ECBC Book Club: Jonathan Van Ness’ Over The Top

Every month we will be sharing a book we have found helpful- whether it has helped to lift us out of a dark place, build up our mental health toolkit, made us laugh or was simply too brilliant not to share. And we want you to get involved too! Let us know what you thought of this month’s book in the comments below or on social media (use the hashtag #ECBCBookClub).

February 2018. I was stealing (and continue to steal) my mothers Netflix account and I saw a new advert. Queer Eye. I thought, let’s give this a try shall we… 10 hours later and I had finished the series and cried many, many tears. One person stood out the most for me – JVN. What a man. What a presence. What a heart. I added him on social media instantly. I wanted to know more, I wanted to see more – I was hooked. So when he announced he had written a book – gurl just had to buy it and my goodness I have not been disappointed.

The book begins with JVN admitting he was anxious writing it because he felt people were only after the version of him we see on social media or on the telly. That we wouldn’t love him anymore once we saw his other sides. The side that maybe wasn’t so positive.

I am extremely pleased he wrote this book and I feel honoured that I have been allowed to see someones vulnerability so close up.

Content warning: JVN does discuss sensitive topics such as child abuse, drug and sex addiction. So if you do not feel you would be able to handle these topics please do not read the book.

“I have a naturally tough-as-nails, Michelle-Kwan-esque part that just don’t give up. No matter how many times I fall…”

JVN starts his story from the beginning, delving deep into his past and opening some old wounds. JVN – who’s nickname is Jack back in his hometown – first focuses on where his relationship with himself veered off path when he was physically abused when he was very young. Van Ness describes the heart wrenching moment where he opened up to a child therapist about what he had experienced and how he believed he had been seen as an attention seeker, rather than an abuse survivor.

“I hope culturally we can continue to normalise the idea that being a survivor is so much more common than anyone realizes”

JVN also discusses the harsh reality of being a feminine teenager, a male cheerleader and his complicated relationship with his father. JVN has the ability to share his vulnerability so gracefully, even when discussing how he became addicted to sex due to his self-loathing.

“As I bottled up the shame, it would build and build m until I had poked the bear and the i’d be right back in the bubble, looking for it again”

The topic of self-love is extremely strong throughout this book. With JVN making reference to how he discusses in Queer Eye the importance of self-worth and self-care. However he explains how he wasn’t always this self-aware and highlights some very dark times in his past. Young Jack would lash out as he didn’t value himself highly enough, often doing very dangerous things – taking drugs, sleeping with strangers – because he felt numb.

“The people we let in our space affect our ability to get to where we want to go, so if they’re in the way of realizing your potential, it’s okay to disconnect bcause you must choose yourself”

Throughout the book though you can hear the JVN you all know well pushing through the negativity and reminding his readers that it’s okay to have the dark times, just make sure you have positive people around you to help you fulfill your potential.

I enjoyed reading this book as JVN makes a very valid point that we all have very many layers. We all show different sides of ourselves to different people, but we are humans and come as a full package.

JVN, to answer your question, I do still love you. I love you for all your layers.

Emma x

Have you read Jonathan Van Ness’ book? Comment below with your thoughts.

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