Talking with Adam Rippon :: 'Important to Share Who I Am'

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday May 16, 2018

EDGE spoke with out Olympic medal-winner Adam Rippon recently about being in the spotlight, what he thinks of being a role model, and his friendship with Gus Kenworthy.

The break-out personality at this recent Winter Olympics is out figure skating Adam Rippon. Not only did he did he place with a bronze medal, but he won the hearts of the American public with his openness, humor, and social media savvy. As the first openly gay skater to qualify for the Olympics, he made headlines during the games by challenging Mike Pence about LGBTQ issues, refusing to meet with the Vice President because of his conservative views.

Since the Olympics, Rippon has stayed in the public eye, most recently as a contestant on ABC's hit show "Dancing With the Stars: Athletes," where he is paired with Jenna Johnson. The have qualified to compete in the show's finale on May 21 against Tonya Harding and her partner Sasha Farber, and NFL star Josh Norman and partner Sharna Burgess.

He also recently revealed being in a relationship with Finland native Jussi-Pekka Kajaala, who he met on Tinder.

EDGE spoke to Rippon about being in the spotlight, why his being open about his sexuality is important, and what it is like being a celebrity.

Favorite Olympic Memory

EDGE: If you weren't out, would the spotlight have been less worthwhile at the Olympics?

Adam Rippon I really don't know. I think that being openly gay is part of who I am and I thought that it was important to share who I am. I wanted to share every part of who I am and what it took for me to get there. More than being gay, I think my sense of humor really helped me be more relatable to a wider audience.

EDGE: Off the ice, what was your favorite memory of the Olympics?

Adam Rippon Getting to stand on the podium with my friends and teammates. Also getting to walk in the opening ceremony was something I was waiting to do my entire life. That moment was everything I thought it would be.

Rise above it

EDGE: How did the experience of being a gay athlete in the Olympics differ from your experiences in high school and college?

Adam Rippon High schools kids can be mean. When you get a little bit older you have to step outside of yourself and view those situations from the outside in. Now, I have a greater perspective of who I am and I am more confident in myself as an Olympian, a person, and a gay male.

EDGE: How do we change the way people treat the high school demographics of the LBGT community?

Adam Rippon I found that a lot of people who gave me a hard time in high school was really a total reflection on how they felt about themselves. If someone is not being kind to you it is important not to fight back and stick to your guns of who you are and rise above it. Also, realize that it may not be about you, but about something they are going through. It is also important that if you see someone that is being bullied you need to stand with them and help them.

Being a public figure

EDGE: How do you look at your new role model status within the LGBTQ community?

Adam Rippon I look at it no differently than the way I handle any other aspect in my life. I find it funny when someone comes up to me and thanks me for being myself. I don't feel like I have done anything special. I am just being who I have always been and if I can help others just be them then I am glad.

EDGE: What are the things that you love and hate about being a public figure?

Adam Rippon I honest don't hate anything about it. The one thing that is interesting is there is always going to be people who don't like what you say or have a problem with you for whatever reason. The one thing that I do like is that people know that I have a good sense of humor and I love engaging with different people and getting to know them. Instagram and Twitter are really cool platforms that help connect with so many different people around the world.

EDGE: With the whirlwind of excitement that your life has been recently, are you looking forward to some downtime?

Adam Rippon I don't know because I am really enjoying it. Yes, my schedule has been really crazy, but I am loving it. One thing that I would like to do when my schedule calms down a bit is take a really long bath.

Friendship with Gus Kenworthy

EDGE: What challenges do you think you will face while on "Dancing with the Stars?"

Adam Rippon The thing that I have been working on the most right now is partnering. Working with Jenna Johnson has been great. I have to remember that it is two people doing the dance and not just me. Jenna is so patient and that has been helping me a lot.

EDGE: What has been your best experience as an out athlete?

Adam Rippon It has been the outreach of other LGBTQ people. Listening to them share their stories or how me being out at the Olympics has helped them.

EDGE: What can you tell us about your new friendship with skier Gus Kenworthy?

Adam Rippon Gus and I met at the opening ceremonies and ever since then I feel like we have this connection for the rest of our lives. I am so fortunate that he came into my life. We became close so quickly because of our shared experiences as athletes and gay men.

For more information about Adam Rippon, visit his website.