Q&A: Tara Lipinski
The U.S. Gold Medalist keeps winning
By Terri Akman

Tara Lipinski became America’s sweetheart when she won an Olympic gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 1998 Nagano games. Having started her skating career at Deptford Skating Rink, Lipinski became the youngest female in her sport ever to win gold – she was 15.  

Since then, Lipinski has developed a broadcast and acting career that has landed her supporting roles in television shows like FOX’s “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Touched by an Angel” on CBS. She’s now appearing alongside Jim Carrey in the new Showtime comedy series “Kidding,” which debuted last month. 

But perhaps what has drawn fans to Lipinski the most is her uncanny partnership with fellow Olympic skater and best pal Johnny Weir. The popular pair regularly commentate for NBC at U.S. figure skating events and also add their own celebrity charm to major televised events, including the Oscars, the Kentucky Derby, the Super Bowl and even the National Dog Show. They are known for their coordinated and often outrageous outfits, as well as their delightful and fun chemistry onscreen.  

A long way from her hometown of Washington Township, Lipinski, now 36, can easily say she has continued her winning ways.   

Q: Why does your partnership with Johnny Weir work so well? 

Lipinski: Part of why it works is the chemistry that we have as friends and the bond we’ve created over the years. From the moment we sat in that booth together, things just clicked. Obviously, we come from the same world and we’ve had a lot of the same experiences growing up. We are on the same page with a lot of our ideas and our outlook on how we want to put on a show and communicate with the audience. We want to be honest, transparent, real and also entertaining. He’s so loyal and the best partner I could ask for. He’s always got my back. It’s a real team effort. 

Q: Is it difficult to broadcast events, like horse racing, where you may not know very much about the actual sport? 

Lipinski: It’s not difficult because we’re not analysts – that would definitely not be a job for us. When we go to the Kentucky Derby, we’ll do a feature on a jockey or the horses. It’s more about fashion, red carpet stuff and social media. Our roles, as Johnny likes to say, are as cultural attachés to any event that isn’t figure skating. 

Q: Have you always been a fashionista or has that developed through your partnership with Johnny? 

Lipinski: I’ve always loved fashion. That’s part of our friendship. We love to decide what is our vibe and how do we match and what show are we going to put on. We’re like-minded in that sense. The best thing about Johnny is that whatever he feels, whatever he wants to wear, he’ll just wear it. We have different senses of style, for sure, but we both love fashion.  

Q: You and Johnny also host the Food Network reality show “Wedding Cake Championship.” What do you most enjoy about that show and your role in it? 

Lipinski: The show is so much fun. You become invested in all these baking duos that are competing for the title of Wedding Cake Champion. It was a different experience outside the skating rink, being transported into the world of wedding cake baking. We learned so much. It was a real competition, and you got to see on a daily basis how talented these artists were. We also ate a lot of cake, which was fun. I’m addicted to sweets. I like to bake, but I’m definitely not as talented as what we saw on the show.  

Q: What was it like to work with Jim Carrey on Showtime’s “Kidding?”  

Lipinski: It was one of those opportunities you can’t pass up. It’s such an exciting and unique experience that only comes along once in a lifetime. I come in around the fourth episode portraying a very exaggerated version of myself. It’s insane to walk on set at a new job acting opposite such an incredible, iconic actor as Jim Carrey.  

Q: You play yourself in “Kidding,” but you’ve also appeared in movies and TV playing other characters. Do you have a preference? 

Lipinski: At this point, my career is focused on broadcasting, with Johnny and I being part of the NBC family for the Olympics and other live events. That’s my day job. In the beginning, when I crossed over from athlete and started working in entertainment and on television it was an easy transition to do a cameo and see what it’s like. As of now, I’m not actively seeking acting roles. This one sort of popped up. It is fun to play different versions of yourself. All the roles are different, memorable experiences. 

Q: When did you first realize ice skating was your passion? What was it like to be so good at skating at such a young age? 

Lipinski: I started skating at 3 and probably by the time I was 6 or 7, I knew it was something I wanted to keep pursuing. That’s when I started competing and really became hooked. At the time, you never realize you’re good at it. I knew that I was doing well, and when you win something it confirms it. But you’re in your bubble and you have smaller goals you’re trying to reach each year. It comes out of nowhere when you realize you’re going to World’s next year. It’s sort of a surprise.  

Q: What is your favorite skating moment? 

Lipinski: There are so many memories beyond winning the Olympic gold medal. I love my sport and have such a passion for it. I look back on days when I’d walk into a rink and have all my training mates there – I loved being on the ice and looked forward to competing. Winning the ’98 Olympics was definitely a high point because you work so long for one goal and in a matter of seconds it all comes together. You skate the program of your life and on top of that you win. It’s just this whirlwind, and it feels surreal, like it’s actually not happening.

Q: You grew up in Washington Township. Do you get back there often? What do you enjoy most when you come home? 

Lipinski: Seeing my family – my aunt and uncle still live there. I’m close to my cousin and his family who live in Cherry Hill. It’s where I grew up so I love going back. The very first time I took my husband (Lipinski married Todd Kapostasy in 2017), I showed him my old house, Sal’s pizza, the Deptford Rolling Skating Rink, St. Teresa’s, St. Jude’s and all those landmarks that bring me back to being a little kid – my surroundings from the day I was born. 

Q: What is your dream job? 

Lipinski: There are always things in the back of my mind, but I don’t have anything I’d want to talk about just yet. I love that, now, opportunities come up where I’m working with Jim Carrey one day then hosting with Johnny on a Food Network Show and then commentating at the Olympic Games. I’d like to keep all those options open. I’m that Type A person who never really stops doing something at all times. I always have so many balls in the air, and I like to see which ones work and fit and become a success.

October 2018
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