Figure skater Adam Rippon, who stole the show at this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, has given an emotional speech while accepting the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award.
Rippon this year became the first openly gay athlete to compete for the United States at a Winter Olympics, helping his U.S. team win a bronze medal in the team figure skating event.
“When I was little, I used to care so much about what others thought of me. I was mindful of the way I dressed, my mannerisms, the way I talked,” he said.
“I was afraid people would think I was weak. I was afraid of making mistakes.
“I was afraid that I wouldn’t be welcomed by the LGBTQ community because someone like me wouldn’t be the role model they were looking for.
“Maybe I was ‘too gay’, and maybe I was just too myself.”
Rippon has become the breakout star of this year’s Olympics through his sharp humour, magnetic performances and unapologetic confidence.
During the Winter Olympics, he declined to speak to notedly U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who has an appallingly anti-LGBTI rights record, and gave countless fabulous interviews.
“I remember making the choice to be unafraid,” Rippon said. “I made the choice to not care what others thought of who I was. I was going to be truly me.
“I used to be afraid to share my authentic self with the world, but today when I walk into a room, I know I’m a star.
“‘It’ makes me a star, and I have ‘it’.
“But I have a secret. Everyone in this room has ‘it’ too. Everyone in this room is a star. ‘It’ is true confidence. ‘It’ is authenticity. And ‘it’ is being fearless.”
Rippon ended the speech by saying he hoped that his visibility could inspire others to become role models in the way he had.
“To all the young kids who come across this speech online,” he said, “There is something you need to know, and something we can all be reminded of.
“You are smarter than you think. You hold more strength than you may ever know. You are powerful.
“No matter where you have come from or where you are going to, there is someone who looks up to you and they will find inspiration in your strength of just being yourself.”
HRC President Chad Griffin praised Rippon, saying, “One word best describes Adam Rippon — fierce.”
“By being out and proud, Adam is bringing LGBTQ visibility to a whole new level while capturing the hearts of millions around the world with his incredible talent and personality.”
Watch Rippon’s full speech below.