Anyone who has watched Netflix’s “Queer Eye” knows that grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness just can’t contain himself. He whips his long hair, he feigns surprise. And he is an open heart, offering words of love and encouragement while giving people on the show the best haircut of their lives.
So it made perfect sense that Van Ness was the prize in a contest put on by Seattle’s Elysian Brewing. He officiated at a wedding that marked not only the start of Pride Month, but the year-old anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a cake-shop owner who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
“We’re trying to turn a bad day into a good day,” said Carla Schier, of the Honey Crumb Cake Studio, which made one of the cakes for Tuesday’s wedding.
“Am I qualified? Uhhh … that’s a really good question, TBH,” Van Ness said not long before a couple named Haden and Megan would stand before him and a roomful of guests at the Capitol Hill brewery. “I am full of love. And I love a good wedding. I think what’s really fun is more about what this platform represents. Of being full of love and being able to be that person. Being able to provide that for someone is sweet and exciting.”
Just then, the bride and groom appeared, he in a blue tuxedo, she in a cream dress, her hair gathered in a violet bun.
“Oh-my-God-you-look-so-pretty-queen-wow!” Van Ness said. “Wow-wow-wow. So gorg! Yas, queen. Love.”
Haden and Megan (they asked that their last names not be published) met at the University of South Carolina seven years ago, on her first day as a transfer student. She walked in, late, to a 300-student class. The only available seat was next to him.
“It was nonstop talking,” Megan remembered, “and then it just got worse.”
They moved to Seattle four years ago “to have a place to grow,” she said.
Haden, 27, transitioned last year and remembered how Megan, 26, cared for him after he had surgery. He couldn’t even feed himself, he said.
“I was in so much pain, I was crying,” he said. “But it was worth it because I had Megan.”
They were one of fewer than 10 contest entries — 60-second Instagram videos all — that came into Elysian from around Washington state.
They were reviewed by Elysian founder Joe Bisacca and members of the Seattle Pride organization, including President Kevin Toovey.
“Everyone in the room was either laughing or crying,” he said of the judging. “They just had this natural energy that made everyone fall in love with them.”
Toovey noted that this also marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
“We’ve come so far,” he said of the LGBTQ community. “But slowly but surely, our rights are being infringed upon. So if you’re sad or scared, we’re going to push back and fight every step of the way. Make it loud and proud.”
Bisacca remembered the brewery serving several different communities when it opened in 1996. It is still a supportive space, he said. The wedding — and the Glitter ale — make that clear.
“We wanted to do something authentic and real, making a statement,” Bisacca said. “We as Elysian have your back. Love has no label and we want you to be you.”
When Megan and Haden learned they had won the contest, she cried for three days. They had wanted to get married, but couldn’t really afford a big party. She works for a local jewelry business; he is an administrator at a disaster-restoration company. They both work at Starbucks, as well.
Having Van Ness perform the ceremony “is beyond my wildest dreams,” Megan said. “I couldn’t have dreamed anything better than this.”
Said Haden: “It’s amazing and heartwarming to have strangers put so much love into us.”
Van Ness, 32, performed the ceremony dressed in a Balenciaga shirtdress and Reebok sock shoes, having sprained his ankle last week while ice skating — but not before completing a single salchow, which he was happy to share on his phone. (Coming soon to Instagram).
With the success of “Queer Eye,” Van Ness misses his quiet time at home, and not being recognized. He feels like he has to be on — and perfect.
“I do miss being able to have a busted side knot,” he said. “But that’s not my season right now.
“It’s kind of like Michelle Obama saying, ‘I haven’t driven a car in seven years.’ It’s like, ‘Ya, but queen, you’re Michelle Obama.’ The things you have afforded and the platform that you have is so worth the trade-off.”
His advice to the couple: “Have a strong relationship with yourself. The more solid and the more love you have for yourself, the more fully you can come into a relationship.”
Said Megan: “I can’t thank him enough for what he’s brought into my life around self-acceptance. Learning to be gentle and patient with yourself. It was fate.”