Olympian Gus Kenworthy Runs Into His Celebrity Crush at Store Party

Olympian Gus Kenworthy Runs Into His Celebrity Crush at Store Party


After Nancy Kerrigan’s star turn at the 1994 Winter Olympics, she declared, “I’m going to Disney World!” Gus Kenworthy has been living it up his own way since this year’s Pyeongchang Games.

The 26-year-old freestyle skier, who came out as gay in 2015, has appeared on the covers of Out magazine and Gay Times; crowd-surfed at Miami Beach Pride, where he was celebrity grand marshal; and attended Elton John’s Oscar party with his boyfriend, the actor Matthew Wilkas.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Kenworthy and Mr. Wilkas were in an S.U.V., on their way to a different sort of freestyle event: the opening of a Nordstrom Men’s Store on West 57th Street in Midtown Manhattan. Nordstrom had outfitted Mr. Kenworthy in snake-embroidered Gucci sneakers, Acne jeans, a Comme des Garçons sweatshirt and a Moncler jacket. He added his own Denver Nuggets cap, a gift from the rap-battle show “Drop the Mic.” (“I rap-battled Lindsey Vonn, the downhill skier,” he said.)

Mr. Wilkas, 39, wore Polo Ralph Lauren swag borrowed from Mr. Kenworthy. “Gus is sponsored by a whole bunch of people, and I’m sponsored by Gus,” he said dryly.

The couple met in 2015, the same year Mr. Kenworthy came out in ESPN the Magazine. Mr. Kenworthy had seen Mr. Wilkas’s movie “Gayby” and messaged him on Instagram. “He was, like, the first gay person that I ever followed,” Mr. Kenworthy said, “because I was always very in the closet and scared that even following a bunch of hot guys would let everyone know that I was gay.”

Mr. Kenworthy divides his time between his home state, Colorado; New York (where Mr. Wilkas has an apartment); and Los Angeles. He and Mr. Wilkas just got a rescue dog, a Great Pyrenees and Korean Jindo mix named Beemo, after a character in the cartoon series “Adventure Time.” “She’s confident and cute and she doesn’t give an F,” Mr. Kenworthy said.

As the car lurched through Eighth Avenue traffic, he spun his head around and shouted, “Look, there’s Adam on the side of that building!” He had spotted a screen showing the figure skater Adam Rippon, Pyeongchang’s other gay breakout star. The two Olympians had met at the opening ceremony, where they bonded over “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and became “fast friends,” Mr. Kenworthy said.

At Nordstrom, Mr. Kenworthy and Mr. Wilkas were greeted with white wine and photographers. Upstairs, they browsed windbreakers and talked to Stefano Celsi, the salesman who had dressed Mr. Kenworthy that morning. “I’m obsessed with this jacket,” Mr. Kenworthy told him, flipping through a Dior rack. “It’s honestly the sickest thing ever.”

Partygoers included Ice-T and Coco Austin, but Mr. Kenworthy was more excited about another celebrity guest. “He’s obsessed with Mark Ruffalo,” Mr. Wilkas said.

Mr. Kenworthy said, “Yeah, he’s weirdly one of my main celebrity crushes. I think he’s even sexy as the Hulk.” They vowed to meet him before the night was through.

Across the room, they spotted some friends: the model Eric Rutherford and Tan France, the fashion expert from the Netflix show “Queer Eye.” “Was this meant to be unbuttoned?” Mr. Kenworthy said, fixing a button on Mr. France’s shirt. “You’re the style police.”

Mr. France said, “I was miked earlier. You know how it is.” Mr. Kenworthy expressed envy for Mr. France’s salt-and-pepper pompadour. Then the athlete removed his cap, and Mr. France ran his fingers through his hair. “Use pomade,” he said.

Mr. Kenworthy surveyed the crowd. “I’m really happy to be here, but this is so strange,” he said. “I’ve never been to a store opening. I guess it’s just like a party. It’s mingling. But it’s mingling among clothes racks.”

Growing up in Telluride, Colo., he went on, he mostly wore hand-me-downs from his two older brothers. But his mother owned a consignment shop, and he’d get dragged along to thrift stores. “Now that I’m able to afford stuff, I love buying my mom things. I did a promo thing with Moncler this year. They gave me this big shopping spree, and I took my whole family.”

As the store filled up with fashion editors, actors and social-media influencers, Mr. Wilkas ran over and yelled, “Mark Ruffalo is in the corner.” They found him in the Calvin Klein area, surrounded by photographers and publicists. Mr. Kenworthy handed off his empty wineglass. “Is it happening? It’s happening,” Mr. Wilkas said nervously.

Mr. Kenworthy steeled himself, as a half-dozen friends, publicists and Nordstrom executives looked on; the atmosphere took on the jittery excitement of a middle-school dance. Mr. Kenworthy edged closer, but Mr. Ruffalo was stuck doing an interview, so a Nordstrom official introduced him to the actress Rashida Jones. “You’re an Olympian?” she said. “That’s really cool.”

An agonizing two minutes passed. Finally, Mr. Ruffalo came closer and shook Mr. Kenworthy’s hand. But before they could talk, the actor was yanked away for a photo op with Ms. Jones. Mr. Kenworthy asked about taking a photo with him, too, but a woman from Mr. Ruffalo’s entourage waved him away. Mr. Kenworthy’s publicist tried to intervene, but Mr. Ruffalo’s representative cut her off, saying, “We’re done here.”

And just like that, Mr. Ruffalo was gone.

“Did it happen?” Mr. Wilkas said, as a rebuffed Mr. Kenworthy stood among the Calvin Klein racks.

He shook his head and mumbled, “It’s all good.” He shrugged and suggested that they go down to the shoe department.

On his way, he was approached by Nina Garcia, the editor of Elle. She beamed and told him, “If my son knew I met you, he would be like, ‘Mom, you’re so cool!’”



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