Fashion / Beauty

Queer Eye Star Jonathan Van Ness Talks New Haircare Line and Favorite Austin Spots at South by Southwest

The Launch of JVN Hair Is Celebrated With A Pop-Up Salon

BY // 03.21.22

“JVN, the most fabulous thing in Texas since big hair,” reads the iconic marquee sign outside Austin establishment El Arroyo, the eatery whose famously witty signs are curated into best-selling books. This time, the sign pays homage to Jonathan Van Ness and his recently launched hair care line, JVN, which made its South by Southwest debut with a much-anticipated pop-up salon. 

As the grooming expert of the hit Netflix show Queer Eye’s Fab Five, Van Ness has a knack for tugging at heartstrings with each uplighting transformation. The star continues to break barriers in his solo Netflix show Getting Curious with Jonathan Van NessAs if being a top TV personality isn’t achievement enough, the star is also a best-selling author, record-breaking podcaster, comedy show sell-out, hair guru to the stars, and LGBTQ+ community champion. 

“Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness and ALOK spoke at SXSW before JVN’s pop-up salon. (Courtesy of SXSW)

Perhaps the most impressive feather in his beautifully styled locks is his unabashed approach to being unapologetically who he is no matter the platform. His contagious positivity and encouraging energy is captivating – and changing the status quo. 

As an endless line of fans formed outside of the salon to get a complimentary service with JVN products, the moniker “Come As You Are” emblazoned on the front window is proof the SXSW event is not only a toast to JVN’s non-toxic haircare-for-all but a glimpse into the inclusive and welcoming world of JVN.  JVN builds on the solace and self-reflection time spent in the mirror with a skincare or beauty routine and his products are meant to be an inclusive tool for discovering that self-love. 

The morning of his pop-up opening, Van Ness spoke in a heartwarming SXSW session with friend and fellow LGBTQ+ Advocate, ALOK about their mission to de-gender the fashion and beauty industries and make the world a better place for those struggling with gender nonconformity.

At the opening of the SXSW pop-up salon, PaperCity‘s Georgie Miller got the chance to sit down with Van Ness to talk more about JVN.


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PaperCity: Tell us what is special about JVN.

Jonathan Van Ness: First and foremost is our ingredients and how our ingredients work. It is really important to me that we don’t use silicones and we don’t use sulfates. They don’t work for the issues that we are trying to treat in the first place. It’s like putting a bandaid on a much bigger issue. It can stop working and turn on you. 

The second piece is how we make everyone feel welcome. Know who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter your race, your age, your gender. You’re free to play here and use our products. And they will work on your hair. And you can either embrace what your hair is or we can help you change it if you want. I want people to have the information to change their hair to the styles they want with clean formulas that are good for them and the planet.  

Third, is environmental sustainability.  I wanted to create a line that does not rely on plastic. That is why we use glass and aluminum. It was really hard to find the right shapes and sizes. We are always trying to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint. 

PC: What is hemisqualane and why do you use it in all of your products?

JVN: Hemisqualane is a product that comes from sugarcane that we ferment. Our bodies already have squalane, but we lose it as we get older. So, JVN makes a molecular copy of squalane…

Some people say we can’t fit the square peg in the round hole. Well, this is the round peg in the round hole. It’s like the perfect size. “Hemi” means half, so it’s a half-sized molecule that can penetrate the cuticle on all hair types and deliver moisture, body, or strength from the inside out. 

Hemisqualane is so penetrative. All of our formulas with it basically tell all the other ingredients “Hey come on, let’s go get in this hair.” So it’s really powerful, it’s really transformative. What is so different about it from other formulas is that it gives you immediate results and gives you better hair over time. So it’s instant gratification and improvement over time. 

JVN Hair products are all non-toxic and created sustainably.

PC: Why is sustainability in products important to you and did it make it harder to get your products created?

JVN: It definitely took a little bit more time. There are a lot of ways we think about sustainability. From our ingredients to how we create our hemisqualane. The sugarcane that we use is grown in Brazil and that species of sugarcane is endemic to Brazil so it doesn’t require a lot of extra watering or even the gas that is created from the fermentation process.

And that’s the really cool thing about Amyris [JVN’s partnering biotech beauty company]. There are so many beauty companies that make lines that are really similar and they are all coming from the same factories. All of our company’s formulas are created in-house between our lead product formulator and myself. So we work together, we make the formulas, we test the formulas. They go through countless iterations where we are testing our products on our team and in our close circles we go through so many stages of refinement that other companies just don’t have in their arsenal because they outsource a lot of their formulation and packaging.

PC: What is your mission to start a Beauty Revolution?

JVN: I think for us, “Come As You Are” is a way of being. It’s about making sure that people know that they don’t have to change who they are to be loved and to be celebrated. Ultimately, beauty is a relationship between you and yourself.

I think that because our time spent in the mirror and getting ready in the morning is such a personal time and it’s something that really everyone does. I want to teach people right there in that moment that they are beautiful and worth celebrating just the way that they are. 

No matter what you’re doing to your hair you are already fabulous and you are already beautiful. So I think that is something for us that is very different. We are celebrating people just the way that they are and that is a beauty revolution. 

PC: What do you like most about Texans when it comes to beauty and grooming?

JVN: Oh my gosh. Texas summers are not easy. So, I would say that summers lend themselves to rocking your natural waves and curls. Like why are we blow drying our hair when it’s like 127,000 degrees and 100 percent humidity? 

So the climate lends itself to big ass texture and big ass Texas hair. 


JVN Instant Recovery Serum is a bestseller.

PC: What is your one desert island hair product?

JVN: Instant Recovery Serum. It’s just so amazing.

PC: What is your favorite restaurant in Austin?

JVN: Ok, don’t @ me everyone, I don’t want to hear about it but right now, I am going through a hard-core Taco Deli phase. I can’t go more than 24 hours without Salsa Doña. I literally took it in my checked luggage to go to New York last weekend. Salsa Doña is my number one. 

I also love Lupe Tortilla and Clark’s Oyster Bar. I’m also obsessed with Mozart’s.

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