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Sochi 2014

Here’s Johnny! Clothes make the man and vice versa

Sunday, February 16, 2014
NBCJohnny Weir at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia

NBC
Johnny Weir at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia

SOCHI, Russia — He promised himself something the first time he ever laced up a pair of skates. It’s the same thing Johnny Weir returns to in those quiet moments most evenings, just before the TV camera’s “on-air” light flashes red.

“I’m wearing makeup, a double necklace and a cream sweater,” he said. “I don’t feel an obligation to tone myself down.

“Part of being afraid is not knowing,” Weir added, “and I know Russia. I don’t feel afraid.”

At the moment, of course, it’s easy to feel that way. Air-time is still a few hours off and he’s sitting on a brick-red banquette inside a posh, Western-style hotel alongside his broadcast partner, former Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski.

NBCNBC's Figureskating commentators Tara Lipinski (left) and Johnny Weir, at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

NBC
NBC’s Figureskating commentators Tara Lipinski (left) and Johnny Weir, at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

NBCFrom left: Terry Gannon, Tara Lipinski, and Johnny Weir.

NBC
From left: Terry Gannon, Tara Lipinski, and Johnny Weir.

The two became fast friends soon after they were paired as analysts last fall to prepare for NBC’s Olympic figure-skating coverage at the Sochi Games. They’ve had a soothing effect on one another every day since.

“We want to be 80,” Lipinski said, “and still commentating on figure skating with each other.”

He constantly fusses over her, straightening the collar on her jacket or making sure every strand of blond hair is in place. For her part, every time they step out in public, Lipinski instinctively links her arm inside his, as though they’ve been a couple forever.

“I’m proud to be here,” Weir began again. “I’m proud that I can be here in my necklaces and my wedge booties, and nobody is saying anything. Nobody is looking at me weird, nobody is saying anything derogatory. I honestly get more of an uncool situation walking down certain streets in Manhattan or being in the center of our country.

“And so, as far as people being upset with me for being here,” Weir added, referring to those in the LGBT community who demanded he boycott the Olympics to protest a tough anti-gay Russian law, “I want everybody to know that I’m proud being here and I’m proud to be representing gay America in my own small way.”

Half an hour later, the two are standing in security lines, waiting to walk through a magnetometer en route to the NBC studios. On this day, he’s decided to accent the cream sweater, skin-tight black leather pants and matching wedge-heeled boots with a salt and pepper-tinged fur cut from the finest sable.

It’s an outfit that some people would die for and conversely, one that if worn in some corners of Russia by someone with less celebrity, might result in a severe beating or worse. Weir’s first trip outside the country to compete landed him in Slovakia as a 13-year-old. He never forgot walking alone through empty streets and down a dark tunnel one night trying to find his way back to the hotel.

On this day, as Weir walks through the magnetometer and collects his watch, necklaces and coat, the guards closest to that station begin rolling their eyes and snickering. In a heartbeat, nearly every pair of eyes in every other aisle are drawn to Weir.

But because he never, ever breaks character, Weir pulls on his coat, smiles, slides a black Prada handbag down to the crook of his elbow and heads for the exit, staring straight ahead.

Fearless…

Behind a microphone, Weir is fearless — just as he was throughout a skating career that began perilously late, probably peaked too early, and almost certainly would have garnered more ribbons, titles (he won three national championships) and Olympic medals (zero) if only he’d been less confrontational.

Yet that attitude, coupled with a fierce intelligence and a love of fashion that began with childhood and still knows no bounds, is what made Weir a first-class commentator from the very beginning.

“She’s too old to wear that baby pink color, especially with how tight it is,” he said about skater Stacey Kemp of Britain at one of the competitions Weir worked during the run-up to these Games. “She needs a look that’s more mature.”

“She was wearing a nightie,” he said at another, training his sights on Nathalie Pechalat of France, “which I don’t think should be featured in any athletic endeavor.”

And to be sure, Weir’s outfits have not gone unnoticed, either.

A half-dozen websites and countless commenters across social media track his wardrobe changes daily, which have ranged from a hot-pink vintage Chanel blazer to a conservative gray Billy Reid jacket. Each has been accessorized by colorful shirts and pocket squares, gaudy necklaces and cocktail rings — and on one occasion a crown braid set atop his jet-black hair — all of it seemingly on loan from rappers or someone’s elderly aunt.

Weir chronicles his favorites on his own Instagram account (http://instagram.com/johnnygweir ), featuring images with celebrities, regular fans and he and Lipinski hanging out.

Weir has been bashed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for wearing fur, by some inside the skating community — even while he was competing — for being too flamboyant, and, after coming out publicly in his memoir and marrying Russian-born Victor Voronov, for not being strident enough.

Besides himself, the only people Weir is out to please are NBC and the audience to which his role as an broadcaster at the Sochi Games has given him access to.

“In hiring me to have a voice and an opinion, they hired knowing full well,” he said, “knowing what kind of statements — fashion and otherwise — I like to make.”

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Filed under: Olympics

106 more reader comments:

  1. Not a fan.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:49pm
  2. there will always be haters.

    Replied on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:41pm
  3. Allways will

    Replied on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 12:07am
  4. Christina not being a fan does not equate to being a hater. Playing the hate card is indeed declasse.

    Replied on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 1:55am
  5. Not a fan too...he is not inspiring.

    Replied on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 5:44am
  6. I agree with Christopher. I am not a fan of this man. He's a sell out and has no self respect for himself.

    Replied on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 6:01am
  7. I love him

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:50pm
  8. Good!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:50pm
  9. I love it

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:50pm
  10. Who gives a damn about this fake ass traitor piece of shit?!?

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:51pm
  11. hey I am part of the lgbt community and it is not because you show support to your athletes that you show support to all that discrimination , in fact I hope that russians get their ass whooped in everything , but as a Canadian I still support Canadian who are going there to represent my nation. It is not trahison it is about standing up for those who trained 4 years for the most important competition of their life. DAMN IT.

    Replied on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:10pm
  12. That has nothing to do with being Canadian. I don't have a national identity. I hope those people come back safe AND I also hope that at every opportunity they have to be photo-op'ed either explicitly or implicitly supporting Putin, they REFUSE politely but uncompromisingly.

    Replied on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 11:01pm
  13. @ John Carr Lay Off The Donuts Your Jealous You Can't Wear This !!!!! Just Sayin' Bitter Much??

    Replied on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 11:31pm
  14. John you took the words right out of my mouth.

    Replied on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 11:36pm
  15. He’s looking so fab!!!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:52pm
  16. I’m happy that he dresses the way he is comfortable and happy!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:52pm
  17. “Behind a microphone weir is fearless,” unless of course he’s about to speak up for tortured Russian homosexuals… Then that bitch is fucking mute.
    He’s a Russian Uncle Tom, and praising his catty gossipy bullshit sets back gay rights in Russia a hundred years.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:53pm
  18. I am always a fan of people who are fearless!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:54pm
  19. Cannot stand him.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:55pm
  20. Killer Queen.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:55pm
  21. Today was a bit much on NBCSports Network…he was wearing green with a head piece that looked like a tiara. I mean… come on.! He is good a deciphering the competition, needs to smile more.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:56pm
  22. Be yourself!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:57pm
  23. freak

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:58pm
  24. John Carr fuck you. Piece of shit fat pig.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:58pm
  25. Wow, resorting to look-bashing? Don't. Your face won't take it.

    Replied on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:24pm
  26. Face plant on the ice

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:58pm
  27. He is a disgrace to the gay community…

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:58pm
  28. Too(confertational) Loud homosexual-he never brought home any medals for USA-now he is behind the mike-is this the best the USA could do for our up&coming champions- Good Luck, Hope Johnny does not freak out & slap u with his trendy purse(lol)-

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:00pm
  29. This fool could care less about the GLBT community, the only thing that’s important in his world is his “fame” that he lingers on.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:00pm
  30. A huge fan! He is who he is! And I love that about him!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:01pm
  31. I will be honest: I didn’t know who he was until about a year ago. I stopped watching figure skating about 6 years ago.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:01pm
  32. He is gross!!!!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:01pm
  33. You're gross!!!!

    Replied on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:26pm
  34. He had a chance to stand up. He had a chance to speak out, but he chose money over his community. I no longer am a fan at all.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:01pm
  35. A bit harsh..at least he went there knowing full well he was a marked person and put himself in harms way, what have you done about it?

    Replied on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 3:58am
  36. I’ve actually done quite a few things about it, such as discontinuing use of sponsor products and services, signed petitions, etc. The best way to let corporations and sponsors know you don’t agree with decisions they’ve made, is by taking away revenue. We can talk all day about it, but it does little good unless you back it up. Companies and sponsors care for nothing more than the bottom line, or profit. If you take that away from them, it gives a stronger meaning to your words. If you just say, “I don’t like what you’re doing.” They don’t care. However, if you say that, and then stop using the products or services they endorse, the point becomes much more clear. This individual chose money over community, and harsh or not, it's why I'm no longer a fan of him. Outside of the Olympics, the news has been filled with LGBT community members who are in the spotlight, refusing to go to Russia because of the current laws in the country. All he had to do was say, no thank you, I don't wish to participate. Instead, he said, Yes please, I'll take the pay check.

    Replied on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 5:47am
  37. Also, I assure you, he is in no way shape or form “In harm’s way”. He is quite well protected by security forces. Him going to Russia was not an act of nobility, and seeing it as such is just being misinformed. NBC, the company who now pays him does everything in its power to make sure he is well protected. They hired him specifically because he is an outwardly gay man, and they needed someone to help make everything seem okay to the LGBT community that scorned them for televising the event. Please don’t miss understand me. I’m very proud of the Olympians, and the hard work they put in for whatever sport they excel in. No, I didn’t go to Russia, for several reasons. The largest of them being, I’m just an average guy, and wouldn’t have the benefit of the security teams that protect him. Fact is, If I went to Russia, and publically exclaimed that I am a homosexual, I would be imprisoned, or worse. He’s a talented individual, and he has worked hard in his sport. No one is saying he didn’t. However, when he went there for the sake of a pay check, and let’s be honest, that’s what he did. He essentially told the LGBT community, he would rather get paid, and have more television face time, than stand up for something that affects him, as a gay man.

    Replied on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 5:57am
  38. I’m a pretty masc guy… I am pretty sure my inner queen totally delights in this article. I even squeed once because I love Tara Lapinski too. Weir is a baddass and a half and I give him props. #werkbruh #werkbetch

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:02pm
  39. Aw, come on guys! I think that NOT showing up at the Olympics fits right into Russia’s comfort zone!! Showing up as Johnny has? With NOTHING to hide??? Priceless and absolutely what should be done! Go, Johnny, GO!!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:06pm
  40. I boycotted watching the games so I haven’t seen him. After his pre Sochi comments though I did send his book through the shredder.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:06pm
  41. So tired of this GAY COOKIE CUTTER look. Be original. This copy cat sense of style is so out dated. Nothing unique here. He might as well be doing a Michael Jackson impersonation. When you follow a recipe for gayness …this is the result… and Atlanta is full of it… labels…labels and more labels. Made-up — famous!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:07pm
  42. Fuck that traitorous piece of shit.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:07pm
  43. He is not an Activist, and is a public figure which I use loosely that wants attention. Grouping him with others who work tirelessly for our community is a slap in the face to the movement and the community.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:09pm
  44. I’d love to see all his outfits in a slideshow.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:10pm
  45. I don’t believe wearing drag connects him to the gay community. I am against him being in Sochi until and if he gets arrested or beat up by the authorities for kissing his husband in public. I don’t oppose what he wears – I oppose where he’s wearing it.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:15pm
  46. He has every right to be as flamboyant as he is. But stereotypes hurt us all. I am conflicted on seeing him as he presents himself. Not attractive to me. And an exhibitionist. And only concerned with himself, not hatred and bigotry. Damn it, why does he have to be a commentator for NBC. Do they want gay people to look bad? Probably. So, to hell with him.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:15pm
  47. In all fairness, stereotypes exist for a reason, such as being true for many people. The flamboyant paved the way for us all. That said, this guy is just a douche.

    Replied on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:14pm
  48. I totally agree, Jay. There was a time when we were stereotyped in films and print. And I honor those men and women who were brave enough to put on an honest face, even if it was satirical or just humorous. I'm referring to many of the film clips in The Lavender Closet. And boy is he a douche!

    Replied on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 10:30pm
  49. well from this olympics i mean

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:17pm
  50. Idiot.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:17pm
  51. Most gay men are suit-wearing, nicely attired, non-screaming, flamboyant queens. He does not represent me or any of my friends. We cringe when we see him. He is an oddity!!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:17pm
  52. I’m gay, but nelly flamers give me a migraine.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:21pm
  53. Check your internalized homophobia people. He doesn’t need to represent you. I think he’s dumb and looks like a botoxed Liberace pantomime, but I fully support his choice to be flamboyant. It takes way more balls to be flamboyant in this world than be an assimilationist drone.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:23pm
  54. I think it’s odd when people who wear whatever they want criticize others for what they wear. I applaud his self-confidence and individuality, but I think he contradicts that by suggesting that others dress the way he wants them to. Someone who truly celebrates individuality wouldn’t do that, I think.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:25pm
  55. so proud of him and his delightful insightful commentary

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:26pm
  56. It takes balls for wearing those outfits in Sochi. Let that flag fly!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:27pm
  57. Bring it on Avyel Karner. Bring it on.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:34pm
  58. Why do I hear circus music whenever I see him?

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:35pm
  59. not a fan of him. he is a douche, sell out, mouth piece for russia

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:44pm
  60. He is gorgeous. I want him to style me every day. So glad he’s so strong and brave–fearless to be who he is in Russia!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:45pm
  61. he is who he is…he’s comfortable in his skin, so what? let him be and let us all be…

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:48pm
  62. This guy is authentic. I’m a fan.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:13pm
  63. My eyes may never recover from the brightness of that pink. Still, courage!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:19pm
  64. You go Johny! Don’t ever let ANYONE EVER push you down! Shine on you crazy diamond!!!!!!!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:26pm
  65. He is who he is – and he need not apologize for that. Is it my fashion? Who cares!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:28pm
  66. It isn’t good enough to be who we are, we are supposed to strive to be better than ourselves. I am all for individualism but flamboyance for the sake of calling attention to oneself isn’t the same. For those who say flamboyance is a sign of fearlessness, I would say perhaps it was before–before outrageous reality tv celebrities . Today, in my opinion quiet dignity is much more fearless because it risks being lost amidst the noise. Just because Mr. Weir is LGBT does not mean he gets a pass for being an attention wh*re. Stand out by what you do for others and you’ve earned my respect. Standing out because you wore pink or red or whatever doesn’t make one worthy of the same. It is pure narcissism to think it does.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:38pm
  67. quiet dignity got millions of homosexuals, gypsies and Jews slaughtered in the 1940's ...OH! By the way they wore pink and yellow and not by choice.

    Replied on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 3:56am
  68. I.LOVE.JOHNNY. Always have… the only thing that would make his appearance better in Sochi would be if he took the ice. I loved his performance in 2010 – I was so bummed when I found out he wouldn’t be skating in this Olympics.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:41pm
  69. “One does want a hint of color” — The Birdcage

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:46pm
  70. I think it’s odd that criticising someone’s wardrobe is suddenly off limits…

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:50pm
  71. Anyway, he is not risking anything. The gay Russians who are protesting and getting arrested and beaten in the streets are. Those who call him “fearless” need to get their heads checked.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 9:52pm
  72. Is that pee wee Herman?

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 10:01pm
  73. He’s in the pink!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 10:07pm
  74. There’s only one Johnny and he’s fearless. Let Johnny be Johnny.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 10:18pm
  75. He’s a damn idiot (gay or straight) I don’t care. He is useless and should just go away!!!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 10:25pm
  76. I think he is more interested in get a job in the mainstream media than sports or human rights.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 10:30pm
  77. Not a fan, he cares more about the Olympics than his own Community.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 10:31pm
  78. Good for him for being who he is and not giving a dam what other people think of him.

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 11:08pm
  79. Oh Christ…

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 11:43pm
  80. It’s all fine but why the fur coat – how many lives were lost for his “fashion” SHAME!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 11:51pm
  81. So happy he changed nothing about who he is just for the media and Russia and it’s hateful rules against so many LGBT people. You go Johnny be You!

    Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 11:55pm
  82. brave man…respect

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 12:25am
  83. I admit I’m getting old, I know his name but not really who he is or why he is famous. Could not have told you what he looked like. My first thought when I saw this pic was pee wee herman :O

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 12:42am
  84. What man?

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 12:50am
  85. Reply to self- he played footsie with Putin. He should have made a louder statement. Clothes dont cut it.... what a joke

    Replied on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 12:50am
  86. He’s gorgeous!! Bravo! Very beautiful!

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 1:03am
  87. Let mother russia keep him.

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 1:19am
  88. he keeps things interesting…go weir

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 2:06am
  89. Omg he looks like the queen of England :-/

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 2:14am
  90. Very nice

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 2:23am
  91. People gotta lay off Johnny Weir

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 3:02am
  92. she makes me wanna puke…ugh shes a mess

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 3:07am
  93. I adore this boy….

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 3:19am
  94. what the fuck is he wearing…seriously too much

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 3:20am
  95. Good for him!

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 3:49am
  96. One day his clothes will rival those if Liberace.

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 3:57am
  97. wow! He’s beautiful!

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 4:21am
  98. I LOVE him, and LOVE that he is proud of who he is :)

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 4:23am
  99. Good for him.

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 4:38am
  100. please

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 4:39am
  101. Excuse me Barry, quiet dignity is conducting oneself with dignity. It isn’t being passive. I have no issue with Boy George or Liberace or anyone else for that matter being who they are/were and dressing as they did. I have no issue with LGBT protesting actively and loudly on the streets or lobbying forcefully to change policy. I actually had no issue with Mr. Weir when he was being himself as a skater and was dressing as he did. However I have a serious issue with people who think Russian anti-gay law is something that isn’t serious enough to be condemned vehemently, that it can be addressed simply by dressing outrageously and to use that to promote one’s celebrity. So far, if his cause was to promote the message of equality, it was surely lost as the only thing the media covered is his fashion style. His delight in that is indisputable. Conversely there are many who work against discrimination both loudly and quietly without regard to whether or not their names are known or if they are ever shown on TV. Just go to any charitable organization that caters to AIDS patients in marginalized neighborhoods. See people who work to get funding and research and education and shelter for LGBT homeless youth. Now tell me who should really get media exposure. Can one really say that this is the most serious way he could have contributed? Marked? How could he have been marked? Russian LGBTs are marked. When the Olympics is over, Mr. Weir would be safely home while their lives remain in peril. That’s the reality. Equality is NOT about being able to wear pink. It’s about as basic as being allowed to live.

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 4:43am
  102. Awesome!!!!

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 4:46am
  103. Love him! Fierce fashion! :):)

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 4:47am
  104. He’s just totally fab!

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 5:18am
  105. Seriously.
    Fuck him.

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 5:45am
  106. Loy Bernal Carlos: That was the best-written thread comment ever.
    Kudos.

    Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 5:47am