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Famed skater to celebrate St. Pete Pride festival

Three-time U.S. champion figure skater Johnny Weir makes as much buzz for his fashion choices as his footwork. The two-time Olympic skater is the ultimate risk taker when it comes to his designs in the rink, donning a black and pink corset, shoulder tassels, even tulle. And who can forget the "Swan" feather ensemble with one red glove he wore at the 2006 Olympics? "As long as I feel beautiful and my outfits make me happy, I don't care what I'm wearing," says Weir, whose ice style has been compared to Lady Gaga.. Weir brings his unique sense of style to St. Petersburg at 6 p.m. today as host of Pride in Fashion at the Tyrone Square Mall Macy's. The show features hot fashions, mini facials and models. Weirs' co-host is Alexis Mateo, a finalist on "Rupaul's Drag Race" reality show on Logo. Weir also will sign copies of his autobiography, "Welcome to My World!"
The show is part of St. Pete Pride 2011, which begins its ninth annual festival Saturday. The festival promotes unity and a positive image of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people around Tampa Bay. The gay pride festival attracts tens of thousands, making it the city's largest one-day event. One of the skating world's most flamboyant personalities, Weir always avoided questions about his sexuality, before deciding to come out in his memoir. "I wanted to be an Olympian, an artist, and respected. Being gay was a part of it, but it wasn't the main ingredient of who I was," says Weir, calling from his home in New Jersey. "The whole coming out thing is very dated and very old. I never lived in a closet. I've always flown my freak flag very high and I've always been Johnny Weir." He says growing up gay wasn't difficult because of the support he got from his parents. "I'm very blessed," he adds. "I come from two very supportive and loving parents who are very strong and independent and never begrudged me anything. When you have a home situation like that, it's easier." But Weir knows that's not the case for everyone. He tells the story of a young man he met in a Los Angeles airport who was stabbed by his father after telling him he was gay. "When I hear stories like that I feel blessed, but I feel even more of a responsibility to help people who will have a hard time coming out." Fashion is a good fit for Weir, who says he would like a career in design when his skating career ends. He designs his own ice skating costumes, and earlier this year launched a range of little black dresses designed exclusively for online retailer edressme.com. The dresses feature some of his favorite fanciful embellishments. "I love my sport, but I won't be able to do this when I'm 80 years old," says Weir, who is collaborating with MAC cosmetics on a product launch in October. But he's not giving up on ice skating. Despite placing a disappointing sixth place in the 2006 Olympics, he hasn't ruled out making a run at the Sochi Olympics in Russia in 2014. "With everything I have going on, it's really hard to train at an international level," says Weir, whose reality show "Be Good Johnny Weir" returns to Logo for a second season in November. "I don't want to sacrifice these things to be the best and then realize my best wasn't good enough, like at the last Olympics. I want to come back better and stronger as opposed to just coming back, and that takes time." Weir says he's often been at odds with ice skating judges and officials for the lack of support he's received in the sport he loves, but he hopes his skating career will pave the ice for other gay skaters. "In my own way, I hope I've made the journey a little less scary for the next Johnny Weir," he says. "Me being an individual and being unique makes it easier for the next kid who doesn't get support. I want to be remembered as an exceptional artist and I want to show you can be a figure skater on your own terms."  


When: 6 to 8:30 Friday

Where: Macy's, Tyrone Square Mall, 6901 22nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg

How Much: Free; $10 donation suggested

ccabrera@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7656

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