Thursday, March 17, 2005

When Not to Submit to an Interview

From Salon, March 16, 2005.

At age 20, two-time U.S. National Figure Skating Champion Johnny Weir is America's best hope for a medal at this week's World Championships in Moscow...We met over coffee during his recent stay in New York to talk about the road to the Olympics, Russia's Evgeni Plushenko, and the challenge of drawing attention to the men's side of a sport historically dominated by women. Our conversation touched upon Weir's practice of Kabbalah, his love of fur, and his reverence for Paris Hilton.

What is it like to be so exalted at such a young age?

It's really interesting because a few years ago I had a lot of problems with my skating and with how things were going in my competitions and things, so a lot of people started to write me off ...

What was your point of inflection?

"Point of inflection?" 'Scuse me. But he answered it:

I had trouble in the nationals in Dallas, which is 2003, and I hit the, the wall, when I was competing.

Oh, I see.

You have a real interest in fashion. Who are some of your favorite designers? Did you watch "Project Runway"?

I don't watch TV. I just tune in for "The Simple Life." Have you seen it yet, with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie?

I saw Season 1. Not Season 2.

Season 2's done now, and they're on Season 3. So that's the only TV I watch.

Are you a Paris Hilton fan?

Yeah, I think she's hilarious....

Do you see yourself segueing into fashion?

I'd love to be a fashion designer. I think it would be an amazing experience and, um, I have so many ideas and just creative juices running all the time, and even if it's a flop, it's still something that I would like to try and pursue and just see what happens.

Hmm, "creative juices running all the time." Yeah, I've had those.

One of the materials that you like is fur ...

Yeah.

When is PETA just going to realize that fur is fabulous and drop this whole charade?

You know, animals wear fur coats, so I don't see any reason why I can't. It's discrimination, I think.

I think I may join them now.

You practice Kabbala.

Yes. My string actually fell off while I was up here, so I'm purged of all my negative energy ...

While you were where?

My string, my red string that I wear?

OK.

It fell off while I was in New York, so it means that I'm purged of my negative energy.

Up in heaven, I'm sure Saint John of the Cross must have found out by now that old dark night of the soul never needed to be so tough.

A lot of people in your position have this sort of paradox where, you're so famous and beloved, yet, when you look at their personal lives they don't have time to have anybody. How have you dealt with that?

Well, I'm seeing someone and it's been almost 13 months now, so that's the longest relationship I've had, and it's difficult at times because I don't get a lot of time away from skating when I can work on my relationship, and, um, it is tough. But I think if you really love somebody, it's not going to just fade away because you're gone for a little while. It's just something that will always be there, and always you can feel the love coming to you, and you can always give love back.

Wise, very wise.

When you win the gold medal in Torino, and you're on the podium, the DJ looks down, he's like: "Dude, we don't have the 'Star-Spangled Banner.' Tell me what to play." What would you have him play?

"Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera.

Words fail me.

So you've got two nicknames: Tinkerbell and Simba. Right?

Yes.

Can you explain them?

Simba is just a name a friend has given me because for a while I had really long hair, and when I was skating, like, the pictures in the magazines and the newspapers would always be like, my hair sticking straight up the sides and straight up and I looked like a lion. So, it was like I was Simba, the Lion King. Because I'm small, I'm tiny, so I can be a lion cub. And then, Tinkerbell [skater] Nicole Bobek actually gave me on tour last year just because she says I kind of float around, like even when I'm on the ice and off the ice. I kind of float around and am very quick, and doing everything all at once and, I don't know. I guess she kind of thinks I'm like Tinkerbell.

I'm sure that's why Nicole Bobek gave him that nickname.

Isn't her [Michelle Kwan's] look a little dowdy?

A little bit. She's working with Vera Wang now.

Something makes me think Ms Kwan may soon gut this young man with an old scuffed skate.

What do you think of his [Evgeny Plushenko's] look?

I think he looks good. I think his costumes are interesting, and his programs are always interesting and I like his hair. Because my hair is really curly so it's hard to get it to, like, do anything. And he has nice blond, straight hair. And he looks different. He has a really big nose. And some people might say, "Oh, that's hideous and it's ugly," but I think it just makes him different and I think that's cool. So, I'm in extreme admiration for him and what he's done for our sport, and for men's figure skating. And, ah, he's definitely my favorite men's skater. Besides myself.

Doesn't he know what they say about big noses? I'm sure he does.

You know, here in the real world, I pass a neighborhood coffee shop every day on my way to and from work (another element of the real world). I see people this kid's age sitting at little tables reading, writing in notebooks, working on laptops. Maybe I'll interview one of them to get a better perspective on the new youth of America. Until then, somebody get Tinkerbell a handler.

Please.

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