Like any Olympian whose days of competition are behind them, Adam Rippon is looking toward his future.
Since last year’s showcase in South Korea, Rippon has been as busy as any Winter Olympian. Between his appearances for charities and across media, Rippon has also burned the candle at both ends, writing a book, “Beautiful On The Outside,” which is already available for pre-order and hits bookshelves this October.
Yet it’s a new vocation for “America’s sweetheart” that has kept him studying, learning and practicing just like he did when he was an athlete seeking his first Olympic bid.
Adam Rippon the Olympian is becoming — through hard work, some very intentional moves and a whole lot of Olympic spirit — Adam Rippon the media host.
The camera loves Adam Rippon
Rippon was born to be in front of the camera, lighting up the room every time he’s been interviewed, be it by the women of The View or Elmo. Yet Rippon says his calling is on the other side of those exchanges, hosting shows and asking the questions.
He’s landed a bunch of one-off hosting and interviewing gigs, namely with Samantha Bee and the Today Show, as well as red-carpet stints at the ESPYs and the CMAs for Good Morning America. He’s also been tapped as a correspondent for Nightline and Good Morning America, landing conversations with the Fab Five 2.0 and actress Cate Blanchett.
Rippon has found being in the driver’s seat of interviews suits him well.
“I feel comfortable and in my comfort zone when I’m doing unscripted interviews,” Rippon told Outsports. “I can be myself, I can be funny, I can be quick.
“And now, it’s a job.”
Rippon looking to break a mold
This type of job has eluded most former athletes. The vast majority who transition to journalism move into sports media. There are a handful of former athletes — Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, who’s currently a GMA host, comes to mind — who have been able to make the full transition to mainstream media.
Yet even Strahan got his start in front of the camera talking football.
Rippon wants to leave his skating behind and forge a completely new media career.
“I want to break away from being ‘the skater,’” he said, “and I’ve been working hard to do that.”
One dynamic Rippon said he’s had to contend with is his pigeon-holing as a funny-man. Because of his wit and sense of humor, some producers see him as the jokester, in the role of making people laugh, not think.
While Rippon can certainly put a smile on people’s faces, it’s also his intelligence and thoughtfulness that come pouring out when he’s given the chance. My very first interview with him, for Out magazine last year, was eye-opening in that respect, hearing him talk eloquently about civil rights and other deep issues with a gravity that shifted the energy in the room.
Rippon knows he can’t break the mold without putting in an extraordinary amount of work.
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can because I really want to channel the focus I put into being an Olympic athlete into something else. And I feel comfortable and in my comfort zone when I’m doing unscripted things. I can be myself, I can be quick.”
Yet Rippon has quickly learned that being a successful host or interviewer doesn’t rely on just “winging it.” Beyond his interest in having an engaging conversation with a subject, there are producers, directors and executives all looking for different things in a TV interview he conducts.
With various cooks in the kitchen, he has to make sure the conversation feels genuine, authentic, organic... and fits the needs of big-time media corporations he hopes will hire him.
It’s the nature of the business.
“Having a normal conversation with people is completely different from doing an interview, or bringing the conversational aspect into an interview. It can feel really produced, when you’re trying to do something authentic. You want to hit those moments for the producer, but you also want it to feel real.”
This Olympian knows about hard work and determination
Over the last year, Rippon has found that knowing his subject as much as possible is key to success. He does extensive research ahead of conversations about each person he’s interviewing. Sitting down with someone for TV is a lot of work, and the Olympic skater who stole the show on the ice on worldwide TV knows how to focus that work into a powerful product.
Even his new YouTube show — Break The Ice With Adam Rippon — takes discipline. Rippon launched his new YouTube channel just a few weeks ago and already has over 65k subscribers. He produces a new video every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but it’s his Break The Ice that showcases his ability to host and interview.
The show marries his two professional worlds — ice skating and media hosting — bringing celebrities who will brave the ice into a skating arena and onto two thin blades as they answer Rippon’s questions.
“Putting them on the ice, it’s easy to break down those walls because they feel like they could die any second,” he said. “And I figured it would be fun for everyone. They get to learn something and have fun with it.”
Rippon said no one has yet turned him down to appear on the show because of the ice-skating bit. “And after the first show premiered I had so many people reaching out.”
That doesn’t mean everyone who braves the ice with Rippon is a natural Olympian. There have been plenty of bumps and bruises filming the first season.
The guests with the biggest challenges on the ice? Maddie and Kenzie Ziegler — the twins, actresses and social-media stars (who, it should be noted, spell their last name wrong) — were newbies but braved the ice nonetheless.
Maybe not surprisingly, Rippon said Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy was the best skater in his first eight episodes of Break The Ice.
“He tried things I thought he’d have to go to Cedars-Sinai for,” Rippon said, referencing the hospital near Beverly Hills.
Today Ripon doesn’t get on the ice much more than the filming of his show. The daily training sessions are gone, and he’s now left to slip across the ice simply for enjoyment.
Stepping into the ice rink is now like going back home, a place where he can let his mind wander and plot the steps for his next great career move.
“Skating is my home, and it’s something I’ve loved for so long. It’s like therapy now, to go out and skate and enjoy and work on some old elements I used to do all the time. It’s enjoyable. It’s renewed my passion for it.
“Now I really cherish the time I get to skate.”