Johnny Weir hopes people remember him for this — and it has nothing to do with ice skating

"One quality that I really try hard for is kindness, this is worth everything," Weir said. "Kindness really makes your life happier."
Figure skating champion Johnny Weir.
Figure skating champion Johnny Weir.Anthony Scutro

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By Diane Herbst

Johnny Weir is best known for his artistic flair as a two-time Olympic figure skater and for his insightful skating commentary for NBC Sports.

But on Tuesday, Weir shared that the legacy he hopes to leave behind is of a different sort. "One quality that I really try hard for is kindness, this is worth everything," he told Mika Brzezinski at a Know Your Value event in Philadelphia. "Kindness really makes your life happier, and it gives you the power to know that you did everything you could to make somebody's day and to make your own."

During an extensive interview, Weir, 35, also spoke about embracing his uniqueness, the importance of pursuing your passion, why failure isn't always a bad thing and his top beauty secret.

Embrace who you are

The now openly gay figure skater grew up in the conservative, rural town of Quarryville, Pennsylvania and was terrified to come out as a teenager. He initially thought, "it was gonna be awful and everyone's going to disown me and cut my hair off," he said. "And I am so fortunate that I did not have that situation."

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Quite the opposite. On his 18th birthday, Weir decided to open up to his mom. "I told my mother, 'I turned 18 today I'm gay,' and she said, 'Oh I know,'" Weir said, calling it "the most awesome reaction."

Weir noted that he’s aware of how difficult it can be for others to fully accept themselves, and he feels fortunate he's been surrounded by a supportive family. "Being strong and believing in who you are, I think, is the best thing I could have learned, and that's from my parents, or just being confident and being lucky in that way," he said. "That's how I found me."

Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski with figure skating champion Johnny Weir at a Know Your Value event in Philadelphia on Tuesday.Anthony Scutro

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The athlete, who always seems to be wearing a kind smile and have a twinkle in his eyes, told Brzezinski that he has received criticism for how flamboyant he is, noting he’s gotten hate mail, bad reviews and even death threats. But Weir said he refuses to let the negativity make him feel afraid.

"I am going to live life once and I'm not living it for other people," he said. "I'm living it for me…the only review that matters is the one that you have with yourself at the end of the night, when you look in the mirror, all the makeup's off, and you can say, 'I love you.' I know it's really sugar coated and sweet, but that really is what life's all about."

It's never too late to pursue a passion

Weir didn't even take up ice skating until he was 12, and when he did, it was on a frozen cornfield behind his family's house. But he worked hard and believed in himself, which he said helped vaulted him to the top of the competitive skating world. Those attributes, he added, helped him with his analyst role at NBC and other post-skating passions including fashion design, acting, and singing.

"I am very thankful for everything that this life has given me, and I try to do everything to an Olympic level," he said. "And I knew that that's how I have been able to survive in entertainment after my sporting career."

Figure Skater Johnny Weir performs during the 2016 'Amazing on Ice' at Capital Indoor Stadium on July 15, 2016 in Beijing, China.Lintao Zhang / Getty Images file

He always listens to his own voice

Brzezinski asked Weir about a time when skating judges advised him to skate "more like a man." Weir had recently dyed his hair with bleach-blond highlights, and his ballet-like skating style differed from the "solid, brick-like" skating of other men at the top of the sport.

"I wasn't interested in that," said Weir. "I wanted to skate a full show performance. And judges decide what figure skaters get to do for the rest of their lives. If you don't have a strong belief in yourself, you can very easily get sidetracked. So, from that first moment where I had this run-in with these judges, I knew that I had to be 10 times better than anybody else. And I pushed myself so I could be myself."

You need a tribe to thrive

Weir has long surrounded himself with a team of supportive coaches, co-workers and his mom. He credited this support for helping him get through tough times, especially during the Sochi Olympics, when he served as a commentator with fellow ice skater Tara Lipinski.

"I was going through a horrific divorce and nobody ever would know that, because I had my mother and Tara and our producers at NBC," Weir recounted. "That helped me get through that and feel strong enough to be able to go out and entertain America. So, your team is very important. You can fly solo as much as you want, but you're ultimately going to need somebody."

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: TV personalities Johnny Weir (L) and Tara Lipinski attend the Oscars held at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)Michael Buckner / Getty Images

He's embraced change — and failure

A big Know Your Value pillar is to stop being afraid of change. "I think we've got to be much more nimble in life," said Brzezinski. "Things change all the time."

While Weir admitted that leaving his professional skating career in 2013 was difficult, he's discovered a host of new opportunities to embrace.

"The life of an athlete is so short," he said. "You have such a small opportunity to fail, and when I got out of Olympic sports, I wanted to give myself that opportunity to fail." This includes a recent singing appearance on "The Masked Singer" in an egg costume. "I'm not a gifted songstress," said Weir. "I had a lot of fun doing it, but I knew I wasn't going to win. It's just giving yourself that ability to fail and those moments when you have fallen down and you have to pull yourself back up are so important. They help you change. You have to be able to go with the flow and it doesn't matter what age you are. You have to be ready for it."

His beauty secret?

Weir's smooth, almost flawless skin is maintained by a very pricey moisturizer made by Cle de Peau. "I like to take little things from people's lives that I admire, and I like to look at their strengths, their values, their skincare," he said, laughing.