Gus Kenworthy on Being a Global LGBTQ Ambassador

Gus Kenworthy on Being a Global LGBTQ Ambassador

The Olympic skiier discusses with VMAN how globetrotting through Marriott Moments fosters queer visibility.

The Olympic skiier discusses with VMAN how globetrotting through Marriott Moments fosters queer visibility.

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

It’s no surprise that freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy has been flying high since competing in the Winter Olympics in February. While he left Pyeongchang sans gold, his impact on the games outmatched that of most other athletes; as one of the first two openly gay male Olympians to ever compete (alongside fellow American sweetheart Adam Rippon) Kenworthy helped make the games the gayest Olympic event in memory.

In the months following the games, Kenworthy has continued to hoist his rainbow flag on a global scale. He graced the cover of Out Magazine, presented at the GLAAD Awards, met God, and made a cameo at the RuPaul’s Drag Race finale taping. He’s also carried on his LGBTQ+ advocacy through his bounty of highly visible endorsement deals; one such deal is his post as an ambassador for Marriott's experiences platform, Marriott Moments, for which he recently curated a travel itinerary. As we learned on a phone call earlier this week, Kenworthy sees travel as more than a hobby; whether he’s globetrotting with boyfriend Matthew Wilkas or patronizing international gay neighborhoods, his high-flying travel itinerary is also a form of queer ambassadorship.

Read the whole conversation below.

Hi Gus! How are you?

I’m doing well, thanks.

You must travel a lot. Do you enjoy it?

Yeah. I travel, all the time, both for work and for fun. It’s one of my favorite things to do. If I have time off or my boyfriend and I want to do something special, it’s usually a trip. One of my favorite things to do is to just explore a new city. But I also travel a lot for work. I fly hundreds of thousands of miles a year.

Does your taste in travel destinations align with your chosen career? Do you enjoy going to countries where there are places to ski?

I mean, I joke and say that sometimes I wish I’d chosen to be a surfer. [But] I feel very fortunate. I travel to some amazing places and it is often mountain-related, but our sport is pretty unique [in that] there are some pretty big events on man-made snow, so I’ve done competitions in the city in Oslo, Budapest, Stockholm, London, Zurich, and all over Europe. I’ve skied in Beijing and in the Olympics in Korea and Russia. I feel like I’ve traveled a lot. It’s usually not beachy destinations, but then if I have the chance to vacation, that’s usually what I tend to lean toward.

You’ve been busy since the Olympics. What where have you been?

I have been traveling pretty much nonstop since then, but I haven’t had a ton of vacation time. I went back to New York after the Olympics and traveled around for a lot of different charity and LGBT advocacy stuff. I was in L.A. for the GLAAD Awards. I hosted a RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party in New York City and all the tickets and all the profit goes entirely to GLSEN, which makes the world safer for LGBT youth. I was in Vienna for the Life Ball, which raises money for the fight against HIV/AIDS. I was in Miami for Pride. I was actually in Syracuse, New York, for upstate New York Pride. I was in New York City for Pride. I went to Cannes in France to do a panel discussion on diversity and inclusion during the Cannes Lions Film Fest. I’ve been sort of all over the place, but I haven’t been on a proper vacation with no agenda.

You and Adam [Rippon] are often seen together these days. Are you travel buddies? Do you share a hotel room now and again?

[Laughs] No, actually, we haven’t. We organized our flights back from the Olympics so that we sat next to each other and were on the same flight, and I think that was actually the only flight we’ve ever been on together. We’ve seen each other a ton since the Olympics, both for events and just for, like, lunches, dinners, to hang out and catch up, but I don’t think we’ve ever…We’ve definitely never shared a hotel room. We haven’t traveled a lot together, unfortunately. He’s been very busy since the Olympics, and our schedules only overlap every so often.

Got it. When you and your boyfriend travel together, how are you as a traveler? Do you see yourself as a good travel buddy?

I think I’m pretty lax. I like doing a lot and fitting a lot in, but I’m not the person that’s very commandeering and takes control of scheduling. I’m pretty open to someone doing that. Usually, if I’m traveling, my boyfriend will map out the day. We usually find the gay neighborhood in any city that we’re in. I think that sort of just provides a level of comfort, in a way. Then, we’ll meet up with friends if we can, we’ll see the sights. If I’m with a group that’s super active and wants to be out all day hiking or whatever, I’d totally be up for that, but I can also completely be up for just drinking and walking around and shopping and having a very mellow day, so I think I am a good travel buddy!

One of the cities in your itinerary for Marriott Moments is London, where you were born. What is your relationship with the city now?

My mom’s British. I only lived there for about two years, but my older brothers basically grew up there, and after I was born, we moved to the States. I do, for sure, have a personal connection with the city. I used to go every year for big-air skiing and I brought my mom out a couple times. It feels foreign to the States, but at the same time, you’re not completely lost trying to navigate your way around a city with a language barrier. There’s so much to do and see and it’s got beautiful architecture. It’s just one of my favorite cities to walk around.

There are also some more obscure destinations on your list, like Lynn Canyon in British Columbia. What do you do there?

Lynn Canyon is in Vancouver in B.C. and Vancouver’s one of my favorite cities. It’s about two hours to Whistler, which is one of my favorite ski resorts in the world. It’s the largest ski resort in North America. Also, my first boyfriend of five years lived in Vancouver and was from Vancouver, so I used to spend a ton of time there in the city visiting him. Lynn Canyon is one of the most special things in Vancouver and something that I don’t think most people know about. It’s like a temperate rainforest 20 minutes outside of downtown Vancouver and it’s just gorgeous. There’s a massive suspension bridge and huge forests that just go in every which direction, and you can have your dog off-leash and there’s people hiking around. It’s very cool.

How does your LGBTQ activism play into your relationship with travel? When you go to a city, do you see it as an opportunity to commune with LGBT communities?

Absolutely. [That’s why] I like to, kind of, find the gay neighborhood. It’s nice to meet other LGBTQ people around the world. You have an instant connection because you share a common reality, and it’s nice to experience that in different parts of the world. I think gay bars are a really good way to do that. You can find gay bars, fun things to do, shows, you can see a Broadway-type show in West End in London. Those are all things you can find on Marriott Moments and I think are definitely shifted a little queer-focused. You go to a theater [laughs], [and] you’re very likely to bump into LGBTQ people. Gay bars, definitely, are an easy way to meet other gay people. When traveling, I think that’s something I usually tend to do: go out to the gay bars or go see a show, or try and find things that are queer-focused. Oftentimes, if it’s around Pride, there are specific events that you can book on Marriott Moments that will allow you to connect to other people. My boyfriend and I, we’ve done horseback riding before through Marriott Moments. Other times, it’s more of a group setting. Depending on what the experience is, I think you’re likely to meet queer people doing it.

Sometimes I just want to do my own thing, and we’ll find an experience of some kind that’s just for the two of us, like a horseback ride, which Other times, it’s more of a group thing and maybe you want to do something in a group setting. It kind of makes for a good way to meet people when you’re traveling, and depending on what the experience is, I think you’re likely to meet queer people doing it.

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