Cannes Lions: Olympics Star Adam Rippon on Making "Weird" Work

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Adam Rippon

“When I went to the Olympics people were like, who is this white trash?” Rippon told NBC anchor Natalie Morales. “But now through my social media, they feel as if [they] know me and they go on my journey with me.”

Never mind that he’s gay, famously the first openly gay male athlete to win an Olympic medal. A crowd of young women queued up early to see Adam Rippon at Cannes Lions as if it were 1964 and he was Paul McCartney.

Dressed in Gucci from head to toe, including a pair of glittery shoes, Rippon did not disappoint his adoring fans, who actually stared at Rippon more than they looked at their phones.

“I’m not the typical American boy,” said Rippon, with the same cheek he showed at the Olympics, where he won a bronze medal in figure skating, and during his winning run on Dancing with the Stars. “My brand feels like the face of the new boy next door.”

And it’s all because he decided he needed to be the role model he never had after a childhood feeling “alone and weird.”

“I like to share my coming-out experience because that’s really when I became my best self,” Rippon said. “Being different and weird is what makes me cool and special.”

But while it’s part of his story, “being gay is such a small part of who I am.”

Rippon joined fellow Olympian Mikaela Shiffrin, NBC anchor Natalie Morales and NBC Universal’s head of ad sales Linda Yaccarino in analyzing how effectively people can build brand authenticity by telling their story on social media — especially when their stories are told on a platform like NBC’s Winter Olympics, which reached about 200 million.

“When I went to the Olympics people were like, who is this white trash?” Rippon said. “But now through my social media they feel as if [they] know me and they go on my journey with me.”

Rippon stood out during the Olympics not just because he was openly gay but also because he refused to meet with Vice President Mike Pence.

“I was able to connect with a lot of people at the Olympics because I was genuine and honest,” Rippon said.

He said he would never say or do something provocative just to get more likes and attention.

“I wouldn’t say anything just to be mean. But when asked a tough question, I don’t back down.”

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