Adam Rippon readies for bucket list, and beyond

By : Scott Stiffler OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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You’re on thin ice if you think Adam Rippon plans to rest on his laurels.

This year saw the good sport with the winning attitude take home a bronze Winter Olympics team event medal, get the gold (by coming in first on an athletes-only season of “Dancing with the Stars”), and shine, in the face of shade thrown from Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter account. Having announced last month that his days as a competitive figure skater are over, Rippon is raring to parlay his recent comedic turn on “Will & Grace” into a robust acting portfolio.

“Comedy feels like another space where I can feel super-comfortable,” he said late last week, while figuratively lacing up, in anticipation of taping scenes for the “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” holiday special, “Christmas on I.C.E.” (Dec. 19, TBS).

“I know what it takes to be a successful athlete,” Rippon said. “I want to start working with an acting coach, so when I go out for different roles, I’m prepared. I don’t want to be naïve and believe I can be successful in another career without putting in the work.”

But what good is all that preparation, to say nothing of a standout wardrobe, if cold and flu season takes you out of the running? To the rescue came Rippon’s press junket, which was brought to us by the folks at Vicks, who partnered with the skating champ for last week’s NYC pop-up experience, featuring new Vicks DayQuil and NyQuil products. Hot soup, and a meet-and-greet with Rippon, awaited attendees. The celebrity draw assured us that his endorsement of the brand stems from those years of training for competition.

Even while under the weather, Rippon recalled, “I wanted to stay on the ice as much as possible. DayQuil and NyQuil, I could always rely on to take, and it helped me get through those practices, when I wasn’t feeling so great.” What’s more, he deadpanned, Vicks products “don’t come up in drug tests.”

Deploying a disarming, off-the-cuff comment is a time-tested skill of Rippon’s, albeit one whose purpose has evolved. “Growing up,” he recalled, “I used humor to deflect. As I got older, I became more comfortable with who I was and the people around me, so I would use humor to connect. It’s a way to break down those barriers, where I’m able to meet somebody for the first time, and they feel like they know me.”

Currently at work on a memoir likely to stick its landing in late 2019, Rippon said it will “share my experience as a young kid from a small town, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.” Expect the tone to be “lighthearted and funny, even when we’re talking about important events that didn’t go in my favor.”

And there have been disappointments. After World Junior title wins in 2008 and 2009, Rippon was on the fast track to Olympic glory, and then he failed to make the cut, twice, in 2010 and 2014. But even when he didn’t end up on the podium, or competing at all, due to injury, he wasn’t one to mope — a good choice, since the camera loves sourpuss reaction shots to a poor score, or a competitor’s triumph.

“When you can cheer on other people and help them have success,” Rippon reasoned, “it always helps you. If I could be happy for them when they skated well, I felt I did better… Sometimes, when people come up, it feels like you’ve lost a little bit of yourself. But the real truth is, there’s always room for more. It’s not that one for them meant less for me.”

Then there’s the burden, or legacy, or burdensome legacy, of being a pioneer: First out LGBTQ person to compete in the Winter Olympics, and first openly gay person to win “Dancing with the Stars.”

“Yes, I’ve been the first to do them,” Rippon said, “but it’s such a small and almost irrelevant fact of my own life, because it’s just a part of who I am… Being gay is a part of me I couldn’t control. It just is. What I want to be known for is the way I treat other people, the dedication I have. Those are things I can work on.”

Looking at 2019 as a year “to transition to a new career,” Rippon hopes “you’ll be able to catch me on TV a lot more.” As for bucket list projects, Rippon envisions finding a regular gig that builds on his work as a special correspondent with “Good Morning America.” He’d also like to be in a comedic feature film. And watch out, Britney — they’ll be no “Oops!” when he does it again.

“I’ll always be a skater,” Rippon vowed. “So I would love to have my own show in Vegas. I think that would be a lot of fun, and it would be a great opportunity for so many skaters, who are great performers, to showcase that.”

Asked if he has a title in mind for the glittery Vegas marquee, the perennial can-do kid said, “I don’t have one yet, but don’t worry. I’ll think of something really good.”

Adam Rippon (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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