In an interview with The New York Times, Van Ness explained that he felt it was important to come out.
“When Queer Eye’ came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?” he said. “And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the LGBT community thrive around me.’” He paused before adding, “I do feel the need to talk about this.”
Additionally, Van Ness shared his struggles with drug addiction and past sexual assault trauma.
Van Ness expressed that he was feeling emotionally hungover due to the vulnerability that comes with making such a large revelation to the world. Van Ness also shared that he had struggled greatly with drug addiction after the passing of his stepfather and being sexually abused as a child by an older boy at church. The trauma of those events led Van Ness to using drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines in his early 20s, and that in the past he had sex for money to support his addiction.
When he was 25 and working at a salon in Los Angeles, Van Ness fainted during a highlighting session with a client. He went to Planned Parenthood and received his HIV-positive diagnosis. Since then, Van Ness has ceased doing hard drugs and says he is currently healthy and a “member of the beautiful HIV-positive community.”
Van Ness did not come out on Queer Eye because he felt that the environment of the show is geared more toward lighter topics, but he did not want to invalidate the importance of the show. Instead, he wanted to use his story as a way to show that everyone can be healed.
“These are all difficult subjects to talk about on a makeover show about hair and makeup. That doesn’t mean Queer Eye is less valid, but I want people to realize you’re never too broken to be fixed.”