Adam Rippon is used to making history. At age 28, he became the oldest U.S. figure skating Olympic rookie since 1936. Later, at the 2018 Winter Olympics, he took home a bronze medal in the team event, becoming the first openly gay man to win a medal at the Winter Games. Last year he also won “Dancing With the Stars” with partner Jenna Johnson. In his just-released book “Beautiful on the Outside,” Rippon details how he grew up to be a figure skater. Georgia Voice caught up with Rippon recently to talk about the book before he comes to Atlanta as part of the Book Festival of the MJCCA (Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta) on Sunday, Nov. 3.
How did this book come about?
“I kinda feel like I am at this point in my life where one chapter is ending and another is beginning. I have lived my entire life as an athlete and I learned a lot of lessons that I bring into my everyday life. I am not in sports anymore and I wanted to share those lessons.”
In the book, you mention that you didn’t want to be gay. Why not?
“I didn’t. I had been teased for being gay before I ever knew what it was and I did not want to be this thing that I was being made fun of. I thought being gay was something to keep hidden and not share with others, but I got to the point where life takes over and you meet people and you have new experiences. The only way for me to move forward and be happy was to come out to my friends and family. Eventually, I wanted to share my story.”
You did seem to have a strong support system.
“I did. I am lucky with the friends I had and my family. My experience coming out was not like it was with other kids. Mine was simple and easy.”
Yet there was some bullying?
“There was. What kept me from more bullying is that I was so focused I did not notice it. There were times when it couldn’t be missed, but at the end of the day I enjoyed who I was.”
How did your life change after the Olympics?
“My life changed pretty drastically. All of a sudden from being in the rink all day training I was traveling and speaking. There was a lot of entertainment work. It was something I always dreamed of doing but I didn’t know how I would find my way there. I am lucky – I was given a lot of opportunities.”
What was it like to be the United States’ first openly gay athlete to win a medal at the Winter Olympics?
“That wasn’t important to me at all. I was there to represent my country to the best of my ability. I went there as authentically and honestly as I could. I am proud that I was able to help my team win a medal. Being gay is a fun fact about me but it doesn’t define me.”
Did you ever imagine you’d become America’s Sweetheart?
“I didn’t. I said it very jokingly and it seemed to catch on.”
Did you ever meet Sally Field’s son, after she good-naturedly played matchmaker?
“I did. I met him a few months after the Olympics and he was a little embarrassed but it was super nice to meet.”
What is your advice for young kids struggling with their sexuality?
“I would tell them to take their time. There is no rush. Do it on your own time and find a support system that you trust. And know that if you are feeling you are part of the LGBTQ community, you will have a whole new family who will have your back.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m enjoying this book tour and I just signed a deal with Quibi to do a show next year called “This Day in Useless Celebrity History” as part of their daily platform. It will be funny and I am looking forward to it.”
To catch Adam Rippon in person, visit the Book Festival of the MJCCA at 7:30pm on Sunday, Nov. 3.