Figure skater Adam Rippon won a bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics, making history by becoming the first openly gay U.S. athlete to do so. He followed that by being the first openly gay celebrity to win Dancing with the Stars. Rippon came out publicly in 2015.
The road to success was full of ups and downs for Rippon, who started skating at 10. The hard work has paid off with many medals and accolades over the years.
He also joined other celebrities on Sept. 24 for a benefit reading of The Laramie Project for a video leading up to Laramie: A Legacy in New York City.
Before his recent Chicago House Speaker Series appearance with Wanda Sykes, Rippon spoke about his current life and upcoming projects.
Windy City Times: How did you wind up working with Chicago House?
Adam Rippon: I just had a great meeting with the team, and they went over everything that they do. It is such an incredible organization. I am super grateful to be working with them.
WCT: Do you work with charities often?
AR: I try to. I get so much joy out of helping other people. I try to be involved with as many different communities as possible.
WCT: What is your day-to-day schedule like?
AR: Each day, I open up my Google Calendar and see what is on it, because I usually don't know. I have a great group of people around me who keep me organized. It has been a lot of travel with a few things sprinkled in.
WCT: Why did you decide to come out publicly in the first place?
AR: For a really long time, I thought it would be something that I wouldn't share with anybody. Life kind of takes over. I felt it was really important.
I am from a really small town. Two weeks ago, a religious university outside of my hometown just expelled someone for being gay. That is the area I come from and why it is important to talk about who I am and where I come from, to normalize it.
I have been really lucky to do things where someone who is out can get in the home of someone who wouldn't necessarily be accepting of someone who is gay.
WCT: Do people reach out to you through social media about this?
AR: Yes. I have heard from tons of people. The stories are really amazing.
It is crazy because I still feel like me. I haven't changed and things aren't really that different. That I was able to reach so many people and share who I was, then to have them reach out and say I have been helpful to them, has been amazing.
WCT: Is there the other side to it where people ask why are you involved in politics?
AR: Of course, but I am 28 years old. I am confident in who I am. Everybody will have an opinion. I think it is better to be vocal than to be silent. To be silent means you don't stand for anything.
WCT: Is that why you started talking about politics?
AR: I started talking about politics because I was asked about it. I didn't go to the Olympics to talk about politics; someone asked me a question. If I get a question about it, then I will answer it. I thought it was important and wanted to be honest about what I was asked.
If I was asked about the competition, I would say I was nervous or just doing well. I answered honestly. When I was asked a question about the current administration I answered it honestly.
WCT: Has that spiraled into more questions asking about politics in interviews?
AR: I have been more politically involved now. I think some people wonder why, because it can be such a taboo subject matter and really polarizing to talk about, but I think it's important. If we don't talk about it, then we are never going to be on the same page.
WCT: Why do you think more sports figures are not out of the closet?
AR: There is an underlying notion that if you are gay then you are more effeminate, or not strong. There is a mentality that women can't be as strong as men, and if you are feminine like a woman, you are not a fierce competitor. It is obviously bullshit.
I think you never want to be perceived as weak. I know in my experiences as a competitive athlete, I never wanted anyone to think I was weak.
When I finally came out publicly, I felt so much stronger and was no longer hiding a part of who I am, especially in my sport where you are out there by yourself. You have a few minutes to show who you are and what you are made of. The best way to show all of me was to be honest with everybody about who I was.
WCT: What are your thoughts on Johnny Weir?
AR: I think someone like Johnny Weir helped make the road for me a lot easier. Are we the same person? No. He's way more flamboyant than I am. I appreciate someone like Johnny Weir so much, thoughespecially within my own sport.
WCT: Do you pick the music you skate to?
AR: I do. When I was younger I had some input from choreographers and coaches, but when I got older, it was really a collaboration between me and my choreographer.
You can have a great idea, but when you talk to somebody they may think it's awful. You want to talk to someone you really trust, because you can't see yourself skate.
I had a great team around me getting ready for the games. They helped me pick my music, but ultimately it was my choice.
WCT: What do people misunderstand about ice skaters?
AR: They think it is a lot easier than it really is. Being an athlete of any kind is a full-time job. When I was training for the Olympics, I would skate for about four hours, then there was another four hours of work off of the ice. It was eight hours of working out. I think every sport takes about that much time.
WCT: Wearing the harness at the Oscars made a splash. What were the best and worst moments of wearing it?
AR: In men's fashion, there is a limited amount of choices. With a woman's gown it can be so many shapes and cuts, but a tuxedo is pretty straightforward.
Getting to work with Jeremy Scottwho loves cutouts, straps and harnesseswas such a blessing. I did it because I thought it was interesting and fun. Some people felt like it wasn't appropriate, but I wasn't one of those people so…
WCT: What are you working on next?
AR: I filmed an episode of Will & Grace; that was great. I just filmed an episode of Dancing with the Stars: Juniors that premieres Oct. 7 and we run through December.
I started working with the When We All Vote campaign for the midterm elections.
WCT: One special thought from the Dancing with the Stars experience?
AR: It was on of the busiest times of my life. It was fantastic.
I have been able to work with that Dancing with the Stars family more with Juniors, so I felt right at home. It was great to be with everybody.
WCT: If they made a movie about your lifelike I, Tonyawho would you want to play you?
AR: I thought Allison Janney was so good. I would want her to play me! [Laughs]