Fans of Netflix's "Queer Eye" know Jonathan Van Ness as the sassy and hilarious grooming expert with a heart of gold. TODAY Style spoke with the hairstylist and media personality about what advice he would give his younger self and what happened when heard he was cast for this beloved reboot. (Spoiler alert: He was in the middle of dyeing someone's hair.)
In the world that we live in, when you're a man you're supposed to just, as my grandma would say, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and just put on your brave face and get through it.
And I always did pull myself up by the bootstraps, but while singing Hansen at the top of lungs and wearing the tallest Doc Martin boots that I could save up my money to buy and I couldn't stop talking about Michelle Kwan and Shannon Miller because I just really wanted to be a gymnast or a hairstylist, I didn't care which ...
And, you know, that's the spirit that I love about myself.
It was never easy to forge that path with being all this in a place where all this wasn't always easily accepted (editor's note: Van Ness is from Quincy, Illinois). I wasn't sure how to be accepted and how to be loved, but I figured it out and I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and I let my spirit in there and I let it shine.
I think the key for me being able to keep my spirit intact was taking it one thing at a time. I couldn't really pick out an exact time in my head where I was like, "That's how I'm gonna make this shine."
But I think one thing that my stepdad, who was amazing, always taught me is to ask myself, "What's my next correct decision?" Like, what's the right move just one thing ahead. I think doing that over and over and over again, eventually you're like, "How did I get here? This is adorable."
My advice to anyone who's trying to figure out who they are is, well, not to quote Joel Osteen but, I've noticed that success is defined by how quickly you move between your failures.
It's about how you quickly you dust yourself off and get back up when you don't book something or whatever it is for the field that you're in. So you've just got to keep going. And success is really defined by how quickly you dust yourself and be like, "Girl, I still love you, get the next one."
When I saw the first season of "Queer Eye," I was like, "Why am I crying so much?" And it's not even because I'm, like, seeing myself. I was thinking that the storytelling is making me feel everything right now.
One thing that I love about my castmates is that they all give me space to be me and they all just love you right where you are. They don't need you to change this and they don't need you to do that. They are just the most loving, gracious, accepting guys in the world.
To my younger self, I would say unless you're literally in danger, ask forgiveness instead of asking permission. There are times when you should listen to what people say about you, but also a lot of times you just don't need to listen so much. Don't worry so much and just go. Unless you're, like, in dange and then don't. And then run, girl.
My mom's an ovarian cancer survivor and she's been cancer free for four years. And my favorite thing about her is that she, too, has a spirit that can pull it up and get it together.
I'm just so grateful that she's here.
And that she can quilt, because she made me the most gorgeous quilt I've ever seen. It has everyone from Hillary Clinton to Michelle Kwan to Venus Williams to my grandma to Blanche Devereaux, played by Rue McLanahan, the cast of "First Wives Club," Madeline Albright, Tara Lipinsky ... I'm obsessed with it.
As told to TODAY's Emily Sher. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.