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01.12.10

The Outrageous Johnny Weir

As he trained for the Olympics, the campy skater talked to Choire Sicha about his new TV show—as well as Vera Wang, “Windexing,” and being so depressed he almost bought an Xbox.

Johnny Weir is a three-time U.S. Champion figure skater who has wowed audiences this year with his jumping, his ever-more spangly costumes, and his recent routines set to Lady Gaga. On Friday, when the Nationals start in Spokane, Wash., he will begin competing not only for that title, but for a spot in the Olympics, which take place in Vancouver next month. He came in fifth in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino.

Weir is the Adam Lambert of figure skating; or, perhaps, Adam Lambert was the Johnny Weir of American Idol. Be Good Johnny Weir is the Sundance Channel's eight-episode show that documents his life, work, coach, and family; it premieres on January 18.

“I was like okay, I'm done. What's the next step? I'll go teach Catholic school, I'll go sew buttons on sweaters.”

The Daily Beast: Where in the world are you today?

Johnny Weir: I am actually sitting in my apartment in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Nowhere crazy, nowhere fabulous, nowhere amazing—aside from my own house, which is nice.

The Daily Beast: How is Lyndhurst?

Weir: They filmed The Sopranos here, if that helps you understand what it might be like. It's exactly how you would imagine if you watched. I'm happy. I can see the City from my windows.

The Daily Beast: Because you work in one of those fields where everyone starts so young, do you ever feel, at 25—which is very young, by the way—kind of old?

Weir: I was 12 when I started. I was 8 years behind other kids I was skating with. Then 4 years after I took a step on the ice, I was the junior world champion. Then the youngest national champion, in a crazy amount of time. Now I start to feel older when I see the new kids coming up and competing against me or with me in the same event.

I eat at a certain time. I do laundry at a certain day. My whole life is so regimented. It's hard for me to live like a young person. I'll be one of those tragic 80-year old people running around buying Porsches and Corvettes because they miss their youth. I already live the life of an early bird specialer.

The Daily Beast: Will you go to university?

Weir: My dream is to go to FIT in New York. I want to be a fashion designer and have a line in stores and a lifestyle. And just bring my side of things and my opinions to the world, in the way of a fashion line. I'm very one-tracked-minded, so when I'm doing with skating, I hope that's what's next.

The Daily Beast: Have you met with fashion designers?

Weir: I've spoken with Vera Wang, she used to be a skater herself. She said whenever you need help, you come by and see me and I'll help you. That's very cool to have Vera Wang say that to you. The fashion world opens its arms to figure skaters, particularly figure skaters that love their world. I love that world. I love high drama situations.

The Daily Beast: How did you feel about the filming for Pop Star on Ice, and for the Sundance Channel show? Was it invasive? Was it irritating?

Weir: I'm very much an open book. I will pretty much do anything and say anything I'm asked to do. I'm going to be batshit crazy whether there's a camera there or not.

The Daily Beast: What are your concerns about sports stardom? Do you have concerns.. well, like with what that golf-playing fellow went through?

Weir: No. Because I'm completely comfortable. If I'm going to have an affair, I'm going to have an affair, whether it's in the papers or not, whoopee. Are you talking about Tiger Woods?

The Daily Beast: Yes.

Weir: Tiger Woods revolutionized his sport. He did something no one had done before him, it was beautiful. He's an amazing athlete. He made a mistake. But. If you are so uncomfortable with being famous, then you shouldn't have gone into your sport at all. If your goal is to be No. 1, to be the best, it comes with the territory. You have to be prepared. Obviously he had multiple sexual partners out of his wedlock—if you did something like that you have to be ready for the consequences. Not only could your wife come in and divorce you, it could be in Us Weekly. I have no issue with me ending up on the front page of anything. I think it'd be funny.

The Daily Beast: When you retire—is that when you'll settle down and get married?

Weir: I don’t think I'll ever get married. I don’t think I'll be capable of having a relationship that’s lasting because I'm so self-sufficient. Figure skating has taught me to be that.

I feel like I'm not going to find someone in my age bracket. I'm like a cat. I don't need anyone, I'm happy sitting at home, Windexing and organizing closets and painting my nails. I'm happier, it's less stress than being with someone. Someday maybe I'll have someone! I'd love to have a baby someday. If that works out great, but if I end up with a cute furry dog and a ferret, I'll be happy. I'm happy with myself and I'm strong enough to be alone. Not that I don't welcome advances!

The Daily Beast: You sounded so down in January, 2009. How did you know when you were done with that crisis?

Weir: [That] Christmas [2008] I flew to South Korea. My third trip to Asia in a month, basically. While I was back home, I picked up a bug, and when I landed in Seoul, I was terribly, terribly sick. I had to perform, I was throwing my guts up, my agent was walking me to the ice in 14 blankets and a giant box I could dip my head into, it was horrible. Right after the show I got rushed to the hospital, had an IV and I ended up losing eight pounds that day. So when you're already crazy about your diet and probably already too small, when you lose eight pounds, it's like losing your arm and your leg. It was very close to our U.S. championship. I haven't always had the best relationship with the U.S., so if I asked them for a bye, I knew they wouldn't grant it. I was so sick, I was trying to compete on a big, big scale, and regain a national title I'd lost two years before. It was a lot of pressure. I crumbled and didn't do well and wound up fifth place. The first time I wasn't on the podium since 2003.

It was pretty devastating. I thought: well, I competed, I'm the No. 1 ranked American guy in the world, the year before I was the only American to win a medal at the world championship, maybe they'll send me [to the World championships]. But of course they didn't. Just because I was sick and had a bad performance, I wasn't allowed to continue my success on the world stage. I got very depressed and started eating a lot. I basically quit skating for two months. There wasn't enough money to get me onto the ice rink.

The Daily Beast: That was a pretty short funk!

Weir: Yeah, I'm usually not one to dwell. It's long for me—two months not to skate at all. I thought about buying an XBox, that's how bad.

The Daily Beast: Wow.

Weir: For me, it was very low. It's hard for people to understand who don't skate, who don't know the politics behind closed doors. And I thought if they didn't want to send me, they don't need me. I was like okay, I'm done. What's the next step? I'll go teach Catholic school, I'll go sew buttons on sweaters.

The Daily Beast: It's hard to get slapped like that.

Weir: A person's character is how they can deal in those situations. You can really judge a person by how they react to being kicked and beaten.

The Daily Beast: You should write a book.

Weir: I definitely want to write a book. Not about figure skating! Just about the beauty and the ugliness of figure skating. The dirt.

The Daily Beast: Will you tell all?

Weir: I will name names. I don't care who sues me after it. People will love it. I always have my Mafia connections if nothing else. As soon as I don't need to be politically correct anymore, I will drop the bomb.

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Choire Sicha is co-proprietor of The Awl and is at work on a nonfiction book for HarperStudio.