Olympic figure skater and fashionista Johnny Weir shares anecdotes about pop culture and his personal life in his book, “Welcome to My World.” An excerpt.
I get more messages than Jesus. Actually, make that Santa. My BlackBerry and iPhone won’t stop their incessant buzzing. First it’s my best friend Paris (and no, not the heiress) on the personal line, then a very hot and very young, supposedly straight guy who attended my weekly Weeds night fête and complimented my cupcake selection. What could he want? Not the time to find out. Ditto for the calls and texts on my professional line: record producer, ice show producer, reality show producer.
It’ll all have to wait.
Right now the only distraction that matters is the wailing intercom in my manager Tara’s Manhattan apartment. Our driver has been angrily trying to get us downstairs and into the car for the last forty-five minutes.
Just a few more seconds for a last look in the mirror. Other than a black Viktor & Rolf jacket over a stunning emerald green chiffon Pucci blouse, the rest of my outfit is pretty much the Johnny Weir uniform: black skinny jeggings and pointy black Christian Louboutins. Joey, my makeup artist, has gone way over the top with my eyes to match the magnitude of tonight’s event. A final turn to check out my mullet, newly dyed magenta (an absurd little touch that lands me on both People.com and PerezHilton.com the next day), and we’re off. The Town Car races just a few blocks east through Hell’s Kitchen and over to Sixth Avenue, where a mad jumble of photographers and gawkers gather in front of Radio City Music Hall. We could have taken a cab the short distance. But celebrities don’t take cabs, Tara says, they take cars.
“I’m not a celebrity,” I say to her as the driver opens our door. “Just an ice skater.”
Instantly we are enveloped in craziness. On the red carpet of the Sex and the City 2 movie premiere, where it’s names, names, names, I have to keep my jaw from dropping open (I don’t want to look bad in photos, after all). Chris Noth walks by, then Donald Trump, quickly followed by Ugly Betty’s Becki Newton. All the Gossip Girls bring up the rear. Anyone who is famous and in New York City is on that carpet.
My name is being shouted from every angle. Photographers want me to give them flair and TV reporters want the crazy quotes. But even more surreal are the stars trying to get ahold of me. Gabourey Sidibe, an Oscar nominee, stops to tell me she’s a fan, right before I get a big hug from the French actor Gilles Marini. I can’t believe people whose lives are splashed in the pages of Us Weekly or People know my name.
I can’t even believe I’m at this premiere, but I received my invitation from the star of Sex herself — my icon Sarah Jessica Parker. Daytime talk-show host Kelly Ripa (who has been a longtime supporter of mine but became an überfan after the 2010 Olympics) and her husband, Mark Consuelos, had me and Tara over to their gorgeous, two-story penthouse for dinner, where we were sipping wine when in walked SJP escorted by Bravo exec and on-air personality Andy Cohen. I had a mini heart attack deep down inside. A fan of Sex and the City since the show started, I have always wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw. The character informed a lot of my youth and fashion daring; she inspired me to be a New York–style single lady.
She held out her hand to me and said, “I’m Sarah Jessica.”
“Of course you are,” I said, awestruck. “I’m Johnny Weir.”
“I know exactly who you are,” she said with a Bradshawesque glimmer in her eye.
Sarah Jessica was everything I imagined she’d be: sweet, tiny, beautiful, good smelling, kind of like a fairy-god celebrity. We all sat around under the stars on Kelly and Mark’s roof deck, enjoying delicious food, talking about projects and kids. I felt just like one of the ladies.
Before Sarah Jessica left, we exchanged contact information and she invited me to her big premiere. I was still on cloud nine and already crafting an outfit in my head when an hour and a half later, I received an email from her with the subject line:
“This Eve.” “Such an honor to meet you,” she wrote. “Look forward to seeing you at the premiere.”
So tonight, thanks to Sarah Jessica, I’m having a true Cinderella-cum-Carrie-Bradshaw moment. Inside Radio City’s theater, there seems to be a star in every other seat. Tara spots Jennifer Love Hewitt wearing the same Hervé Leger dress as she, completely making her night (especially after I tell Tara she wears it best).
As we slowly make our way down the aisle, someone taps me on the back. Turning around, I realize it’s Vera Wang. As the famed bridal designer turned designer of everything including mattresses, she is a legend in her time. But she was also part of my competition, having designed the 2010 Winter Olympic costumes for my archrival Evan Lysacek. As if that weren’t bad enough, she decided to trot out some nasty comments about my Olympic costumes in the press. She tells me she’d been misquoted in the press and wants to bury the hatchet. Vera Wang doesn’t have to apologize to me. She’s Vera Wang. But I accept. Glancing to Vera’s right, I notice Anna Wintour, a sight that sends my heart into palpitations. To me, Ms. Wintour is everything. Not only is she the ultimate dominatrix of style, but I love how she runs her magazine and how brutal she’ll be to get ahead. Even if you don’t respect fashion, you have to respect her for being on top of her industry for so long. Vera must have seen my eyes darting in the Vogue editor-in-chief’s direction because she decides to introduce us.
Robert Laberge / Getty Images Europe
Style on ice
Designer Vera Wang shares her take on the best and worst Olympic figure skating costumes.
Style on iceof
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.AP / AP
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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 / AP, AFP-Getty Images
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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."AP / AP
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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.AFP-Getty Images / AFP-Getty Images
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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 / AP
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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.AP / AP
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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.AFP-Getty Images / AFP-Getty Images
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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.AFP-Getty Images / AFP-Getty Images
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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.Getty Images / Getty Images
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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.AFP-Getty Images / AFP-Getty Images
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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.AP / AP
“This is my friend Anna,” she says in the way of only the very rich.
For me, this is on par with meeting Lady Gaga or Christina Aguilera, a big, big moment. I don’t know how to make my approach. Usually I like to hug and kiss on both cheeks (I’m like a mobster and hug everyone I meet, even businessmen). But Anna is already sitting in her seat, so I don’t want to climb over Vera to hug and kiss her, risking the possibility of my tripping and squashing the tiny fashionista to death and ending her reign at Vogue. No, I definitely don’t want that to happen.
So I have to settle for extending a very well-manicured hand to take hers. It just doesn’t seem proper, though. So while she’s holding my hand, I curtsy as if she’s the Queen Mother and say, “It truly is an honor.” Then I beat a hasty retreat lest I start to stutter like a fool.
As we continue down the aisle, Tara leans in to me and asks,
“Who was that?”
“Are you f---ing kidding me?”
After deciding to never ever speak to Tara again because she doesn’t know who Anna Wintour is, I take another look at our tickets. Where are our seats? We are still walking toward the front of the theater, past Anna Wintour and Vera Wang, past Suzanne Somers and Donald Trump. We even pass Liza Minnelli and we’re still going. All these bigwigs and legends have worse seats than me? When we find our seats — down front and dead center — I feel absolutely gorgeous and successful. I think to myself, this is exactly where I like to be.
The Sex premiere comes and goes, swirling among the countless events, meetings, awards, and obligations that make up the whirlwind I call my life. Ever since the Olympics, that spectacularly individual moment on the ice when my fate as an athlete was finally sealed in artistry and controversy, I have done anything and everything under the sun.
Here’s an abridged list:
- Went to the Kentucky Derby in a giant black Chanel sun hat decorated with a white rabbit carcass
- Toured the Fashion Institute of Technology to decide whether I should attend design school
- Judged Miss USA Pageant in a multipastel Chris Benz feather coat because I didn’t want the beauty queens showing me up
- Hired a stylist
- Accepted an award from GLAAD
- Landed a book deal
- Filmed an episode of The Rachel Zoe Project
- Filmed an episode of The Soup
- Did a voice-over as a waiter on American Dad
- Appeared on The Wendy Williams Show
- Held meetings about a fashion line
- Did a photo shoot for MAC Cosmetics
- Skated in a benefit in Harlem hosted by Donald Trump
- Wore headbands to everything
- Taught a skating seminar to children to Indianapolis
- Met Cher after attending her concert
- Commentated on the World Championships for TV
- Got snapped by paparazzi while birthday shopping for my mom with my brother in SoHo
- Recorded a single called “Dirty Love”
- Appeared on The Joy Behar Show twice in one week
- Appeared on the George Lopez show twice in one week
- Covered Elton John’s Oscar party for the E! network
- Met Kelly Osbourne, love of my life
- Took meetings about a perfume and skincare launch
- Appeared as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race
Friends and family think I’m crazy to run myself ragged on the heels of a soul-wrenching, medal-less Olympics. “Take it easy and give yourself some time,” they say. But at this point I’ll take almost anyone’s call, because I have to figure out the next chapter of my life. I want to explore all the opportunities being handed to me because I know they won’t last for long. Plus, quiet reflection and waiting is not my way. For the past thirteen years, it’s been beaten into me to never look back.
As a figure skater, sitting in the kiss and cry area — that little box at a competition where we wait alongside our coaches with TV cameras trained closely on our faces for our scores — everything you have worked so hard and so long for comes down to a few numbers. You kill yourself and give everything to be ready for an event, and then in a flash it’s over, leaving nothing in its wake but a profound emptiness. Whether you have achieved a medal or failed miserably, loved or hated the process of getting there, in that second you fall to the pit of your existence.
You feel tired. No, you feel dead. And in that state of utter depletion, you have to immediately start building yourself up for whatever’s next. The job of a champion is to leave the moment behind as soon as it’s happened in order to get back on the ice and start the process all over again.
For so long I stripped my life down to nothing but skating to become one of the best in the world. Despite my many attempts at rebellion, I was constantly ruled by my coaches, training, the United States Figure Skating Association (“the federation”), and other strictures of my sport. And then, in what felt like a heartbeat, it was done.
With all the astonishing adventures and staggering catastrophes of my competitive skating career behind me, I’m in the kiss and cry of my life.
Excerpted from "Welcome to My World" by Johnny Weir. Copyright (c) 2010. Reprinted with permission from Simon and Schuster.