Adam Rippon spent his Friday afternoon the way he often does these days: rushing to the airport, between gigs, thinking of home. After a lineup of media events in New York City, he was preparing to return to Los Angeles to host the North American Hairstyling Awards, taking place in Long Beach the next day.
"[NAHA] is kind of local for me," he told PRIDE on the phone while waiting for his flight at JFK, fortunately unaffected by the delays at LaGuardia caused by the government shutdown that morning. "I trained for the Olympics in Long Beach, and [the fact] that I'll have the chance to go down and do something local is always really exciting."
He was also looking forward to next week, when he'll host the figure skating exhibition at the Four Continents Championships in Anaheim, California. Held after the competition is over, the exhibition allows some of the best skaters in the world to perform for fun and entertain their fans.
Four Continents is familiar territory for the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist, who officially retired from the sport late last year. "I won the event in 2010—so, a while ago," he said, laughing. "It's really fun to go back in a lighter setting, where it is the exhibition so the competition will be over. It's their last major event before the World Championship. And again, it's something kind of local, so it's a really fun way for me to give back to our local young kids who are going to go watch this event."
The skating competition will be a welcome return to normalcy at the start of what's sure to be a challenging year. If 2018 was the Year of Adam Rippon, media darling of the Olympics and the Oscars, guest star on Will & Grace and winner of Dancing With the Stars, 2019 is when he figures out how to turn all of that into a sustainable career.
And that means working, a lot.
Two days into the New Year, Rippon made an appearance as guest co-host of The Today Show, bantering comfortably with Al Roker. A couple of weeks later, he was giving motivational speeches at the WeWork Global Summit in Los Angeles, alongside YouTube superstar Lilly Singh. He's announced that he's writing a book due out later this year, and there's talk of him launching his own YouTube channel, according to the Daily Beast.
For this latest hectic trip to New York, he was booked as a presenter at the Town & Country Jewelry Awards, and teamed up with drag queen Aquaria to host the RuPaul's Drag Race Season 11 cast reveal on VH1's YouTube live-stream. (The production was noticeably low-budget; the audience reaction to Rippon was mixed.)
With his packed schedule, he still managed to attend New York governor Andrew Cuomo's signing of the GENDA and anti-conversion therapy bills on Friday, along with Pose stars Dominique Jackson and Indya Moore.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 25, 2019
"It was so amazing to be there. I heard about the bill being signed today and it worked out perfectly. I was actually on my way out of New York, but I had a few hours, so I decided to pop in. I just wanted to be there to show my support."
Rippon said the event became a moment of celebration for everything the LGBTQ community has accomplished, and a chance for him to take a breath before tackling the next challenge.
"To hear Governor Cuomo speak, it was just so awesome to hear all of the things that he's championing for LGBTQ rights. And then to hear Dominique Jackson from Pose speak, it just brought me to tears. She was so well-spoken and so amazing. I love her as an actress and I love her even more as a person and an activist."
This was the second time in one week that Rippon appeared at a major political event. At the Women's March LA on January 19, he gave a speech introducing Los Angeles LGBT Center chief executive Lorri L. Jean, and praised the queer politicians who were voted into office in the midterm elections, including openly gay governor Jared Polis of Colorado.
"Ironically, the state where a baker refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple," he quipped. "I'll bake him a cake now."
Olympian Adam Rippon is celebrating the progress of the LGBTQ+ community and standing with women pic.twitter.com/hkmUVr1aKE
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 21, 2019
Being such a visible advocate for social justice has its own challenges, however. The same weekend he championed women's rights in Los Angeles, Rippon was one of the few athletes who publicly struggled with the death of pairs skater John Coughlin following allegations of sexual misconduct. He posted a farewell message to his friend on Instagram, then deleted it the next day after engaging with critics who thought it was disrespectful to survivors.
"I've listened to all of you and I'm doing my best to navigate something I never thought I'd have to," he wrote on Twitter. "I'm not perfect and my heart hurts, but I don't want to contribute to someone feeling uncomfortable to share their story."
Despite that painful controversy, the figure skating community still provides a creative outlet and a space for Rippon to center himself. Fans of the sport will recognize his dynamic, emotional choreography in 22-year-old skater Mariah Bell's short program this season, set to Céline Dion (because of course). Bell's performance won the bronze medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last week.
And my baby @MariahSk8rBell. I am so proud of the skater you are and are becoming. You remind me why I love to watch skating. Every year and every skate, you create such special moments for those who get to watch you. I love you
— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) January 26, 2019
"It's my first love," Rippon told PRIDE. "I walk into a rink and I still always feel welcome, and I get a lot of joy doing the things that I get to do within skating. I try to do as many things as reasonably fit into my schedule. There's a bunch of people that I get to work with that are very close to my heart, and Mariah Bell is one of them. Getting to work with her is so fun, and it helps me, too—it helps me still stay connected to my skating family."