By Joey Amato
Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon has certainly not slowed down since winning a bronze medal at this year’s Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. The outgoing and hilarious Rippon is currently on a nationwide Stars on Ice tour and is about to participate in the next season of Dancing with the Stars. At the same time, he’s become a spokesperson for GLAAD and an overnight LGBTQ icon.
Rippon took some time out of his incredibly busy schedule to chat with Unite Seattle from Washington, DC where he was training with his dance partner Jenna Johnson for Dancing with the Stars.
Do you think that if you weren’t openly gay, you would have received as much attention as you did? I don’t know. I believe that being openly gay is part of who I am, and I felt it was important to share who I was because I had missed out on going to the Olympics twice before. I felt like this time it was important that I share every part of who I am and what it took for me to finally get there.
Off the ice, what was your favorite Olympic memory? Getting to stand on the podium with my friends and teammates was an absolute dream as was getting to walk in the opening ceremony. It was something I had been waiting to do my entire life. I thought about that moment over and over growing up, and it was everything I thought it would be.
How has your perspective of the Olympic Games changed since you began skating professionally? As you get older, you must step outside yourself to analyze situations from the outside in. You have a greater perspective of who you are and what’s going on. I had a better idea of who I was and why I was there because I questioned it so many times before. I didn’t have a reason why before and as I got older, I realized I liked working hard and setting goals. The Olympics were a bi-product of that.
Aside from your trainers, did you have a support system leading up to the Olympic Games? I was lucky to make some incredible friends, some who I’ve known for at least 10 years. They’ve seen me at my highs and lows and I felt so connected to them when I was at the Olympics because they were on that journey with me. They helped me gain perspective and at the end of the day, they wouldn’t love me any differently if I didn’t go to the Olympics. Knowing that made the journey easier.
How do you view your new role model status? It’s still funny for me to have someone come up to me and say, ‘Thank you for being yourself.’ I don’t feel like I’ve done anything special or brave. I was just able to be myself on a major platform. I don’t treat anybody any differently now. I treat people the way I want to be treated. The most important thing is not to forget where I came from. Doing something little can really change a person’s life, so when you have the opportunity to do so, take it.
What do you love and hate about being in the spotlight? I don’t really hate anything about it. The one thing that’s interesting is there are always people who don’t like what you are going to say or have a problem with you for whatever reason. That’s the only part that isn’t great. What I like is now when I say something funny on Twitter, a lot of people think it’s funny and can enjoy my sense of humor. I love engaging with people on social media.
What has been your best experience as a public member of the LGBTQ community? My best experience has been able to reach other LGBTQ people. It’s something you will never be prepared for. For a long time, my journey was personal, and I did a lot of self-discovery. I wasn’t expecting such a large response. Because of the place I’m in now, I don’t see negative experiences as negative and I look past them. I focus on the great things going on in my life.
What advice would you give to a person going through life’s challenges? You really need to think about the things you like about yourself and celebrate those. Everybody goes through periods in our lives and wonder what others think of us, and it’s important to realize that everyone goes through these experiences. You need to get to point where you like things about yourself and celebrate them.
You’ve recently partnered with GLAAD. Do you see yourself joining forces with other organizations? Absolutely. It’s so important to me to align myself with causes and people who help make the journey for someone like me so much easier. It’s because of organizations that have pushed for equality that make it possible for people like me to have a voice and be able to give back. I wish that the next group of out Olympians are just “Olympians” and their sexuality isn’t a huge talking point.
If you ran into Mike Pence at Starbucks, what would you say to him? I would say ‘When are we having that talk you promised we’d have?’ When I was at the Olympics, I didn’t really feel like he was the right person to lead the delegation and I stand by that feeling. If I were given the chance to have a talk with Pence, I’d tell him that it’s not about me. It’s about the people whose lives he’s changed. It’s the people whose lives were changed because of legislation he pushed. They are the people who really have something to say to him. Things that he has said and done have had little effect on my life, but have affected the lives of so many others.
In closing, Rippon mentioned that going to the Olympics is an opportunity for the country to come together and cheer for the athletes from your country. As an openly gay Olympian who brought home a medal, Rippon mentions it was a great way to highlight different LGBTQ people who are out and successful.
“It was important for me to be out and compete to show people that you can be who you are and still be incredibly successful. I hope it inspired kids and even adults who may be struggling. When you embrace who you are, is when you start to fulfill your potential.”