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Video: Weir: ‘I’ve never lived in a closet’

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    >>> championships and two olympic berths under his death, now adds the title of author to his accolades. " welcome to my world " chronicles his life on and off the ice. you purposely picked the cover for this book.

    >> absolutely.

    >> to make a statement. what were you trying to say?

    >> my story is very pure, i was from a small town and i dreamed of many things and i worked hard to achieve them. i wanted what the public thinks of me -- come away with a completely evolved sense of who johnny weir is.

    >> people think of you as a little out there, a little crazy. what are we missing?

    >> nothing. everyone has a million people that live inside them. and my fashion sense can be a bit outlandish and my costumes from crazy and i like things to be excessive. but in no way is that really who i am. i love the simplicity of life. i'm from the country, i love to work hard, i love vacuuming, that's my favorite pass time.

    >> vacuuming?

    >> yes, vacuuming. i'm a very simple person but i like to have fun with clothes.

    >> people don't realize as a little boy you loved horse back riding, then you got a pair of skates and started taking lessons at 11, which is pretty old to start skating . did you realize this is my destiny?

    >> i actually started to skate on a corn field behind my house. i'm from amish country , pennsylvania, quietville. i had no idea what the future would hold for me but i felt like skating was so special. and i was starting to get bored with horse back riding and i was showing almost on a national team and i said no, let's start taking ice skating lessons. and within a week, i knew it was my destiny. the coaches said you have so much natural ability and you need a coach that teaches you every day and within a year i was on the national figure skating team.

    >> this book has been a hot topic in the news and entertainment programs because for the first time you come out and you say that you're gay. why did you do it now? and are you surprised by the reaction?

    >> i'm very surprised by the reaction. because i'm a person, i have never lived in a closet. i never claimed to be anything -- i never claimed to be straight or gay. i claimed to be johnny weir . i think it's important for anybody in this world to own who you are, regardless of who you're born into. i was born a white gay male . i don't celebrate being white or male, so why should i celebrate being gay? that's my opinion on the whole thing. i know people who have been activists for years and have worked hard and are tireless fl.

    >> they wanted you to become an activist.

    >> they certainly want me to be an activiactivist, i'm much more than just a gay man.

    >> there's a very poignant moment in your book, there's many. but one week after you turned 18, you decided to tell your mom who was your best buddy. she was sitting down watching tv , she had fallen asleep, and you came up to her and said i have something to tell you. you said she couldn't speak and suddenly her shoulders went way up towards her ears. her energy dropped as we started to cry.

    >> having talked about that moment with my mom several times. it wasn't that i was coming out as gay to her, she was so worried for my future and my future happiness and that's all that we have ever talked about. she just wants me to be happy with, a man marying a woman. she thought it would make my road more difficult. which in my cases it has. i mean i was looked at differently in my own sport, in figure skating , which is stereo typically a very flamboyant and gay sport.

    >> but you pushed some of the members of the federation the wrong way. do you regret any of that?

    >> i don't regret anything. i live my life with absolutely no regrets with anything. i pushed a lot of buttons with the figure skating federation, but i was trying to open them up and teach them, i'm a modern young person , there are things that i like and things that i will do and i don't have to answer to anybody. i make my own path in this world.

    >> your biggest competitor is -- i know that the judges favored him because he conformed more to what they liked versus you. do you hold any grudging against evan at all?

    >> i hold no grudges against evan . in my life he was important because he was my biggest rival from the united states n my life now, i have no interaction with evan and he really has no place in my life. and that picture you're showing now is from my book and i thought it was so funny because we're rarely photographed together, where we're smiling and i thought it was the funniest thing to add to my book. so it's more of a joke picture than a serious anything.

    >> so you do hold a little bit of something there, then?

    >> i just hold -- he's the olympic champion and the world champion and of course i'm jealous of those it tls. but that's the only jealousy or gruj that i hold.

    >> is this the end of the skating johnny weir ?

    >> i'm actually 36 hours off a plane from moscow, i was there for two weeks performing at shows and visiting friends and celebrating the new year. i'm still skating , i'm going to get back into heavy training in the spring and see if i can get myself into competitive shachpe. i took one year off to eat and rest and not having a million people telling me what to do every day. and try to make my own life. but i do miss competing.

    >> the book is called "welcome

TODAY contributor
updated 1/10/2011 11:16:37 AM ET 2011-01-10T16:16:37

Because he has long refused to answer questions about his sexuality, colorful U.S. figure skating champion Johnny Weir finds himself scratching his head over the field day the press is having over his coming out as a gay man in his just-released autobiography.

“I’m very surprised by the reaction, because I’m a person [who] never lived in a closet,” the 26-year-old Weir told Meredith Vieira live on TODAY Monday. “I never claimed to be straight or gay; I claimed to be Johnny Weir.”

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Weir hoped people would focus instead on the 15 years of hard work he put in to become one of the world’s top figure skaters — a three-time U.S. national champion and two-time Olympic competitor. Even though many assumed he was gay even before he revealed it in his autobiography, Weir told Vieira he’s resisted any pressure to come out, even from gay rights activists.

“I was born a white male, a white gay male, and I don’t celebrate being white or male, so why should I celebrate being gay?” he said.

Video: Weir: ‘I’ve never lived in a closet’ (on this page)

“I know people who have been activists for years and have worked so hard and tirelessly, and they have definitely wanted me to be an activist,” he added. “But I think the best way I can be an activist is to live my life, and not make that the main thing that is Johnny Weir. I’m much more than just a gay man.”

No apologies
Indeed, in his new book, “Welcome to My World,” Weir focuses more on his professional skating career. Weir has long been known as a controversial figure in the world of skating, rising to the top even as he bumped heads with the U.S. Figure Skating Association for his flamboyant costumes and candor in talking to the media.

Read an excerpt from Johnny Weir’s ‘Welcome to My World’

Weir told Vieira he makes no apologies. “I don’t regret anything,” he said. “I pushed a lot of buttons with the figure skating federation, but I was trying to open them up and teach them. I’m a modern, young person. There are things that I like and things that I will do, and I don’t need to answer to anybody. I make my own path in this world.”

In his autobiography, Weir also addresses a much-talked-about feud with U.S. figure skater Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist who bested Weir in two consecutive Winter Olympics. Lysacek is often described as the skating federation’s fair-haired boy who conformed more closely to the conventional image of a figure skater.

Weir told Vieira that while he is not friends with Lysacek, they are not enemies either. “I absolutely hold no grudges against Evan. Of course he was important in my life, simply because he was my biggest rival from the United States. He’s the Olympic champion and a world champion, and of course I’m jealous of those things that he has. But that’s the only jealousy or grudge I hold against him.”

While Weir has certainly been visible in the past year — as a judge on the reality-TV competition “Skating With the Stars”; as the subject of the Sundance Channel series “Be Good Johnny Weir”; and as a performer at exhibitions — he’s taken a break from competitive skating. But, he told Vieira, he’s far from closed the book on his competitive career.

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“I took one year off to rest and eat and relax and not have to deal with a million people telling me what to do every day, so that I can make my own life,” he said. “But I do miss competing, and I will definitely try to get back.”

And while he’s known as much for his flamboyant costumes, pompadour and outspokenness as for his skating prowess, Weir said the purpose of his book is to tell a story about a young boy from Coatesville, Pa., who worked hard to become the best at what he does.

“My fashion sense can be a bit outlandish, and my costumes are crazy,” he told Vieira. “I like things to be excessive, but in no way is that really who I am. My story is very pure and very, very similar to many Americans’. I come from a small town and I dreamed of bigger and better things, and I worked hard to achieve them.”

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Photos: Style on ice

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  1. Gold standard

    Designer Vera Wang knows the ins and outs of competitive figure skating outfits because at one time, she wore them. Here she holds her engraved silver bowl, on Jan. 23, 2009, after being inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

    In discussing ice skating outfits she says that the outfit has to sparkle like evening wear but function like workout gear; it has to stand up to the considerable wind generated by skaters' speed; and it must be show-stopping from every angle, unlike a Hollywood-starlet gown that is usually photographed straight from the front or back. In addition to this, the costume also has to complement the music. "I have to have the music for a skating costume," she says, "and that's not the way I normally work."

    See some Olympic skating outfits from the past, as Wang shares her thoughts and style opinion. (Amy Sancetta / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Neon bright

    Two-time American Olympic figure skating medalist Nancy Kerrigan wore a neon yellow dress with a pale-pink beaded bust line at the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway. It was one of Wang's favorites because it took Kerrigan out of her usual comfort zone as a sophisticate. "Neon is extremely active. You think of it for a cyclist or football or a swimmer. It has a feel of modernity and techno."

    Also in '94, Kerrigan wore a white outfit with black illusion sleeves, a trick Wang also uses on the Hollywood red carpet to create a sexy, suggestive silhouette without baring much skin. The clean lines and geometric vibe were also purposeful. "I thought it made her look tougher," Wang explains. (AP, AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Simply cut

    Michelle Kwan, the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history, made a "gutsy" move in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, by wearing a periwinkle stretch-velvet dress, says designer Vera Wang. It was a look reminiscent of Dorothy Hamill. (While Wang often collaborated with Kwan, this was by another designer.)

    "It's a bit retro to go that simple," Wang says. "It was a statement of confidence. Dresses had gotten so ornate." (Doug Mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Glittery glide

    Russian skater Irina Slutskaya might have been trying to channel Hamill in her glittery, red dress in Turin, Italy, but Wang says only the dark, short hair captured the former Olympic medalist's spirit. Slutskaya's jewels are more traditional for a later generation than Hamill, who favored outfits that were sleeker and understated. (Franck Fife / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Pretty in pink

    In 1976 at Innsbruck, Austria, Dorothy Hamill let her moves, not her sparse pink outfit, make the statement, Vera Wang says. The lower neckline, however, did show off her hair, which Wang describes as "the wedge haircut that inspired the country." (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Double-sided

    The midnight-sky blue combo that Japanese figure skater Shizuka Arakawa wore in Turin in 2006 "isn't my taste," says Vera Wang. It's a little too showy, but it did make Arakawa look like a risk-taker, which might have been the primary intention all along. (Amy Sancetta / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Flaking it

    Italian skater Carolina Kostner wore a snowflake-covered outfit in 2006 that employed the sheer-illusion look that Wang likes for the ice. "She has a more womanly, mature style but this outfit brings her youth and whimsy," Wang says. (Franck Fife / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A little bit blue

    American Sasha Cohen, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist, is a chameleon when it comes to her costumes, designer Vera Wang says. "You never know what Sasha is up to. One minute she's Carmen, the next minute she's Gisele."

    Wang says Cohen was probably intimately involved in the creation of the ombre-blue dress covered with sequins worn in Salt Lake City in 2002; she is for all her outfits. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Striking on ice

    There was a bit of a jumpsuit craze in Turin and Russian Elena Sokolova's Tina Turner-style, black-and-champagne outfit fit right in. Vera Wang says she's not a huge fan, that this particular look was very severe and without even a hint of whimsy. Still, she says, there's no denying the dramatic effect of a Turner lookalike — complete with spiky blond hair — catching air on a turn. (Robert Laberge / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Thrilled for frills

    Ukrainian skater Oksana Baiul liked "a lot of everything" on her dresses, and a frilly pink outfit from 1994 was no exception, Vera Wang says. The fringe, the fur trim, the beads were all very much part of a trend of the Eastern Europeans of that time. (Eric Feferberg / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Shelter from the norm

    The metallic trench coat and umbrella prop that Japan's Midori Ito wore in Albertville, France, in 1992 might make more sense if you heard the accompanying music, Wang says. "Was it 'Singing in the Rain'? It must have been."

    Yes, the outfit is unusual for the Olympic ice, she acknowledges, but skaters are also under pressure to try new things. (Lionel Cironneau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Vera Wang
    Amy Sancetta / AP
    Above: Slideshow (11) Style on ice
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