Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

US Johnny Weir competes in his Figure Skating men's short program at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics on February 16, 2010. Getty Images/YURI KADOBNOV (YURI KADOBNOV)
US Johnny Weir competes in his Figure Skating men's short program at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics on February 16, 2010. Getty Images/YURI KADOBNOV (YURI KADOBNOV)

Jeanne Beker

Olympian Johnny Weir skates a fine line Add to ...

'Maybe a little bit of gloss on the cheekbones, just to wake me up," instructs Johnny Weir, the skating world's new poster boy for flamboyance. It's the day after the men's figure-skating finals, and I've been invited by MAC Cosmetics to watch the 25-year-old renegade athlete get primped and powdered - an exercise I suspect may result in a new Viva Glam star being born any day now.

The Pennsylvania-born Weir, who came in a disappointing sixth in the Olympic showdown, has also just announced his intentions to pursue a career in fashion design one day. No big surprise: While U.S. gold medalist Evan Lysacek relies on the talents of designer Vera Wang for his dramatic costumes (Lysacek wore black catsuits for his programs - one with feathered cuffs and the other with glittering snakes around the neck), Weir delights in designing his own snazzy outfits.

His pink-trimmed, black vinyl corseted number and the dazzling black and white crystal creation he sported for the short and long programs respectively, brought an exciting edge to these competitive displays, punching up the notion that fashion and figure skating are pretty fabulous bedmates.

But Weir, already the star of his own reality show, skates a fine line between artistry and athleticism, and is forever repelling the slings and arrows of those determined to think "inside" the box.

This past week, he spoke out against the cruel remarks of two Quebec commentators who accused the fearless skater of hurting the sport's image, and suggested he be made to take a gender test. But far from being bitter about the homophobic remarks, he merely insisted that he hoped his personal style would be a beacon of inspiration for kids everywhere who, as he put it, "dance to a different beat."

I spoke with Weir about his penchant for non-conformity and his passion for his art.

Nothing comes without a price. Do you feel that your rebel spirit may sometimes play against you?

I definitely take no prisoners in my life, and I have no regrets. So, if I choose one direction and one path, that's what I'm going to stick to, regardless what I lose or gain in the process. So, yes, I know a lot of people are turned off by me personally because I'm kind of an over-the-top personality, and not everyone likes it and an athlete should be an athlete first and foremost. But I feel like being an athlete is just part of who Johnny Weir is. I definitely wear my heart and personality on my sleeve and I do think it hurts me in some ways, but again, I have no regrets about it.

Would you say you use fashion, costumes and makeup to empower yourself?

What's the point in going outside if you don't feel beautiful? And I feel beautiful when I'm in my best clothes and my hair is coiffed and my face is made up and I look like the best product I can put out. Regardless if I'm going to the grocery store or I'm in front of the camera.

Do you feel as though you carry a torch for people who want to express themselves?

Yes, and that's all I ever want to do. I don't need to be a role model for the masses. I've never been someone to follow that dream, and to be the "Wheaties box" kind of athlete. If there are certain people that can be inspired by what I do, and everything that I've gone through, that's amazing. But I think when I wake up in the morning, I need to be inspired by myself, and then everything else will fall into place.

It's a little enigmatic to think of you as a sports figure when obviously, under all that gold lamé, beats the heart of a true artist.

I think that to be a great athlete you have to be an interesting person. You have to never be afraid to be yourself and voice your own opinions. Inside, I'm definitely an artist, and that's something that has only helped my skating. But because of all these crazy things I do and say and the way I act, people forget that I'm also an athlete. I've qualified for two Olympic Games from one of the strongest countries in sports in the world. I'm a world medalist and there are all these things that I've accomplished in my sport but they never get focused on. And it's kind of a good thing.

A lot of people in fashion are buzzing about the fact that you announced this week that one day you want to become a fashion designer.

Oh absolutely. I want to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and learn the basics. I mean anyone can say they're a designer. And they can sketch and draw and have somebody sew something, but I want to know the business management of fashion. I want to know how to foresee trends, how to foresee what's going to be hot, what will do well, what will sell to the select ladies who will wear my fashions. I definitely want to be a designer. I think it would be so cool to have my own runway and choose my own models - to be branded.

If you had to articulate what you'd like your brand to stand for, what would that be?

Being unique no matter what that entails. If unique to you is wearing a football jersey that's torn into pieces with rhinestones all over it, then that's unique. If being unique to you is wearing a three-button suit with a pink pinstripe tie, then that's your unique. I think the only thing people can do to set themselves apart any more is to be unique and to fly your freak flag, and be everything that makes you, you. You should show that and never be afraid. And that's my brand - whatever it may turn out to be, even if it's ice cream. We'll make some kind of honeydew, peanut butter crunch, chocolate-chip craziness!

Another way you express yourself is through your costumes.

The thing that people always forget about figure-stating costumes is that they are costumes. We wear things that go with the music, that make us look amazing, that show off our lines. And I've always been interested in every aspect. So, as soon as I choose the music, I start sketching and designing and thinking of colours and what character I'm going to be. For the short program, I wanted it to look very imaginary man/woman porn star. And I think I pulled it off.

You took it to another level for sure.

That's what I like! I mean, what other man's going to go out in a hot pink tassel that looks like a helicopter when you're rotating. That, to me, was gorgeous. I hate my face in the mid-jump pictures because you're all crooked and everything and squished in, but I loved seeing that tassel flying out from my body. It adds something special. And for the long-program costume I'm supposed to be a fallen angel. So instead thinking of an angel, I was actually thinking of a cherub. And if they fell out of heaven, they would be starving for sustenance. So I thought, "Okay … ribs!" So there are beautiful Swarovski-crystal ribs on the costume.

I do love that. I don't always dress like a figure skater. I'm not always sparkly and whatnot. I do have other styles in my brain, but for figure skating, I feel like you have to be a figure skater. It should be all about figure skating.

That's the fun of it. Dressing up.

There's something so boring to me about going out in a black catsuit and looking like you're a giant sperm.

Jeanne Beker is the host of FashionTelevision

Report Typo/Error

Follow on Twitter: @Jeanne_Beker


Next story




Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular