner combatting debt, his main concerns were staying ahead on his taxes and making sure he was able to save some money in the process (for shoes and his future, among other things). With the success of Queer Eye, his financial sitch has certainly changed — which is why he's partnering with Credit Karma, a financial service that helps members file taxes, get back unclaimed money, and improve their credit, to empower people to take control of their financial lives, no matter their income. Ahead, we chatted with JVN about getting out of debt, what he saves and splurges on, and which member of the Fab Five makes the best money moves. (Hint: it's not who I guessed. I guessed Bobby.)
Refinery29: How have your spending habits and the way you think about money changed since the success of Queer Eye?
Jonathan Van Ness: Having Queer Eye happen and having it be the success it's been — I'm certainly able to be on time with taxes now and get ahead of the debt that I was in. And also show up for family and employ lots of people. I have a literal fierce little baby staff now of all really important women! And as I've had success, it's been like, Oh, I need to make sure that I have health insurance for my employees, and I need to make sure I'm saving for my future and for retirement and for taxes, and that I'm able to help out who I'm able to help out.
What do you like to splurge versus save on?
Oh my god, okay — I like to save on anything, and I like to splurge on everything, if that makes any sense. It depends on what I love! I do think I find myself splurging on shoes a lot, but then I love a little easy flip flop. And I love an expensive sweatpant, but I love a cheap sweatpant. I like both sides of the coin, except for maybe with water and food. Also my kitten's vet bills. Shoes and vet bills.
In retrospect I feel like all the times where I bought shoes instead of paid down my debt was like, not cute. Even though I still continue to do that. But I feel like Suze Orman would say: "Don't do that." But like how am I supposed to get cute shoes, you know? With things like Credit Karma, you can make sure you're being more accountable and ready for your taxes.
How are the Fab Five different in their approaches to money and spending?
Tanny Banany is the most responsible ever — the smartest and the wisest and makes the best decisions. And then I think all of the rest of us are just prudent. But Tanny Banany is the smartest boy.
There's such a stigma around talking about money — how has your relationship to talking about it changed?
I don't think I ever really realized how important talking about money and my future was. It was always something my mom or my grandparents would bring up and I was like, ugh god I don't want to talk about that, like I'm really stressed out, let me just cut your hair, like shut up! And now I've realized that it is so important to talk about money and saving in any way that you can. And I think that no matter where you're starting from, there's a way to try to do things that will increase your chances of financial freedom and upward mobility. It's the American dream of coming in with not so much and being able to obtain an investment and turn that investment into your future and your nest egg.
Photo: Ilya Savenok/ Credit Karma.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series