Conversation with Olympic Figure Skater Adam Rippon

Adam Rippon took the international sports stage by storm this winter when he became the first openly gay American man to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics. He not only won a bronze medal while he was there, but became an LGBTQ icon by being unapologetically himself and using his influence and platform to stand up for our community.

Thanks to our friends at GO Cedar Rapids, our executive director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel got the chance to chat with Adam about his life and work post-Olympics. Adam will be sharing his story next weekend at newbo evolve, a new event spanning three days of art, music, and inspiration in the heart of Cedar Rapids. Each year, this celebration will highlight different areas of the arts and technology, giving attendees a chance to grow, explore, and celebrate.

Adam won’t be the only LGBTQ icon featured at this inaugural event on August 3-5. Christian Siriano, John Waters, and Carson Kressley will also share their stories and expertise with attendees. More featured talent include Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, Clint Harp, Alexis Ohanian, and more. Check out the full schedule by clicking here.

If you want to snag concert tickets or passes for newbo evolve, we have discount codes for you! Each code will get you 25% off your order.

Concert ticket code: NE2018 (code expires Friday, July 27 at 10 p.m.)

Maroon 5 tickets: http://bit.ly/Maroon5AtEvolve

Kelly Clarkson tickets: http://bit.ly/KellyAtEvolve

3-Day Pass code: Rapids (code is good through Friday, August 3)

Buy newbo evolve passes here: http://bit.ly/50evolve

Now, on to the interview!

We’re also doing a pass giveaway on our Facebook page and will announce a winner on Friday, July 27 at noon. Check it out and enter the contest using this link.

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Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel: Have you ever been to Iowa before?

Adam Rippon: No, this will be my first time going to Iowa–I’m looking forward to it.

Daniel: I love hearing people’s impressions, so I’ll be excited to see what you think of it, but what do you anticipate or expect of your visit?

Adam: Well, I’m really excited to be going, I think that it’s gonna be really fun. I always like going to places and getting to kind of share my story and share things that are important to me and I’ve always liked, you know, when I can have the chance to explain my journey to the Olympics and things that I’ve gone through to get there. And, you know, just getting to meet so many different people.

Daniel: Absolutely. Talk specifically about some of the things you have been doing, or what you’ve been up to since the Olympics.

Adam: Sure. Since the Olympics I’ve been pretty busy, and I’ve gotten to do some things that have been really fun, I went on tour with Stars On Ice right after the Olympics, and was on Dancing With the Stars, which was great, and then I’ve also hosted the Trevor Project [gala] and I did a bunch of LGBTQ things during Pride Month. I also got to work with Good Morning America at the ESPYS, I’ve been starting to work with Cosmo a little bit, so I’ve been trying to do it all. (laughs)

Daniel: You not only were on Dancing With the Stars, but didn’t you win Dancing With the Stars?

Adam: I did, yes.

Daniel: (laughs) So modest.

Adam: Sometimes.

Daniel: What are you gonna, specifically, be talking about at the event next week when you’re in Cedar Rapids?

Adam: When I’m in Cedar Rapids, what I’m really gonna try to hit home is things that inspire me to go out and really truly be yourself in any setting. And I think that when I had the chance to go to the Olympics, I was 28, and, I’m still 28, by the way, (Daniel laughs) but when I went, it was a really great time for me because I had just made the Olympic team two times before. At 28 I was one of the oldest first-timers in figure skating since the 1920’s  and I think that for me I really knew what I wanted the experience to be about, it wasn’t about just going, and it wasn’t just, you know, getting that title of being an Olympian or being an Olympic medalist, it really was going there, and representing your country to the best of your ability.

And more than that, I realized that to do that I needed to know who I was so that I could represent myself. Because there are so many different types of people that make up America and I felt that, for me, to represent where I come from I need to represent myself. So I felt that after everything I had gone through, all of the ups and downs, all of the work that I had put in on the ice and, I think more than anything off of the ice, helped me have such a great experience and I feel that I really wanna share that with people, because it’s been able to translate into so many other things I’ve gotten to do since.

And I think all of that growing off the ice and really anything like, why I was doing what I was doing and making it more general, so instead of just going to the Olympics, you know, ‘cause you can just go to the Olympics, you can buy a ticket. Like, they’re expensive, but if you just wanna go you can just get a ticket, and I realize that it was more than that. And I think that when you’re setting goals and stuff, it’s always more than just checking a box. It has to mean more than that, [just be more than that], you become a little bit more grateful.

Daniel: That’s amazing. Going to the Olympics is for sure on my bucket list. I am one of those maybe-not-so-weird people, but if I could take time off work and just watch the Olympics I would do that.

Adam: Oh, if you ever can, you totally should, and you should start planning for LA 2028 because I think, we’ve had skating world championships at home, we had the World Championships in 2016 in Boston, and the American and World Championships were incredible. And I’m only 100% positive that having an Olympic Games at home is gonna be unreal and incredible.

Daniel: I’ll have to start planning for sure now–I have some time. (laughs)

Adam: You have ten years. (Daniel laughs)

Daniel: How have you, or are you, using your new platform now that you are this big time celebrity that people do know, to promote all the things that you care about?

Adam: Well, I think, like with this new platform, one thing I try to do is I try to bring humor into a lot of subjects that are kinda tough. But also, you know, really push forward that they’re important and, you know, it shouldn’t be taboo. Especially things that involve different LGBTQ causes, but even other things.

Like I’m getting to work with the Trevor Project, it’s like a suicide prevention hotline, and we got to host a dinner. It was pretty timely, right after Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade had committed suicide and I think it’s important to talk about things like that.

And I think now and the next few months I really wanna start, you know, pushing to get the vote out in the midterm elections, and getting people registered. And I think right now, more than ever, I see so many young people, like really fresh, 18-, 19-year old kids getting involved in politics, and I think that it’s great to have them involved. But more than anything, it’s so important to get everybody registered and get the vote out and if you wanna make a change it starts not with just the general election, but it starts with the midterms.

Daniel: Absolutely. And at the local level, that’s something that we will be working on at One Iowa here this election. What do you hope your story inspires in people?

Adam: I think what I’m hoping my story inspires people, I hope it inspires them to kind of look a little bit more inward sometimes. I think sometimes it’s so easy to look around and see people doing other things that maybe sometimes are things that you want to do or you want to be involved in. I think it’s really easy to look around and see somebody else’s story or a few stories that match up with that one and you look at yourself and you’re like, “Well, what the ****, mine doesn’t match up at all.”

And I think that what I want people to come away with is that age is just a number, and everyone’s story is a little bit different. That you can be from any sort of walk of life, you can be from a small town in Pennsylvania and you can apply yourself and think big and always kind of see yourself greater than where you are, and push yourself to go there. And I think that no matter what you do, that if you enjoy what you’re doing and you love what you do, that always translates and that always will make you successful, in, like, any sort of job, any sort of passion, and going toward any sort of goal.

Daniel: I love that. We just started a new LGBTQ Leadership Institute and one of the big focus areas is authenticity, and I think that that’s the first start in order to be a great leader. It’s knowing yourself and then captivating that into whatever you want to be in the future. I know we’re running short on time; I have one final question. How are you going to maintain the title of America’s sweetheart?

Adam: Well, probably the same way I got it–by just telling people that I am. (both laugh)

But I think that to, like seriously that when I, you know, I jokingly said it, but I think that’s the way to do that, is to just continue to be authentic, be honest, and to continue to live every day and be as unafraid as possible. And I think that means if there’s something that is important to me, that I speak about it, and engage in conversation with so many different people, and then hear about their perspectives and do whatever I can to kind of push forward things that are important and I think need to be talked about. And, at the same time, you know, make people laugh, make people smile, and and in that way you’re able to be very tricky and very sneaky and also push something important at the same time.

Daniel: Yes, I love that. And you did that this last year with the Olympics, especially. Well, I think you’re gonna fall in love with Iowa, we’re pretty amazing.

Adam: I mean, I’m ready to fall in love. (both laugh) I’m looking forward to it.

Daniel: Hopefully we can get you to come back to Iowa–next year, we are celebrating ten years of marriage equality in Iowa. I don’t know if you knew or remember Iowa was third in the country to pass marriage equality, but next year our organization’s gonna be celebrating ten years and we’ll be throwing a huge party and we’ll get you to come back to that.

Adam: I might have to. I’m gonna have to clear my calendar and figure it out.

Daniel: April 12th, 2019, get it on your books!

Adam: Okay, noted!

Daniel: Well, thank you so much, I know you have such a busy schedule, for taking time to chat with us–we’re excited that you’re coming to Iowa and I hope to meet you in person someday.

Adam: Yeah, that would be great, I would love if we could meet in person. And thank you so much, it’s totally my pleasure.