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Everyone has come to know and love the cast of Queer Eye, as they have transformed not only homes and wardrobes, but hearts and minds. In a way, the Fab Five have helped combat stigma and judgement against the LGBTQ community by offering a broader personality to what it means to be a queer person.

Jonathan Van Ness, the lovable and ferociously femme cosmetologist, has grown into his celebrity status not only because of his adorable character on the show but his genuine and authentic care for the folks they transform. Throughout the process, like any good hairstylist, he offers a therapeutic and non judgmental ear and inspires folks to be their best and most confident selves.

Throughout our time of getting to know Van Ness, we have been reminded to drop labels and gender identities and simply love a person for their generous spirit and unapologetic glamour. Recently, the veil has been lifted even a bit further into the personal life of Van Ness and what has made him a soul that truly shines.

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In his first memoir, Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love, he has come clean about things that are honestly not too shocking to folks who live and breath the queer life. Years of being bullied, drug use, sex work, and ultimately becoming HIV positive have been part of the journey of the eternally optimistic and joyful self-love guru.

In 2016, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said that nearly 640,000 gay and bisexual male-identified people are currently living with HIV in the United States, and gay and bisexual men accounted for 67 percent of new HIV diagnoses that year. 

No longer considered a death sentence because of virus-managing medications and means of lowering risk of contraction like PrEP, those who are open about their status still face discrimination and stigma on a daily basis. However, when folks like Van Ness take to their platform to talk about the reality of a positively long and full life while being HIV positive, the barriers and misinformation can begin to slowly fall away.

His new memoir hits stands this week, and on the heels of an in-depth interview with The New York Times, Van Ness bravely continues on a path of authenticity, offering a transparent exploration of his compound trauma and life prior to stardom.