At the age of 30, Johnny Weir — a three-time US champion, two-time Olympian, and World medalist — is one of the superstars of figure skating and a pop-culture icon. Fans all over the globe love his elegant yet edgy style both on and off the ice, and the delicious unpredictability of what he’ll say — or wear, or do — next.
Born July 2, 1984, in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Johnny did not start skating until the relatively late age of 12, when he taught himself how to skate on the frozen Amish-country cornfields behind his home. Just four years later, he won the gold medal at the 2001 World Junior Championships.
Remarkably, Johnny claimed his first senior US national championship in 2004, and successfully defended his title in 2005. In 2006, Johnny captured his third consecutive national championship, earning a spot on the US Olympic team. At his very first Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, Johnny placed an impressive second in the short program, and finished fifth overall. Johnny evolved as a media darling during the Games, and was described by many journalists as “the best quote at the Olympics.”
Johnny went on to win the bronze medal at the 2008 World Championships — the only medal won by a member of Team USA at that competition — as well as US Figure Skating’s 2008 Readers’ Choice Award for Skater of the Year (Michelle Kwan Trophy). Off the ice, he starred in Retribution Media’s documentary, Pop Star on Ice, which won the 2009 QFest Philadelphia Viewer’s Choice Award.
In 2010, Johnny made the US Olympic team for the second time and represented his country in the Olympic Games in Vancouver, once again capturing the hearts of millions. Post-Olympics, Johnny put his fame to good use, balancing performances in skating shows around the world with appearances at benefits and charity events across the US. He starred in his own reality series, Be Good Johnny Weir on the Logo Network, for which he won the 2010 NewNowNext Award for Most Addictive Reality Star. Also in 2010, he again earned the Readers’ Choice Award for Skater of the Year, making Johnny the only skater other than Michelle Kwan to win this trophy more than once.
In fall 2010, Johnny was honored by the Human Rights Campaign with its Visibility Award. In his introduction of Johnny, HRC spokesman Dr. Marty Lieberman explained that the award is given to “individuals who are living open and honest lives. Well, Johnny is doing much more than that. He is a force of nature, with all of his fabulousness swirling around him like the eye of a storm. … Johnny has given courage to all the little boys and girls out there who want to pursue [their] dreams … [T]hank you, Johnny Weir, for making the world a more welcoming place, and for your brave determination to be who you are.”
I’m so, so honored to be here and privileged to be the grand marshal. It’s an incredible, incredible experience. I’m here representing my community and so many beautiful people that I’m proud of. I’m here representing my family for supporting me the entire way through my youth, my career as an Olympian, no matter what. [I'm] representing our brothers and sisters all over the world — and even in America — who are still discriminated against, still don’t have equal rights as Americans. I’m here with love for everybody. I’m so, so proud.
Johnny was the honoree at Ice Theatre of New York’s “Dare to Be Different” Benefit Gala and Performance in October 2011, joining a prestigious list of past honorees that includes Dorothy Hamill and Dick Button. In an interview with Johnny published in the Ice Theatre’s journal for the evening, writer Edward Z. Epstein noted, ”While he ‘dares to be different,’ he has, in fact, achieved a higher goal: he dares to be himself.”
In September 2012, Johnny represented the United States as a Goodwill Sporting Ambassador to Japan on behalf of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in support of her view that “gay rights are human rights,” according to State Magazine. The U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka, Japan, invited Johnny and three-time Japan champion Miki Ando to conduct an ice-skating clinic for more than 100 young skaters, and to meet with local LGBT youth and leaders.
One participant said, “It was like a dream to get to talk to Johnny Weir, and it was the first time I ever spoke about LGBT issues with a mixed audience.”
Johnny’s home state of Pennsylvania honored him in February 2013 with Philadelphia’s first-ever annual “Johnny Weir WinterPride Award,” which reads in part:
Johnny Weir has led a commanding athletic and artistic career on ice. … Johnny also lends his voice and prominence to a range of philanthropic and charitable organizations… and is an advocate for many more worthy endeavors and causes. … [W]ith this Tribute, [we] commend him for his standing as a national role model and for the pride that he embodies.
In May 2013, the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund selected Johnny to receive its National Hero Award for 2013, describing him as “a passionate force in the community, raising awareness and educating the public about a multitude of gay issues.” Johnny was honored again in August 2013 as one of the members of the inaugural class of inductees to the newly founded National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago.
On October 23, 2013, Johnny announced his retirement from competitive skating in an appearance on NBC’s TODAY show, and was welcomed to the NBC broadcasting family in his new role as an expert figure skating analyst for the network’s figure skating coverage, including the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Johnny issued his retirement statement through his weekly column in the Falls Church New-Press. He wrote of his 17-year journey on the ice:
I will continue to skate and perform as long as my body will allow me and … I pass my presence in the competitive ranks on to some genius upstart, the youth that keeps the Olympics and sports alive. While I am not old, part of being a champion is knowing when your time is up. …
Seventeen years have passed since I first set foot on the ice. I have fallen thousands of times, rotated millions of rotations, and been called everything from a “national treasure” to “a disgrace.” … I’ve won and lost and through it all I have never lost sight of who I am or what I want from this world — which I believe to be the greatest achievement in my young life. …
I started this story 17 years ago on a frozen cornfield and while my story is far from over, this chapter is. I will never stop searching for my spot in the stars, I will never forget the places I’ve been or the people I’ve met. I will never forget where I’ve come from. It will be a long time until I wake up in the morning not imagining that I’m late for practice, and in addition to never forgetting the sheer magic of giving my heart and soul to the world, I will never forget the smell of the air, the glint of the sun on the slippery surface, or the feelings I had 17 years ago on that cornfield.
Thank you for the memories.
In February 2014, Johnny traveled to Russia and provided hours of live commentary for NBC Sports Network on the figure skating events at the Sochi Winter Olympics. His concise, insightful, and witty analysis, coupled with the on-air charisma he enjoyed with broadcast partner Tara Lipinski — as well as their shared love of fashion — made the duo an Internet sensation. Their Instagrams — his, hers, and a shared account — quickly became a daily must-see for growing legions of fans. Demands for a promotion to prime time went viral, as did this Buzzfeed homage.
Upon his return from Sochi, Johnny was tapped by Access Hollywood and TODAY to provide fashion commentary for the 2014 Oscars, where, along with Tara, he wowed on the red carpet. Much to his delight, he also was the subject of an SNL parody by Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons. Johnny and Tara also provided fashion commentary at the May 2014 Kentucky Derby, where Johnny’s stunning original hat was immediately declared the winner of the event.
Months later, it was revealed that Johnny was starring as host/interviewer in To Russia With Love, a documentary by Robert Redford’s Sundance Productions. The project examines human rights through the lens of LGBT athletes, and in light of Russia’s draconian anti-gay laws. Portions were filmed secretly in Sochi during Johnny’s acclaimed turn as NBC Olympics commentator. The documentary, for which Johnny also is executive producer, premieres October 29 on EPIX.
Brilliantly talented, unabashedly outspoken, always entertaining, and embraced by a following that spans the globe, Johnny continues to win the hearts of new fans with every appearance.