After shocking the figure-skating world in August of 2010 by retiring from the sport, the truly fabulous Johnny Weir (now happily married to Victor Voronov) is setting his sights firmly on a medal in Sochi, the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics. I caught up with the three-time U.S. National Champion and 2008 World Championship bronze medalist in advance of his appearance in Sun Valley on Ice tomorrow, to chat skating, Olympics and his love for Sun Valley.
This is your first year skating after a two year retirement. How is it going?
Johnny Weir: I announced my comeback to competitive figure skating in January, since then it’s been a very slippery slope to get back in shape, to learn a lot of the skills maybe I bypassed by not competing the last two years. It’s been a full-time job. But I’m really looking forward to coming to Sun Valley. It gives me an opportunity to do a show as opposed to all the training I’ve been doing to get ready for the judges. I’m looking forward to being able to just skate and be glittery—which is what I’m best at!—rather than focusing on the nuts and bolts. It will be nice to let my hair down.
What was it that prompted that decision to return to figure skating?
JW: It’s kind of being building. I saw this point in my life where I knew that I could do everything required of me to be a competitive figure skater again and I could also see 40 years down the road where I would regret not trying. I have so many fans who have been encouraging me to continue competing, and instead of really focusing on doing this for myself—as I’ve already achieved so many of my goals—I’m returning to support my fans, to show them that you can still achieve something great, no matter how old you are or how many people counted you out. I want to help inspire people and give people a moment of escape. I want to take people on my journey with me when I skate. That’s definitely something that pushed me to come back. Even if I get out there and try and fail, if I can inspire someone to try, it will have been worth it.
This is your eighth appearance in the Sun Valley ice shows. What do you like about Sun Valley? What keeps you coming back?
JW: I live just outside New York City and I’m constantly over-stimulated by lights and city action and craziness, so it’s really nice to get away and be in Idaho. It’s like a mini vacation. It’s wonderful to go to Sun Valley and work and perform for the guests at the lodge. But really it’s just nice for me to be peaceful and quiet and sleep well in the mountain air, keep my windows open in the hotel. It’s always a lovely experience.
What do you like to do while you’re in Sun Valley?
JW: I’m an avid lover of fur and wildlife so I like gently walking around and seeing what kind of creatures I can spot. One year I did a photo shoot out in the hills and then down by that little red barn, and I saw a wolf there. I really like trying to animal spot, and I love the swans outside the lodge. I don’t really own hiking boots or hunting boots, so usually I’m trying to trek around in a pair of Christian Louboutin loafers, which never ends up well!
I’ve also made a few friends there over the years. Suzy Hart at Déjà Vu, my absolute favorite shop, and every year Ditta Von Teese’s parents will come and support me at the show. I have the most fun at Sun Valley that’s why I come back.
It’s well known that shopping is one of your favorite things to do. Are there any shops or places in Sun Valley that you’re excited to come back to?
JW: Well, Deja Vu is my must-stop shop. Then there’s Davis, which carries a lot of the big New York designers, it’s a very fashionable, way too expensive store, and it’s always cool to see these clothes I’m so accustomed to seeing in the city in this sleek modern space in the middle of Idaho. There’s also that fantastic restaurant downtown with the cute little garden—Vintage—I like to have my pre-show meal there. Even though we stay at the lodge we like to go down into town and bring a little color.
Well, we can always use a little bit of color here.
JW: Yes! And that’s something I like to bring to the summer ice shows, my own color. I’m a very unapologetic person when it comes to my personality; I embrace every flaw that makes me up. I like coming to small towns, it never hurts a town to have a little crazy flavor.
Speaking of that flavor, can you give us a sneak peek into your performance this Saturday?
JW: I’ll be performing a show number to a beautiful rendition of Chopin as my first performance. It’s a very classical piece and I’ll show off what figure skating means to me; the artistic elegance, the beautiful side of figure skating.
And then, people have got very accustomed to seeing me skate to Lady Gaga and that pop element, so this year I’ll be skating to Fighter by Christina Aguilera. It’s a song that’s very indicative of what I’m going through in my life right now and everything I’m willing to give up and do for this season to make it a success. As for color at the show, I’m wearing a wrestling singlet.
What is that success you’re looking for this season?
JW: I’m absolutely looking forward to returning to international competition. The grand prix series this fall—6 countries in 6 weeks and every skater performs in two of them—I’ll be performing in Moscow and Paris. The skaters with the most points at the end compete in the final, which will be in the new Olympic arena in Sochi, Russia. Then next January is the U.S. Nationals, which I’ve won three times. If I do well there I can be selected for the American team for the World Championships, from there each country receives its allotted number of spots for the 2014 Winter Olympics. I’m definitely starting on the road to Sochi.
You are a two-time Olympian, watching the Olympics today and planning for your return in Sochi must bring up a lot of emotions.
JW: After the winter Olympics finished in Vancouver in 2010, I was so proud of myself and so proud of my career. I finished on the absolute two best performances of my life. It was that one moment of glory where everyone’s clapping for you and you feel that the World is really behind you. I really thought I would win a medal at that Olympics [he placed sixth]. So it was really a bittersweet experience.
To be honest for a few months after, it was more bitter. I didn’t want anything to do with figure skating. I didn’t compete or watch anything on TV. And those few months turned into a couple years. But I’ve really enjoyed it, being able to live the life of a famous person rather than of a figure skater. I’ve written a book, recorded a song [his memoir Welcome to My World, and single Dirty Love were both released in 2011], and have a TV show [Be Good Johnny Weir, returning next month]. It’s been fun, trying new things and also being able to try something and fail at something. But the time came when I realized I wanted to go back. I’m 28 now, I’m getting old!
Has watching the London Olympics spurred you on at all?
JW: Watching London has been really eye-opening for me. A lot of the feelings I had in Vancouver have come flooding back. Every night I watch some new record being broken, another American winning a medal, I see the stories of the Olympians from around the world and it re-enamors me with the Olympics. It’s given me the passion to want to compete in Sochi.
Make sure you catch this dazzling delight on ice Saturday night, it could be your last chance to see him in person before he wins an Olympic medal…
Buy tickets for Sun Valley on Ice here, at the Sun Valley Recreation Office 208.622.2135 or toll free 888.622.2108, or at the gate prior to the show.