How Beyoncé Helped Figure Skater Adam Rippon Make the Olympics

How Beyoncé Helped Figure Skater Adam Rippon Make the Olympics

By Nick Fouriezos


Because career shifts can happen at unlikely times.

By Nick Fouriezos

Olympic medalist and U.S. figure skating champion Adam Rippon sat for a revealing interview with OZY’s CEO and co-founder on the latest episode of The Carlos Watson Show. The following are some of the best cuts from the full conversation, which you can find on the show’s podcast feed.

How Beyoncé inspired him to late-career success

Adam Rippon: The biggest reason that I qualified for the Olympics was that I didn’t qualify twice before, and that I got to have friends that went, and I saw them when they came home, and they were medalists, and some of them had won, and they were still the same people. They still had the same doubts. They still had the same successes. They still were just the same people I had always known. And all of a sudden it broke this … It was almost like you had seen Oz for the first time and all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh, it’s not everything I thought it was, it’s just a trip.” And I think for every Olympic sport athlete, you see the Olympics as like, “Oh, my God, it’s this big thing.” 

Sometimes I think, when we get into situations, we’re afraid that we won’t be able to live up to our own expectations, and we think people around us will be disappointed in us or we feel like we might fall short. But I think another thing is, sometimes I used to feel like … impostor syndrome, where other people think that I can do it, but I really can’t do it. And I read this article and it was like, Beyoncé doesn’t think that … She gets nervous when she goes onstage and she created this persona, Sasha Fierce. And whenever she gets nervous, she thinks, “Well, Sasha Fierce can do what I’m going to do. So I’ll just be like Sasha Fierce.”

And I started to think about it and was like, “You know what? I can just be like Adam Rippon,” because I think people around me thought that Adam Rippon can do it, but I was like, “I don’t know if Adam can.” So I would really try to be what I thought people … I would act the way that I thought people thought I was until I believed it myself. So it was like, I almost created this persona of, “This person is fearless.  They can get it done. They aren’t nervous. They’re a person who can do anything under pressure.” And I used to just repeat that about this persona. … And so, that was the biggest tip, because as soon as you were trying to be someone else, it took the pressure off having to be yourself. 

On growing up and finding skating

Rippon: My mom was a dancer and she had a dance studio when she was younger. And then my dad was a baseball player, and he had big dreams of me also being a baseball player. When I grew up, the big present my dad gave me was this porcelain figurine of some kid at plate, ready to hit a ball. I mean, I think the porcelain fact speaks for itself. It never came to fruition. A porcelain figurine? I mean, c’mon.

I knew the only way that he was going to entice me into baseball would be a porcelain figurine. So he was really pulling out all the cards there with that. He was like, “This kid will like porcelain,” which is not wrong. But with skating, it was like … So I’m from Scranton, Pennsylvania. And the winters are brutal. And one winter, I just asked my mom if we could go skating, and I hated it so much, but it was like every winter I had forgotten that I hated skating until one winter I really loved it. And I kept asking my mom to go back, and my birthday’s in November. So I got signed up for group classes as a birthday present. So that’s how I got started in skating.

I think it was truly like the 10,000 hours that helped me to be a great skater, but I think, right off the bat, I loved it immediately. I wanted to do nothing else other than be at the rink, and work hard and train. And I think, when I was young, I progressed pretty quickly. Because I started when I was 10, which is a little bit later than a lot of elite athletes get started in a sport. So I started pretty late, but I was obsessed with it. I loved it. But for the trajectory of my sport, when you’re in your early 20s is when you should peak, but for me, I really didn’t peak until I was in my late 20s, almost 30.

On quarantining and comedy

Carlos Watson: How is Finland? I have never been, but had a lot of good Finnish friends who I met in … Goa, where the Finns love to go when it’s cold.

Rippon: Well, I can tell you, Carlos, it’s cold here, and if I lived here, I’d be in Goa right now.

Watson: So you were truly a man in love, because otherwise I have to assume that Finland would not be your first choice.

Rippon: No, it wouldn’t. It would not be my first choice. So you’re right, I am a man in love, and I will brave a winter. It doesn’t matter. I will wear a jacket. It’s fine.

Watson: And what is it like? Are they on lockdown as well over there, or are they somehow better than the U.S.?

Rippon: So I’m from Los Angeles and over here [in Finland], it’s completely another universe. They’re really worried over here because they had 300 cases in one day. I mean, if [LA] had 300 cases, I think there’d be a huge party. 

Finland’s been really strict about their borders, so not a lot of people can get in or get out, but just to give you perspective of how off-the-wall it is over here, buffets are open. A buffet? I’d rather lick the floor in LA than go to a buffet at this point. 

Watson: And then, other than your wonderful boyfriend, did you go over there knowing anyone, or was it just the two of you to start with?

Rippon: Well, it’s just the two of us right now. So we’ve been dating for three years, and I did not see him for almost all of 2020, because he was going to come to LA, but it was just when the pandemic had started. So as soon as there was a chance for me to come over here … I mean, I can still work and everything on Zoom. So it was so easy. Everything I do … 8 p.m. rolls around and it’s like “Light on,” and I’m on the computer. So I mean, it’s pretty effortless. So I’ve been over here for a month, and I’m here for one more month … it’s just the two of us, roughing it out here, going to buffets. 

Watson: That is too funny. Wait, now, have you ever done stand-up before? Have you tried that?

Rippon: No, I haven’t, but you know what? I’m going to tell you something … your laughter is giving me confidence.