Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Gus Kenworthy. Not only is the Colorado native an Olympic Games-winning medalist at the ripe of age of 25, but he's also the world's first gay action sports star.
Not to mention, he's incredibly easy on the eyes.
Back in 2015, despite an original plan to hold off on speaking publicly about his sexuality until his athletic career came to a close, Kenworthy used ESPN Magazine to come out of the closet. He took to the sports platform, as well as his own social media, to express how excited he was "to tell you all the truth."
Kenworthy noted that he'd constantly been in pain keeping this secret from the world and himself, and couldn't keep up with the lies. After a point, he felt he had no choice but to open up and allow the world to see him for the talented skier he was, regardless of his sexual orientation.
Though the cover release certainly made a big splash, Kenworthy still doesn't believe his life has drastically changed, aside from being able to... well, be himself.
"I've gotten to feel a lot more uninhibited and to be so much more comfortable with myself," Kenworthy tells Elite Daily. "I've gotten so much closer with family, friends, and people that didn't know beforehand. I've grown closer in the relationship that I'm in with [my boyfriend] Matt, being able to hold hands and share a kiss in public, and not feel any weirdness about showing affection, where before, I definitely wouldn't have done that."
The athletic circuit as a whole, and its connection with strength, brute force, and being extremely masculine, would make any closeted man feel unable to fulfill his duties as an athlete if he were to admit he was gay. Kenworthy certainly felt pressure to be one of "the boys" while skiing, putting himself in situations with women only because he had no other choice in the matter.
“In skiing, there's such an alpha male thing about pulling the hottest chicks,” Kenworthy said during his ESPN interview. “I know hooking up with hot girls doesn't sound like the worst thing in the world. But I literally would sleep with a girl and then cry about it afterward. I'm like, 'What am I doing? I don't know what I'm doing.'”
Early on, coming out wasn't much of an option — that is, until now.
Kenworthy chalks his more recent success on the slopes up to his colorful admission, taking a huge weight off his shoulders and giving him the opportunity to "compete without having to hide anything."
"Part of the reason I got to where I am in sports was while I was in the closet, I always felt like I had something to prove," Kenworthy says. "When I was younger, I felt like it was such a demon in the closet kind of thing, that people would think differently of me, so I felt like I had to compensate."
Now, that's not to say being in the closet made him any less of an athlete. In fact, Kenworthy used all that pent-up emotion as a driving force to be the best skier he could be. "Getting to compete out of the closet was just a nice change," Kenworthy says. "It was nice to be able to acknowledge this part of me that I was hiding for so long. People were at events the first year I came out with rainbow flags and it was really sweet. I felt loved."
Unfortunately, there are still people who remain uninformed and unaccepting of homosexuals and the gay lifestyle as a whole. While it's easy to ignore the opinions of strangers, it's possible for friends and family members who've known you all your life to shift gears and see you in a different light once learning the truth.
If you find yourself in that situation after coming out, Kenworthy believes the best way to keep your spirits high and rid yourself of negativity is to "surround yourself with people who are positive, supportive, and loving," and to cut those out who don't appreciate you for who you truly are.
"Once you come out, you'll meet a whole new community, and you'll make friends, and you'll find people to relate to on that level," Kenworthy says. "You can still have your old friends, of course, but it does change relationships for the better. It strengthens them, and there's a level of trust that you have with someone when you tell them."
"Anyone that's not supportive is not anyone you need to spent any time with," he adds.
Over the last few years, his upward success as a athlete, as well as his openness with his personal life, have provided more gay representation and visibility in a field typically dominated by heterosexuals.
With June acting as Pride Month dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, Kenworthy hopes people will get more informed and out of their "own bubbles." "The gay community shies away from the straight community in some regards, so it's nice to have it out there and have it right there in the open for everyone," says Kenworthy. "The more representation and visibility, the more it ends homophobia and perpetuates love."
As for his Pride plans, Kenworthy plans on to "link up with friends, wear a cute gay outfit, and enjoy the day. I'll support and share the love."
His next move this June as a member of the LGBTQ+ community has him feeling free in a whole other way: He's partnering alongside MeUndies for their “Celebrate Yourself” campaign by posing in nothing but polka-dot briefs to raise awareness for Pride Month. One dollar will be donated to the Los Angeles LGBT Center for every special edition pair of undies that are purchased.
Just as flaunting around in nothing but your underwear can be liberating, exciting, and a little bit scary, so can coming out of the closet. It's those feelings, along with the idea of taking "a leap of faith," as Kenworthy describes, that are a bit synonymous with telling someone you're gay.
"Ultimately, it's the most freeing thing you can do for yourself if you're in the closet, so there's definitely some similarities," says Kenworthy.
And, since we are talking about an underwear campaign...
"I don't ever wear boxers, I usually wear boxer briefs," says Kenworthy. "If you're trying to look a little sexier, or wear something nice under jeans, then I'll wear.. briefs. Smaller, cuter ones... but when I say briefs though, I think of whitey tighties. Normally, it's just boxer briefs. Not loose boxers, though... that was a long answer. You can just say boxer briefs."
Kenworthy is eager to remind everyone to celebrate Pride and the LGBTQ+ community — even when Pride Month has come and gone each year.