"You're Going to Like Me" - NYMBM Talks with Adam Rippon
"You're Going to Like Me"
NYMBM Talks with Adam Rippon
Profile by William Grant
Leaders within the gay community come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s Lady Gaga or Cher strutting down the red carpet or a small town kid simply wearing a pink shirt to school every day, finding someone who is really making a difference is inspiring to the community as a whole. Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk recently had a chance to speak with Olympic figure-skater and all around fabulous individual Adam Rippon during a teleconference where he spoke openly about his work within the LGBT community, his advice for young people, and why he thinks he’s been able to strike a cord with so many individuals within the LGBT community..
“I’m really me. And I’m really myself. And….a lot of people have said I have a take it or leave it kind of mentality, and I do, but what I think has really resonated with people and has connected with a lot of people that I don’t think that I normally would have connected to is that I don’t feel like I’ve ever asked anyone to like me. I’ve just assumed that people would. And I think that like when I went ahead and just assumed people would, it was easy for me to connect with them. Cause I wasn’t asking for their approval, I was kind of presenting myself to the world telling them that like ‘You’re going to like me.’” This level of confidence is often difficult for individuals in the gay community because of the decades of condemnation we’ve been subjected to. It’s difficult to go into the world without the fear of being disliked or hated for being oneself. “I think a lot of times us as gay people, we want people to like us and we ask them to like us and I think it was, you know, maybe different for someone to go into the Olympics as an out athlete and not ask for that approval. Just to demand it. And I, you know, I think the attention I wasn’t really expecting, but I was ready for it because I think that when you go into the Olympics anything can happen and there’s gonna be a lot of attention, but I think more than anything and more than being an out athlete, it’s important to speak up for things that you think are important. It’s important to help people who are going to come after you. To make their way easier. So it’s almost a responsibility to share your story and where you’ve come from and no matter what that is, make the people who come after you, make their journey a little bit easier. That’s, I feel like, the whole point of being on earth. To help other people.”
Adam was born as the oldest of his five siblings in the town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Raised Catholic, Adam heard many dismissive reactions in regards to gay people growing up. After rising within the figure-skating community, Adam came out publicly in 2015, just before going on to grab the gold medal at the 2016 U.S Championships. He would go on to be one of three men to be chosen to represent the U.S figure skating team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang, South Korea. He would leave with the bronze medal. Over the next few months we rose to fame for this hilarious, yet empowering tweets to his 526 thousand followers and his bright personality which shined as he made the talk show circuit. Adam continues to share his experiences with the world as an athlete and a gay man.
“What I think is important is we really share our stories and our struggles. I think a lot of times we’re afraid of what we don’t know and we’re uncertain or we’re resistant to change, but when we can learn more about other people and other circumstances, we can better prepare people to not get into the same situations we’ve got into. And I think of my own situations, of struggling to come out for the first twenty years of my life and eventually realizing that I was so much better off being out and being myself and I was embraced for being myself because I was confident and I treated people the way that I would want to be treated and that’s what I learned and I felt that it was important for me to share my story and I feel like it’s important as young people to speak up for what we believe in.” Adam speaks to the power of telling your truth and taking action. It’s not enough to just say pretty words. We have to be doing something to improve our current circumstances. “That’s why I’m also so inspired by those March For Your Lives kids who put together that march and it’s really important that you share that and you share what is going to empower people to speak up, what’s going to empower people to share their story and shed light.”
It’s hard to not feel inspired by Adam’s words and overall attitude. So many gay men are simply using being loud as their brand of activism, but he’s putting himself out there with the power to back it up. He’s not just making noise. He’s making noise to actually say something. Whether he’s gushing over Reese Witherspoon on The Late Show or working with GLAAD to help provide resources to LGBTQ youth across America, Adam has purpose behind his voice and actions. His work with the GLAAD Youth Ambassador Program has given young people an opportunity to be leaders within their own communities. “I thought, if I had somebody like this in my community, somebody smart and successful and in school and embraced, my whole world would have been so different when I was a kid.” His work isn’t simply being the face for the campaign, Adam’s actually had the chance to meet some of these individuals that the program was supporting. Their work has been a light within their own communities and the importance and necessity of that isn’t lost on Adam. “I think that when you have different role models growing up like that, it shapes your world and it gives you confidence that somebody who may have felt different or might be like you, can be strong and powerful and have a voice. It changes your outlook on a lot of things and it changes your world and it changes your life. Coming from a small town, I didn’t feel like I had those role models who were gay and out and embraced. That’s why I’m so honored to be working with GLAAD.”
Working with and helping people within the LGBT community step up and share their voice isn’t enough though. Adam believes that people who are trying to be an ally to the community have ways to step up as well. “Being gay is awesome, it’s totally cool, but it’s not special. Being gay isn’t special. What you do is special. What you do for other people is something special. If you’re able to help and empower other people, that is special. An ally should be able to notice the work someone within the LGBT community is doing and share that, share that story, share that experience. That’s what’s special. It’s important they learn about us and who has come before us.”
Since the Olympics, Adam has kept a busy schedule. Besides his work with GLAAD, he’s also balancing the Stars on Ice tour while competing on the current cycle of Dancing with the Stars. Anyone who has seen him perform, whether on the ice or the dance floor knows he brings a lot of energy to whatever he’s doing. That energy isn’t just something he turns on in an instant, it takes some personal time to get in touch with himself and what he’s working for when performing. “One of my role models growing up in sports was Michele Kwan. Maybe about ten years ago, I had the chance to do a show with her, her first performance back after not doing a show for eight years. I thought to myself ‘I’m going to watch her and I’m going to watch every fucking thing she does and repeat it because she’s Michele Kwan.’ So she was hanging out with everyone backstage and she excludes herself from the group and she closes her eyes and she takes a few deep breaths, maybe two or three, and she doesn’t say anything, she’s very quiet, and she opens her eyes and turns to the group and she’s exactly the same. But in that moment I could tell that was when she kind of harnessed her whole energy and she got it together and she got all of those butterflies and that adrenaline and she harnessed it. I know that’s what she was doing because after years of just closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths for no good reason, I realized it was more for a purpose of connecting. What are you truly feeling? How are you going to use this power? How are you going to use this adrenaline and channel this to focus? I think that before I have any sort of performance, I take that moment, even doing DWTS, it’s still something that’s performance based and there’s nerves. I take that moment where I have fun with everybody, I joke and I try to make people laugh all the time, but I take a moment before every performance and I close my eyes and I take a few deep breaths and I remind myself I am powerful and I am strong, that I know what I’m doing and I can use this adrenaline to my advantage, that I can use this adrenaline as my secret weapon to push myself further, to be more fine-tuned, to be more powerful. I take that moment then I shoot myself back into real life and in that moment I’ve really centered myself.”
It’s been a long several months for Adam and it’s not slowing down yet. He has a full schedule for the foreseeable future, but he’s working on not letting the new found fame take away from what he finds most important. “I think at the end of the day that the most important thing to remember is honesty always wins. If you’re honest and if you’re true to what that is and who you are, that’s the most important thing. Because when you’re in that, when you’re living that experience and being honest and being open and true, that’s when all of the best things happen to you. That’s when you’re able to be your best self. When I’ve been honest to who I was, that’s when I had the most fun and had the best experiences. No matter what is next, no matter what I do, I have to stay true and honest.”
And on the topic of honesty, what’s the truth about which M&M Adam identifies with? “Either the red one because he’s iconic and the most famous or the green one because she’s kinda slutty. And I love that.
And we love Adam.