Adam Rippon Focuses on His Best Self (And Is Having a Great Time Doing It)

by Robert Nesti

EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

Thursday February 6, 2020

Since winning a medal at the 2018 Olympics, Adam Rippon has attended the Oscars in a harness by Moschino, competed and won "Dancing with the Stars," appeared in a video with Taylor Swift, and launched his own YouTube channel. He also recently published his memoir, "Beautiful on the Outside," his account of his career and his recent transition to show business. And it can be said that celebrity suits the charming Olympian, as evidenced by his delightful appearances on such shows as "Ellen," "The Late Show" (where Reese Witherspoon gushed over him), and (my favorite) "Ridiculousness."

The classically handsome Rippon (check out those cheekbones) first made headlines at the Olympics (where he was the first out skater to win a medal), when he refused to meet Mike Pence, who led the US delegation to the games, because of the VP's homophobic views.

Though retired from professional skating, Rippon continues to make appearances on ice, such as this coming Sunday in Boston's Seaport District where he opens the Snowport Winter Village, an interactive space that features a 3,000 square foot ice skating rink and an array of complimentary winter activities including iceless curling, yoga, themed skate nights, and warm beverages.

For more information on this event, visit the Boston Seaport website.

The event starts at 10am with a solo figure skating performance by Rippon. The performance will be followed by a Q/A with former figure skater, 2014 Olympic Medalist and Boston resident, Ashley Wagner, a book signing of Rippon's recent memoir, "Beautiful on the Outside," and a meet and greet, allowing fans across the city to connect with the Olympian.

EDGE recently spoke with Rippon about his memoir, being outspoken, and the state of LGBTQ rights.

Why 'Beautiful on the Outside?'

Adam Rippon: I am super excited. I love Boston so much, so any opportunity I have to come and visit is one that I take advantage of.

EDGE: What are you planning on doing in Boston?

Adam Rippon: It's a combination of a few of my favorite things. One, is talking about myself, because I'll be talking about my book; and, the other is opening the rink, which is really fun. I am super-excited about seeing the Seaport. I have a really good friend that lives in Boston and she has been telling me that it is really beautiful. Actually it is Ashley Wagner, who is doing the Q&A with me.

EDGE: Why did you call your book "Beautiful on the Outside?"

Adam Rippon: I wanted to name it something so off the bat it was going to seem like a funny book. But the deeper meaning of it is that even when I didn't feel good about myself or confident about who I was, I needed to put this 'beautiful on the outside' exterior up so that people didn't know that. I think sometimes we can poke fun at that because it is an experience that everybody goes through no matter where they are in their lives. We all try to put this beautiful on the outside exterior; but sometimes if we acknowledge that we are doing that, we can take power in those flaws that we have. I think we can spend so much energy on trying to project a certain image of ourselves, but if we step back and relax and the true image of ourselves of being honest and genuine is more appealing and more relatable.

Being authentic

EDGE: You have often spoken about how important it is to be authentic. Why?

Adam Rippon: There were so many times in my skating career and in my personal life that I tried to be the image of what people wanted. I wasn't focusing on what I wanted and what would make me happy. So once I focused on that, the more I enjoyed the process. In every career there are high and lows, but when I had the lows was when I really felt authentic to myself, and I didn't see them as setbacks or failures; I saw them as learning opportunities. I think the time I was most authentic with myself was shortly after I didn't make the Olympic team for a second time. I started doing things for myself. I was skating because I wanted to do. And when I focused on that, I had the most success as a skater.

EDGE: When you let go, did skating become a more enjoyable experience?

Adam Rippon: I think everything becomes a more enjoyable experience when you focus on being your best self. When you give your best self in every situation you encounter, you will get the most out of it. When you do that, you can walk away and be proud of that no matter the outcome. Not everybody is going to love what you do, in those instances you can take a step back and see how you can improve for the next time. You truly enjoy your experiences when you are giving everything that you have and everything that you are.

EDGE: What has the experience been like moving from sports to the entertainment industry?

Adam Rippon: Well, first, it is a dream come true. I always wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry. I love making people laugh. It has been my number one passion since I think I was born. I am from a big family — I am the oldest of six and we are always competing for attention. And whenever I go home there are so many laughs. Some of the funniest people I have ever met are my siblings and it is so much fun to go home.

But it has been a daunting experience, to begin with. It is a completely different experience to end the day and be mentally exhausted. As an athlete, when you end the day you are physically exhausted. And there have been times in the past few years that I have felt lost and not sure of what I was doing because the schedule is so different. What I am doing now is so different than when I worked towards my earlier goals. As an athlete, my goal was to be at the Olympics. I set that, when I first started, when I was ten. So it was something that was on the horizon for me for 18 years.

And it still feels surreal that it came and I got to go. When it was over, that everyday focus I had for such a long period of time was gone, and it can be really challenging to sort through those feelings. There are so many different feelings and emotions that you go through that I really didn't understand. I looked to other sports figures for their experiences and was happy to find one in Michael Phelps, who shared his journey in retirement that was really challenging. Even for Michael Phelps! And so I feel really grateful that I have a clearer ideas of what I want to do and projects I want to take on, and where I see myself in the next couple of years. But this is a huge undertaking for me.

Being outspoken

EDGE: You are not one to not express what you think. Where do you get that confidence?

Adam Rippon: I think I get that confidence to be outspoken from always remembering what it felt like to not speak my truth. I felt like I could do more and help more people, and that burden I put on myself to not share my opinions felt like too much. So even if I have an opinion that isn't popular to a lot of people, it is important for me to share them because that's how we learn and grow. I think one of the best things about social media is that we can really share. I remember the times that I have the most success, and it is when I was honest and genuine and spoke my mind and spoke from the heart. I always try to remember and keep that feeling with me.

EDGE: Are you supporting Elizabeth Warren?

Adam Rippon: I love Elizabeth Warren. Right now I live in Las Vegas. I split my time between Las Vegas and LA. I got to do an event for her at her campaign office in Vegas. I think it is important no matter who the Democratic nominee is that we support them. But I think that candidate is going to be Elizabeth.

EDGE: What inspires you?

Adam Rippon: People who live their truth. And people who enjoy what they're doing and don't worry about what other people think, that inspire me. I think people who push boundaries and people who aren't afraid to think big, that inspires me. There are times where I have gotten to do things in my own career and I look back and think, that was kind-of daring. I wouldn't be able to do that if there weren't people that came before me or people around me who inspire me to do the same thing.

EDGE: Why is the Trevor Project your charity of choice?

Adam Rippon: The Trevor Project is my charity of choice because I have worked with them for a few years now. I love the work that they do. To able to have a 24-hour LGBTQ hotline is so important. Just to have that outlet for so many young people who might be in a situation where they feel that there is nobody there to listen to them or hear them out, to know that there is someone there is important. Especially now when there are so many times when it feels things are hopeless or moving backward. I think to have this outlet is something really important. To hear the stories of people who have been affected by the Trevor Project is so inspiring. That is why I am so passionate about working with them.

Stand up

EDGE: You mentioned "moving backward," are LGBTQ rights under siege?

Adam Rippon: Yes. And it frightens me. In the LGBTQ community, if we feel that we have a voice, it is time for us to stand up for other people in our community who might feel they aren't being heard or feel under attack. I think me, being a white man who is gay in the LGBTQ+ community, I come from a place of privilege, but want to use that to help people in the community who need a voice or feel like people aren't listening. So I think it is the responsibility of all of us in the community to stand up for a black transperson, stand up for someone who doesn't feel safe to walk the streets, stand up for someone being fired from work for just being who they are. I feel a sense of responsibility and hope others in the community feel so as well, that if they have the platform and the voice and are in a safe place, that they use their voice as well, because so many times in the history of our community, it is the people who have been the most marginalized who spoke up for us. And who have really been pivotal in the movement.

EDGE: Is acting on your horizon?

Adam Rippon: I would love to. I always love performing. As an athlete, I think in my last years of my career, I focused on the performance more than the competition. I trained really hard so I would perform really well. I have gotten to act a little bit, which I enjoy. But I have been focusing on the comedy aspect and I think that could transition itself into more acting opportunities. I definitely need to do a little more work. I am no Anne Hathaway.

EDGE: Or Gus Kenworthy?

Adam Rippon: He was so good on "American Horror Story!" It was so fun to see him step outside of that athlete world. He was so good as an actor. I was so proud of him.

EDGE: Do you have a social life?

Adam Rippon: I do. But I am like an insane person. I love working. I am so used to working like a dog as an athlete and am now doing so in entertainment world. I am always trying to meet new people or new projects to take on or like to do. I get my most enjoyment out of my small social circle — being with the people I have known for years and years. The friends I am really close with I've been friends with for 15 years plus. They have been with me for so many ups and so many downs.

EDGE: Sally Field attempted to fix you up with her son, Sam Greisman. Did that ever happen?

Adam Rippon: I never did have a date with Sam. Sally Field did a great job of trying to get us together, but it never worked out. We did meet and he's lovely.

For more information about Adam Rippon's appearance at Boston's Snowport Winter Village on Sunday, February 9 at 10am, visit the Boston Seaport website.

For more on Adam Rippon, visit his Facebook page.

Watch this YouTube video of Adam Rippon hiking with his bf JP in Finland:

Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].