Rio Olympics: Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir on Athlete Crushes, Uniform Makeovers and Nude Car Changes
The former figure skaters talk about covering their first Summer Olympics as cultural correspondents for NBC.
Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, the former Olympic figure skaters who were the surprise hits of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics with their outrageous outfits and fun banter, are bringing their act to the Rio Olympics as cultural correspondents for NBC. The pair talks with The Hollywood Reporter about covering their first Summer Olympics, dishing on topics including which summer sports have the coolest uniforms and which need a makeover, whether athletes wear their Olympic gear after the games and their thoughts on the 450,000 condoms being distributed in the Athletes' Village.
This is the first Summer Olympics for both of you. What do Winter Olympians think of the Summer Games?
Lipinski: I’ve always been jealous of the warm weather. In figure skating, I’ve always been prepared to be very cold at all times. It’s my first Summer Games, and it’s everything that I thought it would be. It’s just very colorful, and it feels like summer.
Weir: The Summer Olympics is so much bigger than the Winter Olympics; there’s so much more diversity in sports, and the Parade of Nations today will be outrageous and huge because there are so many more countries that can participate in the summer. I prefer the Winter Games, myself, because I feel that’s where I come from. I love ice and snow. But it is definitely beautiful and vibrant and colorful, and most of the athletes are pretty much half-naked, so there’s nothing wrong with looking at some athletes in top form in swimsuits.
Cooler outfits: Summer or Winter Olympics?
Lipinski: Both. Johnny and I actually posted our videos of what we walked in at the opening ceremony. Whether you’re in the Summer Games or the Winter Games, that moment when you’re standing there and they’re handing you out your T-shirts and your jackets that display the American flag, there’s just something so special about that day.
For Olympians, are there rules or a style guide as to what you do with the gear afterward?
Weir: It’s very prestigious for us as athletes and as sportsmen to display the fact that we went to the Olympics. So when you show up to practice at your home, even after the Olympics are over, and you’re wearing the Olympic sweatshirt and parka, it’s bragging rights. It’s this beautiful moment that nobody else in your rink experienced but you. I got a lot of things in big sizes so my dad could also have some Olympic gear, I got some things that my mom could enjoy. I wasn’t selfish in the line where you can pick and choose your sizes. I still try to do that with our official gear for NBC.
Lipinski: I remember years before I went and I was skating in Detroit, there was a skater — Todd Eldredge — who had gone to an Olympic Games, and he would wear his black leather jacket with the Olympic rings on the back. I used to make bets with him: If I could do this jump, I could wear it the next day. Imagine when you have your very own. You wear it at the rink, you wear it on tour — any chance you can. You enjoy wearing it. You also get an Olympic ring, and I still wear that to this day.
What's your social media strategy for the Olympics?
Lipinski: We try to cover all of it. It’s very time-consuming; we’re just going in and out during our day, so we don’t neglect one platform over the other. But I think, for Johnny and I, we started our Instagram, our joint account, so I do think that was one of the things that put us in front of a younger generation. We didn’t expect it when we formed it that night. We thought it was just gonna be a fun thing for us to look at or laugh at. We were surprised to see that we got so many followers. So I think there’s something that pulled at our heartstrings when it comes to our joint Instagram account, and we haven’t tried the Stories yet, but we’re definitely going to test that out. Snapchat is very new for us. It’s only a few days old for us, we’re still figuring it out!
What’s the idea behind the podcast Tara and Johnny? What’s different about it?
Weir: On the podcast, there’s no limitations on what we talk about, how long we talk — there’s no rules, and we love that. Because when we’re on broadcast, you have such a short period of time to get your point across, do it intelligently and entertain people. The podcast is just two great friends having a conversation, and so many people — already hundreds of thousands of people — have listened to it. That makes us so happy because everyone’s got a best friend, everyone has a confidante, and that’s what the podcast is all about.
Lipinski: I think it’s probably the most real Tara and Johnny you will get. We’re always being our genuine selves, but we’re doing different things. When we’re commentating, we’re focusing on figure skating, and we’re trying to explain it to you, the viewers, what they’re watching and offer intelligent insight. The podcast is more what you would see on a day-to-day basis if you were just hanging out with us. I think that’s really fun for us to sort of share those behind-the-scenes moments. People see the on-camera part of it, but they don’t know what happened 10 minutes before, 10 minutes after.
What events are you most looking forward to?
Weir: I have a major crush on Ryan Lochte, so basically any time Ryan Lochte’s in the pool, I’ll be watching. I love men’s platform diving, and women’s gymnastics I think is very special for both of us.
Lipinski: Yeah, I think gymnastics is sort of the most similar to figure skating in the Summer Games, and I was lucky enough to sit down with Simone Biles and do a profile on her. That was just so eye-opening, to be able to sit down with someone so young and so good and someone who dominates gymnastics.
Do you have themed outfits for particular events?
Weir: I definitely have some diamond-encrusted goggles, so I’m ready for anything. Our position at NBC is we’re kind of free-flowing, we are cultural correspondents for Brazil and for the games and for bringing everything that goes on behind the scenes here to the American public and explaining to them about the Olympics and what it’s like to be in Brazil.
What’s the over-under for the amount of outfit changes a day for you guys?
Lipinski: Three or four.
In the morning, do you have an idea of when and how you’re going to switch outfits?
Weir: Yeah, we do a lot of naked car rides because we change in the cars on the way from one thing to another. We wake up in the morning and we decide who the audience is of what we’re filming that day because sometimes we’re doing MSNBC, sometimes we’re doing something for Ryan Seacrest or filming something for the Today show and really bouncing all around NBC. So you have to think about who’s watching. If it’s too early in the morning, I can’t really have a full Johnny moment. You have to be respectful of the program you’re going on, so we definitely try to have essences of the outfits together.
What’s the trick to changing in a car?
Lipinski: Luckily, we’re usually in a van of some sort. As figure skaters, we had great preparation for this moment because there are so many times as a figure skater — you get out of school, you’re on your way to the rink, you have all these tricks: You put one leg on and not the other, these magic tricks so you can magically be in a new outfit without seeing a thing.
Weir: It’s also good that we are a girl/gay guy combo because there’s no weirdness about being naked in front of each other.
Lipinski: And the best thing about working with your best friend would be that — you know, going on live television and thinking that everything you do when it comes to your work is nerve-wracking enough, and you don’t have time to worry about your appearance. So I know that when I look at Johnny, he’ll always tell me if I have a curl out of place or I have food in my teeth.
What’s the most stylish and least stylish summer sport?
Weir: Well, I think the French equestrian team always is in Hermes. So that’s pretty baller.
Lipinski: They win, right there.
Weir: For a makeover, it’s hard. They barely wear anything in the Summer Olympics. For swimming, I would definitely take away those full bodysuits that the dudes have started wearing because it’s a lot more interesting for us as an audience to see rippling muscles flying through the water faster than a shark. Give me a Speedo any day.
What are you guys particularly excited about that you’re doing in the next week or so?
Lipinski: We had spent 10 days out here in February to shoot as many of the features then as we could. One of the biggest highlights has to be: We danced at Carnival. It’s a very serious event that Rio prepares for all year long practically, and they had the city sectioned off just for that, where they had these magical clothes and costumes to put on this show. And NBC had a part of that. Johnny and I always said, looking at each other in glitter makeup and feathers, we said, "When we’re 60 years old sitting on a rocking chair, we’ll say to each other, 'You remember that time we rode at Carnival?' " So that was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us.
Weir: We did a lot of the touristy things, so we of course have that insight, but we’ve really come to appreciate Brazil, and of course we appreciate the Olympics. But there’s so much gloom around this Olympics for whatever reason, so for us, it’s really important to bring the vibrancy, the life, the history and the passion that lives in Brazil. It’s important for us to bring that to the American public, who’s only thinking zika, political unrest, financial security, all of those issues. And for us, we want everyone to understand that every country has its problems, but this is a country that’s so excited to host the Olympic Games, which is something we’ve devoted our lives to, and there’s so much passion and brilliance down here. We want to see that.
The International Olympic Committee provided about 450,000 condoms to the athletes in the Olympic Village this time around. Do you think there’s more sex at the Summer Games than there is at the Winter Games?
Weir: I would say so, yes. I had a superstition that, even having sex with myself, I couldn’t really handle that before a competition because it would drain my energy, so to speak. So I was never a big ‘sex while you’re at work’ kind of person. But I definitely think, because you get to see a lot more of these athletes, there’s a lot more sexual tension built up.
Do you think that number is on the mark? Do you think the amount of sex people have at the Olympics is not a myth?
Weir: Good for them. If they have that much time on their hands, maybe they should get a day job or take up a second sport or something. But major props to the athletes and the IOC for making sure everyone’s safe. You should always wrap it up.