February 10, 2022
EP. 97 — Jonathan Van Ness
97 — Jonathan Van Ness
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil. I hope you’re well and I hope you’re ready for what is quite the ride with Jonathan Van Ness. I was so lucky to get a last second booking with him when he’s in the middle of so much press and so much kind of chaos of a new show launching, his new show Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness on Netflix. It’s really, really fun and really good, and you should definitely check it out. And and traveling, it’s being so busy and made time for me in all of that and sat down and had probably the most authentic heart to heart I’ve had on this podcast. Just bared his whole soul for us and talked to me about so many important and beautiful issues, as well as some things that were really difficult to say. And I admire him so much for just saying them with so much honesty and humanity. It’s a side to Jonathan that maybe not all of us have seen very much and and a side that is important to see. To understand someone’s whole humanity beyond just the persona that maybe we have grown to understand them, or maybe we enjoy. And it’s just it was so beautiful that I was left kind of like tingling afterwards. So we talk about things like Jonathan being bullied at school or Jonathan’s experience with drugs and and sex and and sadness and mental health and being diagnosed so young with HIV in a time where we have no real like representation around it. Not enough information, so much stigma, so little access to any kind of health care, which so many people are still in that situation. But Jonathan explains to me that that scenario of what that was like, where there was no support system for that, how to deal with that, how to deal with then coming out and talking about that publicly to stop other people from feeling that shame and stigma. Just such a such a unique individual. You know, I’ve been in this industry for 15 years, almost, I think, 13 years 15 years. I can’t keep track anymore. And I’ve met a lot of people. And even the ones who maybe say the right thing online or whatever, or don’t say anything at all. They don’t really give a fuck about any of you. Like about any of the people of anyone other than themselves, and Jonathan cares so much about the people that are listening to him and following him or, you know, reaching new people to make them feel less alone and whatever their experience is and making them not feel soaked and shame the way that people have tried to soak him in shame and just fucking so unusual for someone to have such a big and open vulnerable heart and to maintain that big, open, vulnerable heart after getting loads of success and fame and I really like the little kid in me, just looks up to Jonathan so I mean, the adult in me looks up to Jonathan too, but wishes that I had Jonathan to watch on TV and I feel jealous of young people who get to do that now. One of the things we also discuss on this podcast I didn’t expect to talk about because there’s a big controversy that was happening in the last week or so since Jonathan’s new show dropped. And I’m not a parasite who likes to pick away at someone right in the middle of that moment. And so I sort of mentioned it in passing, expecting to gloss over it, and Jonathan just really went there with me about the full entire 360 degree context of regarding the situation that is currently happening, which is that he has this excellent new show on Netflix Getting Curious, and he’s exploring all kinds of like fascinating, different things, just such an unpretentious and open heart. And it’s so enlightening and so fun, and you don’t even realize you’re learning while you’re watching it. But there is an episode on snacking. And in that episode on snacking, among the many kind of like fun and frivolous moments, Jonathan’s also kind of discussing his binge issue and his eating issues and eating disorder stuff, and also talks to a neuroscientist about what snacking, especially like high sugar and high processed foods, does to the brain. And that neuroscientist says things in the episode that have triggered people and people are very, very upset, especially because Jonathan is representative of, like, you know, body acceptance and body liberation and an excellent advocate in that area, as a lot of people feel very let down that he allowed those things to be in his show and is not my fucking place to say whether those things should be in the show or not. But what I found frustrating is that a lot of the people talking about it online didn’t even watch the episode. They’ve just kind of heard rumblings of an issue and then jumped on Jonathan and encouraged everyone else to not watch the show for themselves. And fair enough, if you might be triggered, don’t. But it’s become very like cruel, and the attacks are becoming very personal and it’s like, we’re we’re seeing this all the time online. You see me talk about this before, like, there are fragile people behind this. And just because they have a big platform, it doesn’t make them like immune to really vicious personal attacks. And I know that it’s easy to look at that person and be like, Oh, well, they’ve got a much bigger platform than me, so I can say what I want to them because they have much more power and protection than I do, and I’m just little old me in that big old them. But what we forget is that when you have that big platform, all those followers, you also have way more people sending you like really volatile abuse. And and then very like kind of intense and emotional things. And so sometimes that can feel like a fuckin tsunami hitting you, especially if you are someone who struggles with their mental health, struggles with addiction or struggles with any of the many things that Jonathan very openly talks about. And so what’s fascinating, I think, is that I think this is one of the only times I’ve ever spoken to someone on this podcast, right in the middle of something like that. When they’re in the middle of kind of being, I don’t know, piled onto and to consider the humanity of the experience of the person being piled onto and then to hear that explanation and what their intentions were. And. I totally agree that obesity is not a word anyone needs to be heard said on any TV show unless we’re talking about how fucking problematic that word is and the history of that word and the history of the fucking fat phobic medical industry, I totally get it. I totally get why people are upset. But I also do think that having watched that episode now, I as a former binge eating someone who, you know, still in recovery from an eating disorder, I personally found a lot of those things very interesting, and I thought there were some really valid stuff in there, and I didn’t find it mean-spirited or cruel or reckless. Personally. That’s not my attempt to gaslight you and say that if you did like, that’s it’s it’s all subjective. But I will just say at least watch it before you air your opinion about it online. And please be just a little bit like delicate and humane when you’re talking to someone who’s never shown us anything but good faith. Even if you’re disappointed, even if you’re angry, even if you’re triggered. Take a step back and and consider how you would feel in that personal position and hold them to account, but like do it kindly. And in this episode, I talk about it openly with Jonathan, and I get an explanation out of him because I’m not attacking him. And maybe we would get more responses from people. And more explanation and more sorrys and more accountability if we didn’t discard their humanity and just expect them to be able to take any amount of like pile on on the chin, these people are still human. And if we actually want change and progress and answers, then perhaps we should also alter our approach because we’re not really getting very far are we? It’s not really working, as I spoke about this on the episode with Megan Jayne Crabbe. We’re not nailing this. And so I chose to put this episode out now because we’re coming up to Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want to do an episode with my boyfriend. I wanted to do an episode about a different kind of love. And and I think. The love that Jonathan puts out in the world is really unique, and I love Jonathan, and I think a lot of this episode is about self love and the love that we can show to other people in our behavior and how we can reflect on that. So anyway, I’m going to fuck off now, and let you just listen to the episode. But I just wanted to say some of that because I think it’s important and I really hope you enjoy it. And if you are mad at me for not just flagellate ing, Jonathan, I can I can take it. And please feel free to message me about your feelings about it. And I’m sorry if I’ve in any way discredited your feelings. I’m not trying to do that. I’m just trying to say. Some of this has been really poorly handled online, maybe not by you individually, but I was really shocked by how people treated someone so fast, so badly when they’ve done so much good and it made me feel really sad. Anyway, this episode is not just sad, it’s full of lots of light and absolute the glorious silliness that Jonathan can bring. But it also brings an extraordinary life story along with it. And I think you’re going to really enjoy it and and tell me what you think. But for now, here is the absolutely one like the one of a kind inimitable Jonathan Van Ness. Jonathan Van Ness, love of my life. Welcome to I Weigh. How are you?
Jonathan [00:09:36] I’m so happy to finally be here, and I’m going to start off with the hard hitting. Can I talk? I’m going to start with the hard hitting journalistic questions right off the bat. Are you ready?
Jameela [00:09:45] Yes. Yes.
Jonathan [00:09:47] In the spirit of Getting Curious, everything’s a question. How does your fringe stay so perfect and well shaped all the time? All the time? Your fringe only ever lays perfectly all the time. Do you do it yourself?
Jameela [00:10:05] I do it myself. But also, do you actually like my fringe? My bangs, my fringe, my bangs?
Jonathan [00:10:09] Can you look at? Look, look, look at how serious I look on my face.
Jameela [00:10:12] The reason I ask,
Jonathan [00:10:13] I love your fringe.
Jameela [00:10:16] I feel as though my fringe is more divisive than the vaccine right now. You know, in the last couple of years, there is so much debate over whether or not I should have this fringe. What is underneath my fringe, which obviously I’ve answered many times, is a very small penis. But I’m not a size queen. I have no problem with that. But also, people have a real problem with the parting in the fringe.
Jonathan [00:10:38] It makes me want to put a wig cap on you and see what you look like with no fringe, because I literally have no idea what you look like with no fringe because it’s such an iconic part of your look.
Jameela [00:10:52] I’ll text you a picture, I’ll text you.
Jonathan [00:10:54] I’m really curious to see, but I really do. I really do love your fringe. It really shows how pretty your eyes are and how pretty your smile is. Also, sometimes I feel like there’s something about when you have a fringe and also a really pretty neck because you’re like this like long model. Like America’s Next Top Model and they’re always like, they’re like don’t lose your neck. I feel like a good fringe like highlights your neck.
Jameela [00:11:16] Thank you. OK, well the answer to your question is, I just towel dry it and then I shape it when it’s still just a tiny bit wet and it’s also very thick. So my hair I used, I sacrifice a lot of my head hair in order to make sure that I had extremely thick bangs. And so you just kind of have to be comfortable with that decision.
Jonathan [00:11:36] But yeah, it’s like you have like a deep one.
Jameela [00:11:38] It’s like half my hair in my fringe. And then I towel dry up and down and then side side up and down and then side side frantically. I’ll make a little video of my my process.
Jonathan [00:11:50] You should do a TikTok on your fringe. You round brush it?
Jameela [00:11:54] No, it’s not. It’s a towel. I towel dry it with a hand towel up and down, up and down, and then side side, side, side up and down off a down side. I’m so sorry to everyone is listening to this, and
Jonathan [00:12:04] you don’t blow dry it at all?
Jameela [00:12:05] Not at all. I never let blow dry anywhere near it because it makes it stringy, greasy. It’s it divides the hair. It fucks with the shape. I shape with my fingers and then I get go about my fuckin day.
Jonathan [00:12:19] You heard it here first. I wish I was. I wish I had you said that this episode wasn’t going to be as major as our Getting Curious because we wouldn’t talk about poop but nay
Jameela [00:12:27] Shitting ourselves.
Jonathan [00:12:29] I say that we have raised the bar because that this is what we just did. Is like that really fed my soul like on a deep hairdresser level, like knowing your process?
Jameela [00:12:41] Yeah.
Jonathan [00:12:42] I’m not kidding you. It really fed me. And I appreciate it.
Jameela [00:12:45] You use the pronouns he, she or them. Which ones are your preferred ones? What are you feeling like today?
Jonathan [00:12:49] I’m obsessed with this preferred pronoun dialog that we’re that we’re having now, but literally my viva de resistance from this fucking horrific, violent gender binary that we live under. My way of saying like, get fucked to it is by I’m all of them and none of them. I used to give a preference like.
Jameela [00:13:15] Fair enough.
Jonathan [00:13:17] So for me, you can literally he she they me. I don’t give a fuck which one you use for me personally, so I can be everyone.
Jameela [00:13:25] Great. I love that. I love that. I think you and I have quite a similar feeling around that for ourselves personally, obviously, each to their own. OK, I wanted to check. So how have you been? It’s been a fucking intense time.
Jonathan [00:13:38] Really? Has there been something going on that I missed? Have we all just went, you know, I have this one joke in my standup that it hits really hard like 40 percent of the time. I find that people need to be drunk to laugh, which is not a great thing for the joke. But I’ll tell you what it is. I’m HIV positive. This is my second pandemic. OK, this is my second, this is my second pandemic. And so you’re not drunk and it’s not nine o’clock at night, which is why you’re not laughing. See how that joke is difficult. But the point is, is I think that for those of us that are HIV positive, it has obviously’s been a really difficult time for everyone like COVID. The last two years. So it’s obviously affected everyone, but also everyone very differently because we live in this, you know, hellscape capitalist system with no health care, you know, no guaranteed health care. So as my friend Celeste Watkins Hayes says about the HIV pandemic. Yeah. You know, are we in it together? I guess. But we’re all in the same ocean, in very different boats. Some people are in yachts. Some people are like on the, you know, Jack from Titanic trying not to pull off the bed fucking frame and he’s frozen solid, you know, in the Arctic. So I’ve been blessed, you know these last couple of years. Obviously, my life changed a lot in the last five years. Like, I’ve been safe, my cats are safe, my dogs are safe. I got four chickens. My husband like, we’re safe. It’s been very, you know, very challenging and all of its own ways. But I think for those of us that are like HIV positive or have some sort of like chronic illness that we have suffered at the hands of the government and these health care systems for years, it’s like I don’t think we were as surprised, like everyone else was like, Oh my God, it’s so fucked up. And we were like, It’s Wednesday, OK, this is this is what happens when there’s pandemics here. It’s like, everybody for themselves and it’s fucked up. And you’ve seen that meme where it’s like the person laying on the beach in the middle of the end of the world and they’re like, What was that like for me? It’s like, it’s like you just get used to like end times. You get used to the chaos.
Jameela [00:15:39] Yeah. And I think I think a few different communities felt that way. The disabled community definitely felt that way. They were just like especially people who have physical disabilities. I mean, they can’t leave the house they were just like, Welcome to my life, bitch. Like, This is what it’s like and you’ve all been fine with me not being able to leave my house. But suddenly your liberty is infringed upon, and now it’s a hysteria. What about the millions and millions of us around the world?
Jonathan [00:16:03] Flip the table.
Jameela [00:16:04] Yeah, flip the fucking table. Speaking of HIV, let’s just jump in. You were 25. You were super young when you found out, right? You you weren’t feeling well at work. You went to the doctor and you found out that you had HIV. Now you were in a very different living situation to the one you are in now where you have like more privilege, more access to health care, et cetera. And there’s also just more information now, more vocal people around the subject. So 25 years old. What was it like back then compared to now?
Jonathan [00:16:41] Well, we didn’t have Prep yet, so that was different.
Jameela [00:16:46] And will you explain what Prep is just for anyone who is new to the subject?
Jonathan [00:16:50] Yes. So Prep is pre-exposure prophylaxis. So that’s like a pill that you can take daily that will prevent you from becoming HIV positive. So it’s really, really, really highly effective. It’s like ninety nine plus percent effective. So basically, if you’re HIV negative, you can take this pill every day and like, you know, you could get D’d down till the cows come home and you’re not going to get HIV, you know, now you could get syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea or this really chic new STI that everyone’s talking about.
Jameela [00:17:23] Oh which one?
Jonathan [00:17:24] It’s called Shigella, and it’s really making a comeback in the UK and in the EU. You get it from like you have to eat the ass of a someone who’s got the Shigella or I or you can. If you don’t even have to eat ass, someone else could eat ass on.
Jameela [00:17:42] And then kiss you.
Jonathan [00:17:42] Yeah, make out with them. You can do a little finger butt bang and then you go shh shh shh Shigella honey. So Shigella is like, really up and coming right now. She’s really having a moment of Shigella, so you can still get all those other things.
Jameela [00:17:58] It does sound very European.
Jonathan [00:18:01] I’m going to name my if I ever have a kid, her middle name is going to be Shigella, OK? It’s a gorgeous name. And yeah, so it was different. And I think the other thing that was really different about, you know, me being twenty five when I got diagnosed is we we obviously the term undetectable was a term that people knew of, but we didn’t know that undetectable equals, untransmittable. That was not a fact that was accepted by the scientific community at the time. And so just explaining that if you’re newer to understanding some HIV terms, undetectable is a a way that we can describe a viral load. So the amount of HIV in your system is like how much viral load you have and the higher your viral load, the more contagious you are and the more negative impacts the HIV virus will have on your like, long term health and like the functioning of your systems. The higher your viral load. So when you achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load through daily adherence to ART, which is anti-viral or antiretroviral therapy, so it’s art therapy, that’s what you take when you’re positive. It kills the copies of the virus in your blood, so you become undetectable so you don’t have copies of virus in the blood and then you’re not contagious sexually, which is really amazing. So it really changed the game for, you know, well, it changed a lot of the landscape for people living with HIV and the understanding around it. But there’s obviously a lot of stigma and a huge barrier and access to medication into testing.
Jameela [00:19:33] 100 percent. And one of the things that I think I mean, just first of all, thank you so much for coming out and talking about it and and making that decision is a big fucking decision. And and it shouldn’t be such a big decision. It shouldn’t be shocking when we reveal things about our health or about our lives or our mental health. But thank you for doing that. Thank you for your advocacy and and for the many things that you are an advocate of. I fuckin I fucking love you like I like a lot of my guests, but I fucking love you and you inspire me all the time and I really look up to you and I love. I’m very inspired by the way you deliver information and how much the bravery in which the bravery that it takes to reveal your whole heart sometimes. I’m not saying you do all the time. I’m sure there’s a fake Jonathan that lives just like there’s a fake Jameela that lives out there. But yeah, I just adore you, and I really appreciate you teaching people about this.
Jonathan [00:20:32] Well the feeling is mutual, by the way, the feeling is very mutual. I look up to you so much and so do so many people. And I’m also equally inspired by you. And I also think that I mean, obviously, I feel like I learned in an interview and your career started. You know, your host actress, you do all these things. It’s very rare for someone who has your platform and and who is scaled the heights in the fields that you have to lend yourself to speaking about the myriad of issues that you open yourself up to speaking about. So I just got chills in my tricep saying that that’s really cool what you do, too. So right back at you, sis, I think you are incredible and also very brave and also so fucking stunning. I’m going to stop talking about that, I’m sorry, like I just it’s like every time I see you, I like forget you’re like such a model and you can’t help it.
Jameela [00:21:23] You’re very, very silly. I like that we wore the same dress once.
Jonathan [00:21:27] We did. Oh my God.
Jameela [00:21:28] What a major fashion moment,
Jonathan [00:21:30] a major fashion moment. But like, are we going to get in a fight about you wore it better, oK?
Jameela [00:21:35] No, I refuse.
Jonathan [00:21:36] Jameela! That dress, on you, was serving high fashion to the highest degree. I’m just playing dress up.
Jameela [00:21:46] So back to what I was going to ask you about. So the decision to talk publicly about HIV, what was that like? Was that hard or was that something you just felt very, very like, galvanized and at peace with?
Jonathan [00:22:02] It wasn’t. At first I was very unsure because obviously, like when I booked Queer Eye, like I didn’t know if anyone would watch it. I didn’t know if it would be successful. I didn’t know if anyone would care.
Jameela [00:22:12] Lol.
Jonathan [00:22:14] I mean, no, literally.
Jameela [00:22:16] I mean, no, I’m just saying that how that turned out.
Jonathan [00:22:19] Oh, yeah, yeah. Because I mean, I was like, Yeah, so I had no idea. So then I think after about a year of you know, I came out in February of 18 and it was very early on. And actually it was it was actually no, it’s by the summer. Now that I think about it, I started writing, I started just writing, not even for a book, just writing. I was like, my life has been turned upside down in these three months from like February to June of 2018 when the show came out. And so I started to like creatively write like in journal, just like what happened today, like stuff that was going on. And then really soon into that, I started realizing that there were so many aspects of my life that I couldn’t talk about openly because I hadn’t shared my HIV status like issues of just like, No, I can’t go to set that day because that’s the only day that the doctor can get me in. And like my doctors in L.A., but we’re in Atlanta and like, I can’t miss my check up. Like, I don’t want to put my blood work off, and I’m not going to go to the doctor here like I want my HIV doctor. So there’s a lot of aspects that I couldn’t. I felt like I couldn’t talk about because people didn’t know. And then I got really sick of feeling like I couldn’t talk about my full experience because I felt like I couldn’t talk about it. And so then once I made the decision, it was a pretty like immediate and I was like, Okay, I’m doing it, I’m doing it, and I’m going to talk about it. And then I never really looked back. And then there was a lot of people that were like, Are you sure? You know, you don’t have to? You know, you could do a memoir and not if you felt like it. Like, you know, because once you tell people, you know, you can’t ever, you know, so you don’t have to. And I was. But for me, I was just like, I’m doing this. And I always felt like from a very early age being, I was I was like bullied a lot, and I used to think a lot as a small child. Like, if someday I could do something so that this didn’t happen to someone else, I would do it like it would be worth it if I could make this not happen to someone else. And so that’s I think that was like, you know, at first becoming a public figure was like, Oh, I don’t want to share that part of myself because I’m scared. But then after I got a little bit more comfortable and, you know, being so public facing, I was like, that inner child voice started to come back out and that old feeling started to come back out. And then I was like, Oh, I think this is some of my purpose.
Jameela [00:24:38] Yeah. And I mean, imagine if 25 year old you had had a book like that and a voice like that out there to look to rather than feeling maybe like you. I mean, I don’t know, were you secretive with it when you were younger and when you were 25 and you found out, were you fucking terrified? And did you feel like you had any did you feel like you had any representation?
Jonathan [00:24:58] I mean, think twenty five. That was Rio. No that wasn’t Rio. What am I talking about? Get it together. That was London, Gabby Douglas, had just won all around gold. Aly Raisman had just wowed the world with her stunning Aly pass. So was there any like queer gymnasts?
Jameela [00:25:16] No, no, no, no. I mean, specifically within HIV of someone who was just like, I’m here, I’m living with it, I’m dealing with it. I’m not ashamed of it.
Jonathan [00:25:24] Yeah because there was no one that was on the national gymnastics team that was out with their HIV status. I didn’t know because like you’re.
Jameela [00:25:31] I know, I know.
Jonathan [00:25:33] No just like I, no. One of the few people actually who I talk about a lot and I think about a lot who wasn’t actively, you know, when I got it, there was like in the media that I remember from a young age, Rudy Melindo, who is the 1996 U.S. national figure skating champion. And then he went on to win bronze at worlds that year. He was out about his HIV status and his sexuality in like 1996, which was unprecedented. I remember being really young and looking at him and being like, That is so I remember specifically thinking when he talked about his HIV status that that was like out of this world, scary, like, really scary. But what I was more obsessed with was what a good figure skater he was, and I couldn’t believe that, you know, you always heard of like HIV as being this like horrific death sentence, but then you had this man like out here winning nationals like he was an incredible figure skater. So that was one of the first times I was like, Wow, that’s really amazing. And maybe there’s like not a full story that we have. But no, I mean, there really wasn’t anyone at twenty five that.
Jameela [00:26:40] You just hit the fucking nail on the head, though, just there. Right? So that’s the next step of representation, right? I feel as though the ways in which the media has allowed any representation has always been the tragic sob stories, the stories that we can. We can accept their terrible situation because we’re morning we pity them. We feel sorry for them. And also we then their sad story makes us feel lucky to not be in the same situation, you know? So therefore we can accept hearing these stories. We are only now moving into an era of marginalized people or people who are going through something that is unusual, thriving right in front of us. That is such a vital part of representation. You see it with disability like the disability disabled person is always the fucking like sob story in the film who’s just creating the emotional arc for the strong, non-disabled character that applies to everything. And so seeing you out there, doing your fuckin backflips and having your show and and meeting all of your idols and and achieving your dreams and doing stand up for, you know, in front of ginormous audiences around the world, like what? What that does, it’s it’s so much more than just coming out with a diagnosis. It’s you are coming out and you are you are ensuring people that there is hope and that there is life beyond this and there is fabulousness beyond this. And that, I think, is what is so moving. The book is fucking staggering and amazing, and like completely switched my perception of you, I never had a bad perception of you, obviously, but I just presumed you were someone who’d never had any problems. Obviously not never had any problems because anyone who has grown up not straight, cis etc, but will go through some issues. But I just thought, Oh my God, you must have been raised only in love and just been so popular at school and just had a because you project so much joy and happiness and like kind of almost like a. And I mean this in a good way because I tried to have this like a childlike innocence for so much of that in you. And so I presumed darkness had never seen your door. And upon reading your book, I found out that you’re a fuckin survivor. Jesus Christ, that song was written for you. You have been through more than I could have ever ever anticipated for someone who seemed so fucking unjaded. And I think that’s kind of part of what I want to talk to you about today is like, is where you’ve been and how you’ve been through that to become someone who is so dedicated to joy and to spreading joy and finding your own joy, which I will ask you to answer after you’ve had your inhaler.
Jonathan [00:29:25] I needed a hit of the inhaler for that one, honey. Yeah, I mean, I think that light doesn’t exist in the absence of dark rather like light exists because you’ve been through like darkness. So I think that’s definitely true of me. I would also say that. A lot of my experience has forced me to be very creative with accessing joy. Very creative with accessing joy.
Jameela [00:29:54] Were you always able to? Because you talked about being bullied at school and stuff which I was as well.
Jonathan [00:30:02] Varying success. But yeah, I mean, even in like Quincy, I mean, I needed to, like, create something to do to get through the day. So that’s why I invented like socks skating and I would just do interpretive figure skating routines in my socks to like the entire Vanessa Williams album that had Save the Best for Last on. I like I would just like dance for like an hour and forty five minutes, and then I would just like watch First Wives Club for like seven hours. Like, I was like, watch it over and they always like had like, good, always a good means of like soul soothing. I also like in the days of VHS, I was the queen of taping every single figure skating, gymnastics or beauty pageant that was like ever on so my dark times. I could always just like binge, like figure skating, gymnastics or beauty pageants, which like beauty pageants. I get it. But like for a queer person who’s like, you know, growing up next to a cornfield, that glamor is like one of our only aspects of escapism when you don’t know any better. So, you know, all I wanted to do was like put on an evening gown and like heels and just like walk up to a mark and go, Hi, my name is Jonathan Van Ness Miss Illinois! That was all I wanted, and I daydreamed about myself doing that a lot.
Jameela [00:31:11] Oh my god, I I feel the same way I didn’t have any friends at school, like especially like primary school was unbelievably brutal for me. And so I used to also record gymnastics. I was obsessed with gymnastics when I was little, and I used to watch the First Wives Club constantly. So but instead of saved the best, the last this is. I don’t think I do this on this podcast before, but I would wake up every single morning at like five a.m. and I would put on a tutu and I would dance to Rod Stewart’s entire album all morning by myself. And that would like make school bearable because I’d had such an amazing start to my day. So I like big apologies to my family who had to listen to Maggie Mae every day for like, but also like what kind of fucking seven and eight year olds were we?
Jonathan [00:32:00] Well, yeah, I was, I was really. I was really stretching my brain to be like, Who’s she going to say? Like, who was she dancing to? And I was not expecting Rod Stewart. It was not.
Jameela [00:32:10] Rod Stewart was just like he was like the voice of my, my youth. And by the way, guys, I’m not the right age for that to be for him to be the voice of my generation, but it’s. But there was something about it was the it was the 90s and Rod just understood me OK. He knew my six and seven year old troubles and
Jonathan [00:32:29] Maybe it’s like, was it is his unapologetic frosted tips that attracted.
Jameela [00:32:35] I didn’t want to have sex with him. I just loved his music.
Jonathan [00:32:39] No no no, like his energy, I didn’t mean like sex. I just was it the was it like the highlights that you were just like I loved, like that dimension highlighting
Jameela [00:32:47] like his confidence. You know, he was a little man and a little man in this world is something that is hard to be accepted by. And Rod Stewart just bucked the fucking trend. It was like, Fuck you, I don’t care that I’m short. I’m fucking sexy as fuck, and I feel really confident. I feel really brave. And he just like, he’s a short king. Here’s a short king who decided that before short kings were a thing. You know what I mean? So I think I needed his like fighting spirit before I would go to school every day.
Jonathan [00:33:15] I have a dear friend who that is her person. Like, if she has since been divorced, before she was divorced if she ever ran into him, that was her like one out in the marriage is like. And also, this is like five years ago. So like and even then, like, she wants Rod Stewart, like, really bad, like wants to rip thy clothes off and S they D. And that really confuses me
Jameela [00:33:40] She wants shmigella what was it called again?
Jonathan [00:33:42] Shigella. She just wants to get shigella from Rod Stewart. But yeah, Rod Stewart does it for people.
Jameela [00:33:52] Yes. Oh my God. I just like I said, it wasn’t even a crush. It was that he was my. He was just he was my source of strength. Anyway. Let’s move on. School I cannot fathom. I think because of my Twitter, people can imagine that I was probably quite lonely at some point because I have a socially inept vibe that I give off constantly. But with you, I can’t. I cannot get my head around the idea that you were bullied. Was just about sexuality was about your personality. So what was it?
Jonathan [00:34:26] Oh, everything. How can you? Oh my god. I remember one, this one friend of mine said in school she was like, You’re the most popular kid in school. And I was like, Really? And she was like, Well, like, yeah, because everybody knows you, but no one likes you, but everybody knows who you are. And I was like, Oh. Ow hi that was way harsh. Yeah, that was way harsh, high, but yeah, it was like, if you can imagine me now, but 14, that’s what it was like.
Jameela [00:34:59] Thank god, thank god that was then, though not late during Euphoria High. Can you imagine your 14 year old self at Euphoria High? I I try and imagine I’ve had to stop watching the show because I’m like, I can’t like I get. I imagined myself going as a teenager, going to that school as I would have been like just hung, drawn and quartered like
Jonathan [00:35:17] I would have been. I would have the first episode would have opened up at my funeral from an OD, if I went to Euphoria like that would have been that would have been the pilot. There’s no way that I could have like if I would have grown up in like a coastal big city. Forget about it. Like, thank God I didn’t get into like really bad drugs until I was like out of high school because I would not have. I mean, people can’t even survive it anyway. And I made it up by the skin of my teeth. But if it would have started any sooner, like, forget about it.
Jameela [00:35:51] So during that period, like how has that then gone on to mark the way that you are now? There’s a feeling I feel like we both have of we don’t ever want anyone to feel sad, but we also don’t ever want anyone to feel alone. Is that why you are so extra inclusive in every fuckin ounce of your being? Every strand of hair on your head and your face just feels like it’s reaching out to other people to, like, bring them in?
Jonathan [00:36:17] Yeah, for me, it’s like it’s even worse than don’t want people to lonely. I hate the idea of people suffering. It’s even worse than being lonely because it’s it’s something I can control even less, you know, because it’s like if you’re worried about something being alone is like, Go keep on company. Like, I have this and I’m really working on that a lot in therapy because it’s like I cannot prevent people from suffering. And so that little kid in me that thought like, you know, if I went through this so I could prevent anybody, any other kids suffering like then it would have been worth it. And that is like a really self-limiting thought belief because I cannot hold my people will suffer, Buddha says. To live is to suffer. And last time I checked, I’m not actually Jesus or Buddha, like, I’m just, you know, just a queen from a cornfield trying. But I’m just trying my best, you know? And I know I’m not. I’m not a savior. I’m nobody’s savior. I barely am able to see myself every day so that is hard. And I think that the way that the trauma from being so bullied manifests itself in my daily life is hypervigilance. It’s a negativity bias that, you know, eighty five people can say an amazing thing or like ninety five people. Or however, many comments are in the comments. If there’s like one or two that is highlighting something I didn’t do right or could have done better. Or if they are saying that I like hurt someone or, you know, missed the mark, whatever that it cuts, like a knife, like it just cuts like a knife. And I get so hard on myself and I that is that it. So being hyper vigilant to like negative feedback is a way that I think that it shows up in my life and being just consumed by, like negative feedback is or feeling extremely sensitive to bullying or like getting glommed on to even if there’s like a constructive nugget in there. But it’s I think that’s like where I see it showing itself the most.
Jameela [00:38:10] Yeah, it’s definitely gotten me in the past. And I think being outspoken public figures who also maybe speak before were necessarily fully informed you and I, because we just want to help now. You know, we want to help now. We don’t want to wait until the perfect words arrive or the perfect education arrives. We just want to jump in and just be like, people are in trouble. Like, How can I help? How can I use my privilege? And then sometimes we just, you know, fall over a little bit.
Jonathan [00:38:34] And also, but also but also no, but it’s like, but not it’s like, but curiosity. Like, ah, like I just feel like there are so many ways that we can heal. There are so many, like also not to keep quoting Buddha, but like there’s another one where like, there’s, you know, a million ways up the mountain. Like, there’s so many ways, so many paths that we can take in just because one path works for you. It doesn’t mean that it you know, we all have our own path, and I think we’re just so quick to, like, try to pull a bitch back, like, get back here like you’re you don’t know what you think it’s like. It’s just mean. And to be cognizant of like, where someone’s coming from is really important too.
Jameela [00:39:15] Yes, I say this all the time that we don’t know how to separate ignorance from evil. Like, we’ve completely lost our critical faculties for, like a generation to think there were such great critical thinkers. We identify everything as deliberate, which is so ridiculous when we don’t notice our own accidents or our own biases or our own things. But in other people, we’re just like, you must have meant that you must have known exactly what you were doing and what that was going to cause. And you are bad. And any time I thought you were good, I was being tricked by you into thinking you were good or smart or decent. Actually, you’re bad we can’t like, well, there’s no we’ve lost gray. Gray is just not a thing,
Jonathan [00:39:51] but I always liked gray. I always thought gray was like the right color. You know you can you can do a charcoal where you can do like a lighter one, like there’s all these, you know, gorgeous grays.
Jameela [00:40:04] I fucking love you. I fucking love you so much. OK, so this is a mental health podcast, and I would like to ask you, like, what would you say your journey has been like with your mental health? Obviously, we have touched on the fact that you have been through some really serious shit with your health and and childhood bullying, teen bullying, being gay in the middle of America, in a time where it wasn’t yet totally accepted everywhere, although you had a very, very supportive mom who is still your best friend. And I love that and that makes me feel really sure about the world. But but talk to me about your mental health. How’s how’s it been? Tiny question.
Jonathan [00:40:45] I mean, I think one thing I talk about in my first book and I talk about it more in my new essay book that’s coming as like, are my mental health? It’s one thing that I wish I could just, like, put it in like a box and put it up on the shelf, you know, put a bow around it like you did at its healed. Actually, it’s right here. Look how good it looks. I put it in here, my mental health and it, you know, then I put it up here. They never have to look in there again.
Jameela [00:41:11] Like an urn. Like a chic urn.
Jonathan [00:41:11] Yeah I sorted it out and it lives up there. But that’s not how mental health is. It’s like a constant relationship that I’m like constantly checking in with, to be perfectly honest, right here right now, how’s my mental health? I’ve been better. I feel like, you know, I just Getting Curious just came out on Netflix. That’s my first executive producing project. I, you know, I don’t think that a lot of people. Nobody, actually nobody will ever know other than me how hard I had to fight to make this series. How patient I had to be. How. Strong, resilient. It took a lot to get here.
Jameela [00:41:53] Can I ask why? Or is that like personal stuff?
Jonathan [00:41:55] Well, no. I mean, just to be queer, femme presenting person, to book Queer Eye period that I had to beat literal thousands of people I thought I would never do it, thought they would never pick me, never thought that I would get that job. I had to face down like so many demons just to even do that, like just to go to the audition and then to go into a situation where, like, you know, in recovery from drug use. And I’m move like when I booked Queer Eye. Part of my recovery was that I needed to have like four nights a week at home alone. I used to suffer a lot from like social anxiety and feeling like if I didn’t have plans and like if I wasn’t going out on Friday and Saturday night that I would never find a partner. People didn’t like me. I was spending all my time at the salon. I had no time for fun or like socializing. I really felt like I had to go out every time someone asked, but I was so burnt out and I kept relapsing and I couldn’t get away from like my bottom line behaviors, which, you know, behaviors I didn’t want to do. So then I realized,.
Jameela [00:42:57] You mean addiction?
Jonathan [00:42:58] Yeah. You know, with drugs and sex. So I realized through therapy that I was like, Oh, I used to be terrified of being alone. But around right around when I got HIV, I started realizing I actually liked myself. I actually liked to spend time with myself, and nobody else like solitude was a really important thing for me. And once I started really making time for myself where it wasn’t about me going to the salon for my clients, and it wasn’t about me working out so that someone would want to fuck me. It was just like time for me to be with myself. That was when I was like, Oh, I like myself. I know I understand what solitude is. This is really important to my well-being. And like and pattern and like routine was really important to me, like knowing that my cats are going to be home knowing what time I was doing everything, knowing what time my day started, that it’s also important to recovery. And when you get on a TV show, it doesn’t matter what time you want to start work or where you want to live. I mean, I’ve lived in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Kansas City, New York, and for years, I, you know, switch cities every single year. That’s really hard on you. It’s like it’s not easy. And then to have a podcast for six years and then turn it into a Netflix show is not easy. You got to. I mean, you hear nos so many times, and especially if you want to do an episode about something like the gender binary or you want to talk about your relationship to snack food and binge eating. It’s kind of an uphill push to get to be able to put that stuff on a streaming platform in 190 countries. So then when you even want to do your own first show, getting it greenlit in the middle of fucking COVID is. I was like, can we do it later? Like, can I do it like after? And it’s like, we’re not asking when you would like to do your show. It’s like shit or get off the pot. Like, we’re giving you this chance now. There’s no guarantee that the chance comes back later. So it’s like, OK, all right. Well, I guess I’m going to do this now. So then it’s like two months, you know, you’re putting together your pre-production and you’re like, Well, I hope I don’t kill anyone of covid because I wanted to learn about the binary or skating or bugs or whatever the fuck. So, you know, anxiety sweats. 10 p.m. 11 p.m. 12 one two three every day for like two months when we shot Getting Curious, which was the end of 2020, and then we did two more months. In February and March, we took a little break because I was like, These numbers, I’m scared. Covid. It seems like it’s everywhere. And can we at least just like, get the teachers and like the medical professionals vaccinated before we go back out and Netflix and everyone was really supportive of that. So we took January off. Let the numbers like get a little bit more normal and then we jump back and we finished and I was really proud of ourselves because we got through all of it with no COVID cases. Everybody was happy health. Well, everyone was healthy, safe, mostly happy. Obviously creating TV. You never you know how it is. It’s it’s a hard can be hard sometimes. But yeah, I mean, I really poured like every single aspect of who I am, every single thing I’ve learned in this industry behind the camera on camera over the last ten years into the show. And now I’ve been talking about it nonstop for two weeks and like 12 hour days, just talking about it until you’re blue in the face. And it feels like I’m pushing a boulder up a hill. And I am it’s very vulnerable putting yourself out there like that, it’s vulnerable in a way that I’ve never done before.
Jameela [00:46:32] I watched the whole thing over the last couple of days and is a very vulnerable show and I love the way that and I’m not going to force you to talk about it loads, but I’m just going to talk about it so you can just chill and breathe. It is a very, very thoughtful show. You’re incredibly vulnerable in it and you you put so much important information like the gender episode is so excellent, Jonathan, and so important and so many. It’s such like a it’s a these bite sized chunks of so much information delivered in a way that you just don’t realize that you’re learning, you know, you’re just and you, you feel so as the viewer, I feel so supported by you, and I don’t feel stupid for not knowing these things because I feel like I’m learning on the journey with you. And there’s such a. It feels like anyone of any age from any area, from any place around the world will be able to watch this and find it accessible. So well done. And I feel like it’s a great show that even if you’re someone who already knows loads about gender or knows loads about binge eating or all these kind of different things, this is the show that you can send to your grandmother who doesn’t get it. You know what I mean? This is the show that does the work for you. That means that you don’t have to go and do all this explaining anymore. Because Jonathan went in a pandemic, risked hiss like to be able to, uh, to put that information out there. So really well done. And I think as I said earlier, like the way you communicate all information and have done for years now is really, really special and in a time of like massive pretentiousness and elitism and moral superiority to have someone make. Just have someone weaponize silliness as a way to force people to engage and learn it’s just super special and there are a lot of people brave enough because that too insecure to be able to do that. And so I just wanted to be able to say that to you. Having just watched the whole thing.
Jonathan [00:48:29] I might cry.
Jameela [00:48:31] Oh really? Oh, God, I thought I thought that face meant that you were just like, shut up, bitch.
Jonathan [00:48:35] No, no, no. I’m just. No, but it’s like my mental health is good. I just feel like.
Jameela [00:48:40] Oh bless you, you actually are crying.
Jonathan [00:48:41] No I know I just I just I’m like, I just have. I think I have a little vulnerability hangover.
Jameela [00:48:48] Yeah, totally.
Jonathan [00:48:50] It’s like it’s been out for a week and I’m like. I feel. This is such a downer, but I’m just going to say what I feel and it doesn’t have to be logic.
Jameela [00:49:02] You can say whatever you want. Yeah.
Jonathan [00:49:03] I just feel empty. I feel a little empty and I feel really sad for feeling empty because I feel like I should be so happy and I feel like I should be so proud.
Jameela [00:49:19] What is it that’s making you feel empty?
Jonathan [00:49:24] That I feel like it’s just not I feel like sometimes it just can’t be good enough. Like, I just put out this series and Sean Penn is doing what Sean Penn’s doing and people are writing articles about what I fucking said about Sean Penn on Twitter versus the fact that like, I just put out this series, that. It feels so much more important.
Jameela [00:49:48] Yeah, totally, totally. I know what you mean. But also, look, I hope you can access pride about it, but on a more kind of like psychological level, have you ever actually felt like super proud of something? Or do you feel like that’s something that we are programed to feel it’s like you’re going to when this thing comes out when you win that award or when you achieve this much money or you buy that house or you get that fucking person to have sex with you, you will feel everything. You know what I mean? Like, you’ll feel so much. I often feel like a fucking mutant who then feels very disappointed in myself and ungrateful and like and confused and detached from everyone because I win awards or I’m part of amazing things and I do do great things. And regardless of how good or bad the reception is, I just don’t feel anything. And maybe that maybe that’s normal. And maybe that’s why we have to drink so much when we’re celebrating because we don’t necessarily actually feel the euphoria that we think we will. Look, if you’re someone is out there who does feel like euphoria, that’s amazing. But almost everyone I know when they I mean, I’ve got my boyfriend makes these albums that he spent two three years pouring his heart out into these albums, like working at it day and night, risking his health, not sleeping, not eating, not seeing anyone completely obsessively like mining his own soul for music. And then he puts out into the world, obviously, like he loves his fans and everything. But there is always this like huge gap that brings him to tears where he’s like, I anticipated so much. I was so nervous and so anxious, and now I just feel nothing. And I want you just to know that there’s nothing wrong with you, and it’s not a reflection of the work, and it’s not a reflection of people online that that it’s OK to just. Finally, feel what you’re feeling is just a. Hopefully, it’s an absence of anxiety, and it’s making you feel a bit dead. You’re just panicking anymore is out there. Everyone I know, like when I when I Instagrammed about it, everyone was like, I love this show so much. I’ve been watching this all day with my kids. Like, this show is so amazing. Like just endless people writing to me about, like, how great the show was, how much they love it. Some people weren’t happy with the dietician. Some people weren’t happy with the dietician, although I could understand some aspects of where she was coming from, I think we always hate the O word obesity. We’re never happy with that word. But other than that, like I could see where she’s coming from, some of that shit was just facts about what happens to your brain during sugar. That is important information for us to have.
Jonathan [00:52:13] And that’s also part of what this feeling is actually coming from, because like obviously, I’ve seen that feedback I had, you know, thousands of people in my fucking comments.
Jameela [00:52:25] Especially because you’re such a body positive icon.
Jonathan [00:52:29] Right. And so feeling like I’ve let people down or have, like, hurt them is hard. And also having people blatantly not. Watch the episode and see like a clip or see what someone said on Twitter about something and then go on to make a post. It’s like really vehement and mean and then getting tagged by like all of these other people being like, How could you do that? Like, who do you think you are like? As if I’m not someone who’s been struggling with eating disorders my whole life? And that’s why I’m talking about it. Look could we always learn more, for sure. We have included more modalities for sure. But if you want to go, try to book your first show in Manhattan in December of last year. Tell me how many nutritionists there were around to talk to you. Dr. Nicole Levine is amazing. She’s literally given her whole life to like trying to help people. So, yeah, but I mean, it just hurts. Like the negative feedback is really hardcore, especially when it’s like it’s not reflective.
Jameela [00:53:31] Contextual.
Jonathan [00:53:32] Yeah. And also when she said the obesity epidemic, even because I watched the episode obviously 50 million times editing it and I came back to that sentence so many times and I was like, Should I lose it? Do I cut it out? But the reason I felt like I should keep it is because it was so important for me to say to her and have her acknowledge that we have to take the onus off of individuals. Off individuals that guilt and shame passing off of the people, because these industries have literally used the ingredients in the food to make it last as long as possible. Using the lowest quality ingredients so that it will get us hooked. Like that is a part of the cycle. But I wanted to be able to say that it’s not our fault and the way that and I felt like without because I felt her wanting to go like I was a does that mean that it’s people or is it systematic or systemic? And I wanted to, and I wanted to hear her say it’s systemic and without being able to talk about obesity at all and just omit that it didn’t make sense. And so I cringed in the room when she said I was like, Oh, when I watched it, but I felt like it was. It was the conversation that happened, and I wanted to keep it true to that conversation that happened. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not other ways to heal. That doesn’t mean that there’s not other types of nutritionists and other schools of thought to access healing. It’s not one size fits all ever on anything. And so the lack of like understanding or like compassion around that and to like vilify me, the theory series this doctor like Dr. Nicole Lavina like that all his just that has been. Hard and. Yeah, that’s just been hard and like I just have had a lot of people tagging me, I’d stopped taking DMs from people a few years ago because it was like really impacting my mental health. So I turned off like, You can’t like DM me if I don’t know you or if we haven’t message before, but you can still like tag me in stories, so like the amount of stories that I’ve been tagged in and people just like really twisting that episode, really twisting that
Jameela [00:55:47] This is what I was going to say. Right. Okay. So I I was almost like, I was scared to watch that episode because I was just like, Oh, please, please don’t be as problematic because everyone saying this is like, Please, please, please God, please. Because I just know you two to not be that way. I know you, to be honestly just like such a delightful and like positive and neutral and and safe space regarding body image and. And so I watched it and and I was very surprised at how much less problematic it was in reality than the way people made it out to be online. That’s not to say that you do not have the right to be triggered by whatever the fuck it is that triggers you. Totally. And the word obesity in and of itself can almost make people then just hear white noise. As to everything that said afterwards, because it’s such an awful and like abusive sort of term so often. But every most of the things that you two said in that episode are all things I’ve had NHS doctors say on this podcast who are not here to ever police anyone about their body or blame anyone for their weight or say that weight is necessarily even remotely equated to to your health. But just people talking about the food industry. That’s why I feel like most of the onus was on in the episode. I feel like so many of these people talking about the show haven’t actually watched it. You were talking about the literal neuro logical impact of sugar. You were talking about what how it’s used. Sometimes so much sugar is pumped into food, especially in places like America, to cover up the taste of the chemicals they are using to preserve that food or to. I don’t know fill it full of shit that’s going to make the chicken bigger so they can get more chicken for less money like these were important facts to understand, and I’ve got a pretty like die hard, watchful of insensitive commentary audience right on this, this podcast that we all know what is OK and what is not okay. And no one had a problem with that doctor or nutritionist or anyone saying those things on this very podcast. It’s called I Weigh literally inspired by the body neutrality movement. So. While I’m not saying it’s not my place to ever tell anyone how to feel. I do feel like a lot of that was just like deliberate misunderstanding of what was being said. You came from no place of shame. And you even end the entire episode on a kind of like a place of moderation, which is your fucking choice to make. You are not telling everyone else what to do, necessarily. Like I said, if you had maybe more time in the episode, you could have included more things if you weren’t shooting in a pandemic. Yes, sure. But I do just want to just like, I’m not saying this just because I like you, because I don’t do that. I don’t play favorites. I’m just saying that like for anyone who’s listening out there who’s maybe avoiding the episode because you’ve heard it’s going to be that, like most of what happens is science, science, neurology and literal scans being held up just about the impact of sugar on the brain. This is not a like shaming people episode.
Jonathan [00:58:46] Definitely wasn’t the intention. Definitely wasn’t the intention. And I also. Yeah, and I mean, the feedback has been so overwhelmingly positive, but because I’ve been in recovery, because I struggle with binge eating to think that I like her or the amount of people that were like you did fat people dirty, you fucked up fat people, you’ve perpetuated fatphobia, you perpetuated racism, you perpetuated anti-Blackness, you perpetuated the amount of things that people have told me that I perpetuated in that episode in the last week, it’s enough to. I don’t want to be dramatic, but it’s a lot. And if I wasn’t as strong as I am
Jameela [00:59:29] No, I know what you’re saying.
Jonathan [00:59:31] And I wish people would think about that because they really don’t. And I’ve had to block so many people that then go screenshot that I blocked them and then they put it on Twitter and they were like, I didn’t think, you know, x y z would, you know, make him block me. It’s like, Do you realize how many people tag me and screenshot that to me and put it on their stories and call me all sorts of stuff? And you didn’t even watch these episodes like you don’t? And in fact, there’s one post in my mind that really sticks out where this person didn’t even spell my name right. And then made this whole meme, vilifying me, vilifying my work as an artist, vilifying my TV show doesn’t spell my name right, and is actively encouraging people in their comments to skip the show. Don’t watch it. It’s not a safe space. So for for me to have people telling me that I’m not a safe space that haven’t watched the show. And then you just think like, wow, like. I really was risking my life to do this, I risked my career to do this like I put everything and every bit of who I am into this series and to just watch people like lift up their skirt on Instagram and Twitter and just shit all over it and question my humanity or like my heart over it, it’s really left me in like kind of a fucked up space.
Jameela [01:00:56] I tough I mean, Jonathan, I fully fuckin understand, like just two years ago, as you know, everyone knows on the podcast, I almost took my life in 2020 because of how much I got dog piled onto you and I have sent each other random text. We’re not like close friends. We’ve met each other out and about a few times, but we’ll text each other sometimes being like, Should we leave Twitter because it is a heinous space that terrorizes both of us. And that’s also, you know, maybe we shouldn’t be on that platform if we cannot take how vicious it is. And that’s sad that that is a choice, especially when that is a part of your career. But maybe that’s where we’re at. But I fully fully get it, and I am really sorry. And like I said that for anyone with food issues, any episode about food, food, food issues, what it does scientifically to your body, that shit can be hard. So I do want people to, like, cautiously move towards it. But to know that is that you should at least give it your own shot before you then go and talk about it publicly online.
Jonathan [01:01:56] And the whole point of this next episode, at least for me as someone who’s struggled because I really worked hard in all the episodes to keep it for my experience, this is about my experience, not about everybody at large and what you should do specifically. It’s about my experience and like how I see the world.
Jameela [01:02:14] Yeah, you and I both have a history of binge eating like severe.
Jonathan [01:02:17] And that’s why in the in the episode and this is, I think that it’s just been like, Oh, but my therapist said to me, she said, because you know, I’m in recovery. And so I said to a few people, like, if you see this episode, you’ll see that I say, I’ve been to rehab, you’ll see that I say I’m in recovery, you’ll see that I say that I have a lot of shame around talking about these issues. So why are you shitting on me like, I’m out in the vulnerable place? Like, why are you shitting on me? And it’s like, I didn’t say it in so many words, but. And then my therapist was like, Queen, just like, you’re in recovery. So are these people. They’re in recovery and hurt people hurt people. So don’t take it so personally like you’re not a person to someone on the internet who just sees this show sees that you have like, they don’t know the background and they haven’t read the book. They don’t listen to the podcast. They don’t see the work I do.
Jameela [01:03:07] I was about to say, like I was about to say the impact that having the book read on, like my perception of you and like how not only strong you are unbelievably strong but ridiculous, made of steel, but also how fragile you must also be at that same time. And I think most of the strongest people in the world do have a mental fragility. I consider myself very strong and I’m fucking porcelain a lot in many places. You know,
Jonathan [01:03:30] With skin like yours honey, you better be.
Jameela [01:03:33] But it does. It is like a reckless and it’s interesting to talk to you right in the middle of it. It is like this reckless thing where people are just like, just don’t take into account the fact that you have mental health struggles. You have immense fuckin childhood trauma that you’re walking, working through. You have your own health issues. You also have your own eating disorder issues. You have your own body image issues like we’re talking about it now, you’re not shying away from talking about it. You didn’t just I didn’t even expect for us to talk about this. I just was making a passing comment about that moment. I had no idea we were going to talk about this. And you leaned in and told me, your thought process, why you did it, what you wanted to do with absolutely no like defensiveness. The way that we go about expressing our concern or hurt towards a creator means that we almost never get the authentic explanation, the authentic and honest and like actually like illuminating explanation just now without me even trying. You just talks about it, and now I see where you were coming from. And now we all see a bit more of where you were coming from. No one’s going to get that from your Twitter. They’re just going to get blocked because they come at you so fucking violently. This just this. This culture of how we now like our pitchfork generation just means that we’re not having any answers and our people are too scared to even give their real answer, because sometimes your apology gets even like further dog piled. So you just want to disappear and like hide like I can see you want to hide in your in your closet right now. You probably want to just stay there.
Jonathan [01:05:02] I’m literally hiding in my closet. And it’s so funny that you say pitchfork, because it’s like when you think, how does your bully or how does like growing up being bullied show itself now. And it’s like, I got bullying so much like I used to say, like I got, I grew up getting chased round with pitchforks. So it’s like now when someone comes at me like that, it makes me really want to fight like it makes me want to defend. It’s like I got pushed around for so long. It makes this like, protector want to come out and it makes you want to get defensive. But it’s like, I actually, do you have a lot of curiosity around my food stuff still, all the times like. I am curious about intuitive eating. I am curious about health in any size. I actually like was just starting to kind of learn about them hideously right after we wrapped because my mom started getting really into it and then I was like, Oh my God. I didn’t know. And so I so excited just to share more about it now and to learn more about it now. But it’s like you just don’t know what you don’t know. And just because someone doesn’t know something doesn’t mean that they’re like an evil POS, you know?
Jameela [01:05:56] Exactly. And also, I think it comes from that extra thing of like, you came out, you spoke about HIV, you spoke about you speak about trans rights all the time, like you put yourself out there all the time regarding trans rights and you keep people like, I learn a lot about what’s happening and legislation directly from you. You’re one of the people who will sometimes I think if I don’t see it anywhere else because you’ll be clearly have such a big platform. I’ll find out like, Oh, fuck this law is happening or this is what’s being taken away from people. Okay shit we all need to like move. Because you have come out there and dared to do good, people are like, Oh, Jonathan thinks they are really great fucking person. And now they’ve made a mistake proof that they have no goodness in them. They aren’t as great as they said they were, whereas you never actually said anything of the sort. All you’ve done is try and show people your marks, your pain, your trauma, your like mistakes. You’re like journey, you’re super vulnerable. I’ve never once seen you behave as though you are better than everyone else or, you know, more like, if anything, you kind of, I don’t even mean this. This is so clumsy. But if anything, I think you sometimes pretend to be less intelligent than you are not pretend deliberately. But I mean, you sometimes you know, hide it, you know what I mean? Like, you hide your intelligence sometimes and in a way that I think many entertainers do, because sometimes that’s just funnier. But so I don’t understand this thing that we have of when someone does something good or tries to be good, if they make a mistake, we then go for them harder than the people who do nothing or who actively do bad. We just let them get away with whatever because we’re such low expectations for them. You can’t put your own high expectations on someone else and project your own like expectation of them onto that person and then punish them for your own perception of them that they have not necessarily put out about themselves. I think that’s just it’s a whole other conversation I didn’t expect for us to talk about this. I wanted to mostly just talk about how lovely your show was.
Jonathan [01:07:56] I feel safe with you, Queen, I feel safe with you. And so I felt like I needed to. I’m just like, I’m just this is my last official press day for Getting Curious. And so I felt like in these last two interviews, I’m like, I’m just going to get vulnerable. I’m going to use them as my therapy too and talk about what’s bothering me.
Jameela [01:08:09] Good for you! It’s symptomatic of a bigger issue and and I’m really like touched that you felt safe to talk about it with me. And like I said, you just gave me a 360 answer. And even included the fact that you learned more since filming that, unfortunately, that wrapped like a fuckin year ago. So, a lot has happened in the world. One learns a lot. Look at how much we’ve learned in the last year or two, like our update, information is fully updated,
Jonathan [01:08:35] fully updated.
Jameela [01:08:35] It’s insane. It’s like we’re becoming new people every single year and shedding skin of like old disinformation. So you’ve even said that you’ve gone on to learn more since then. That means that maybe that’s going to come out in essays from you. Maybe you’ll make a new updated episode in season two,
Jonathan [01:08:48] or maybe enough people will. Or maybe enough people won’t be pissed and will actually like watch season one so will get a season two so I can talk about it.
Jameela [01:08:56] I know I feel the same way about so many projects. I fully understand I personally really enjoyed this show, and I think it is a lovely, needed thing. And I think, like I said, it is the unpretentious and fun and joyous, ageless, silly and yet also deeply serious and a meaningful sort of just dose of joy that we need. It made me feel like really happy before I was going to bed last night. Now, I’ve had loads of your time, and so I just want to wrap up with a few happy things. Important things.
Jonathan [01:09:37] Yes.
Jameela [01:09:38] I want to know as someone who has gone through so much in your life things that we didn’t even touch on because there was a lot.
Jonathan [01:09:47] My bad.
Jameela [01:09:47] No, not your bad. Not your bad. No, no, no. But also, like some shit, is honestly so heavy I also don’t want to like retraumatize you with it right now, but you’ve been through a lot in your life. You’ve come out of it as as someone who still, you know, working their own mental health out and stuff. But. What through everything you’ve learned, do you hope to see more of in the world? It’s a big question. Just take a second, but I’m just saying through all these lessons that you’ve had like and everything you’re seeing out there currently and online and offline, what are some of the things that you hope for.
Jonathan [01:10:22] Forgiveness, more forgiveness, more compassion. And I even take that on myself, too. Like there are so many times in the first year of me being famous where I would like go on Twitter. And like I said and also, it was always people who I look up to and like more, so I guess I can give myself a little bit of like, Oh my God, if they’re really mad at me it’s because they liked you and they looked up to you and they’re disappointed, which makes a bigger reaction. You know, like, I definitely like did that to several people in my first year. I gave criticism or feedback to someone very publicly and didn’t sit with it longer. Like didn’t look at the breadth of their work, don’t know their life, don’t know all the things that they do. So why are you airing your opinion in this way? And in my case, I had a much bigger following and a much bigger platform than what most of these people, you know, that have done it to me are so I’ve been on both sides of it. And so it’s not just because I’ve had something like, I can’t I’ve not constantly but I’ve often think about those times in twenty eighteen where I saw something online didn’t like the way it read made me feel some kind of way, made me feel betrayed. And so I went on Twitter and was like, ehhh. And yeah, so I more forgiveness, more compassion from everyone.
Jameela [01:11:37] 100 percent. And then when it comes to awareness around HIV and how people think about that, understand about it, learn about it, because I think people still tiptoe around the subject, I feel myself still tiptoeing around the subject, which makes me feel like annoyed at myself and disappointed. What do you hope for with that? Like, is there any like thing further that you feel like we need to do that we should do as as people who have it or do not have it? What do you hope for when it comes to that?
Jonathan [01:12:09] Well, I love that we’re, you know, like Moderna, just started their first like trials for a vaccine. I think Prep is really amazing. You know, like helping to keep people who are HIV negative. Negative is really important. But if you look at the funding, there is so much more funding for like keeping negative people negative versus like helping find a cure or finding like less harmful drugs for people who are positive. So like improving the lives of people who currently are living with HIV and who have been for in some cases, like 30 and 40 years. There needs to be a lot more research we need to like get a lot closer. I mean, they just do injections, which just kind of fierce. I mean, there is some, but it’s just like, we just need more research, more funding.
Jameela [01:12:51] Last but not least, you’re going through a lot right now. Right. And it’s been a wild ride for the last six years and a wild ride for your whole life. As anyone who is smart enough to read your book, go and find your book and read it for a very inspirational time. What do you want for you now? What are some happy hopes for Jonathan?
Jonathan [01:13:11] I just want self-care time, just some downtime to be with my family and my husband, and to just have some self-care time for my nervous system. Which is going to happen this weekend.
Jameela [01:13:24] Amazing. Are you doing anything in particular that we need to know about?
Jonathan [01:13:27] The Olympics, the Olympics, just the Olympics oh my God.
Jameela [01:13:31] Great. Okay. In the last couple of seconds that we have left, will you tell me, what do you weigh?
Jonathan [01:13:38] I weigh legislative progress
Jameela [01:13:41] Mmhm major
Jonathan [01:13:44] really. I weigh. Integrity. I’m like my integrity and my relationships, my integrity is really important to me. I also. How do I say like I weigh want to adopt 50 million cats but don’t want to be on Hoarders? Is that one that I can end on, I just like I weigh how much I love cats.
Jameela [01:14:14] I think that’s a lovely thing to weigh. Do you weigh anything else?
Jonathan [01:14:17] Just how much I love you. And I’m really grateful that you have me on the podcast and it was really good to catch up.
Jameela [01:14:22] I love you too, and we’ll speak soon. And let’s hang out sometime. OK.
Jonathan [01:14:26] I would love that. I would love that.
Jameela [01:14:27] OK. Lots of love. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode I Weigh, with Jameela Jamil is produced and researched by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnigan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson, and the beautiful music you’re hearing now is made by my boyfriend, James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything. Check it out. You can get a free month of Stitcher Premium by going Stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly, over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 1-818-660-5543 or email us what you weigh at IWeighPodcast@gmail.com. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners. Someone wrote in saying, I weigh my independence, my intelligence and success in school, my music and my love for my family and friends.
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