When Adam Rippon took to the ice on Sunday night, Feb. 11, it was like all of (gay) social media exploded at the same time. My feed was inundated with Facebook statues like, “Who is he? Where has he been?” And “OMG! He’s scrumptious.”
But once I saw him, I understood IT ALL.
I was a day late watching the men’s final long skate for the team figure skating competition, which also means I was a day late on all the fuss. Watching him skate to Birds by Coldplay, I could feel that I was watching something historical. But, in the moment, I didn’t quite know what it was.
Flash forward to the women’s long program. As the cameras watched Adam watching his fellow American teammate and best friend Mirai Nagasu become the first U.S. woman to land a triple axel in the Olympics, the tears in his eyes as the camera panned to him were genuine; they were real.
And Adam is as real as it gets.
As the first openly gay man to qualify for the Olympics (Johnny Weir didn’t come out until 2011 after the 2010 Olympics), he makes absolutely no effort to hide his gayness. His Twitter feed is a study in how hilarious he can be.
But I didn’t know all about his humor or that he was a first as I watched him skate. The only thing I knew was, as a fellow performer and artistic skater from back in the ’90s (I competed in the Junior Olympics doing the same thing as Adam, but on roller skates), I appreciated Adam’s artistry and attention to detail and — let’s face it — the sparkly blue and silver costume. In other words, I appreciated the whole package he brought to the ice.
I connected with Adam as an artist and devotee to his craft first. What I didn’t know was when I finally got a chance to see Adam off the ice, I’d connect with and love him even more.
It started with a short interview with NBC’s Andrea Joyce in which she asked about his reaction to Mirai’s triple axel. When he said Andrea’s name like he was about to spill some major tea to her, I couldn’t help but throw snaps in the air.
Here, was an Olympic athlete who wasn’t just real on the ice and with his emotions, but in every situation and interaction. And in an American society that is highly contrived and where even our “reality” is scripted, Adam’s realness is a breath of fresh air.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 12, 2018
On Tuesday, my wife called me over and asked if I had seen this video on CNN where Adam answers questions about Mike Pence. Being new to the Adam scene, I had not heard anything about his ongoing battle with Pence. I hadn’t heard that he called out Pence about his anti-gay stance — and brought the receipts. Or that he refused to meet with him.
— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) January 20, 2018
Here’s the tweet, if you want to read it all.
But after reading and seeing everything, I finally understood what it was I was feeling as I watched him skate on Monday for the first time.
In a sport that has tried (and is trying) its hardest to stay in the conservative dark ages when it comes to gender roles, gender performance, and out and unapologetically flamboyant gay skaters, Adam is a force of the hand towards progress — regardless of what the figure skating establishment wants.
So was Tonya Harding back in the ’90s when she refused to be the cookie-cutter, elegant beauty queen the figure skating league so desperately wanted their winner to be.
So was Johnny Weir when in the early 2000s he brought his buoyant personality — or, as reporter Amy Strauss put it, “bringing flash to a snoozy sport” — to the ice.
And this year, Maé-Bérénice Méité from France, again challenged female ice skating stereotypes when she came out in *gasp* pants and skated to Beyonce’s “Who Runs The World.”
What figure skating (and the entire Trump administration, by the way) fails to see is that progress — regardless of how firm the grip is to keep a sport (or a society) stagnant — is the only other thing besides death that’s inevitable. And that’s because progress is movement and the moving of particles is what keeps us alive.
And the real tea is, Adam, his artistry, and his commitment to being exactly who he is GIVES ME LIFE!
It’s giving us all life.
(And everyone should stop what they are doing and watch Adam’s CNN interview: It’s EVERYTHING!)
Brandi Amara Skyy is an award-winning writer and drag artist. You can find out more about her and all her projects as BrandiAmaraSkyy.com or @brandiamaraskyy on Twitter and Instagram.