Johnny Weir envisions his dream of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest's live stream
by Jerry Nunn
Out figure skater Johnny Weir is an award-winning Olympian and an LGBTQ+ champion. This gay media spokesman brings past experience to the new job from his current work as a figure skating analyst for NBC Sports.
His numerous past television appearances have included competing on Dancing with the Star for the 29th season and season two of The Masked Singer, as Egg. Recently, Peacock streamed the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, with Weir hosting.
The Eurovision Song Contest was first held in 1956 with European countries competing on television following World War II to originally test broadcast technology and the reach it could possibly have to the public. ESC now happens annually and is one of the world's longest-running televised programs ever.
Each participant sings solo or with a group and points are awarded by music professionals and the public. The one with the most points eventually wins. Guest acts who have performed during the opening section and in between acts have included Madonna, Cirque du Soleil and Riverdance. Some past competitors have gone on to big success such as ABBA, Celine Dion and Olivia Newton-John.
Windy City Times interviewed Weir just before the finale, which Ukrainian folk-rap group Kalush won.
Windy City Times: The last time I saw you in Chicago was at Borders, during your book tour for Welcome to My World.
Johnny Weir: My goshthat was 11 years ago! As I go tumbling through life things just go faster and faster.
All the things my parents ever warned me about have come true. Losing weight is harder, time flies by and I wake up at six a.m. without a care in the world!
WCT: You arrived with that amazing huge pink tour bus with your picture on the side of it.
JW: I will tell you, pulling up to a pitstop in Nebraska was really something in that bus!
WCT: So what is new in your world? Tell our readers about this new gig.
JW: I am hosting and commentating on the Eurovision Song Contest. It is the biggest spectacle in the world and the most-watched event that doesn't involve sports. It is a big, big, big deal. It is not as famous in America, but I have been a fan forever.
I am so inspired by the performances, the songs and the artists as well as the judging, the politics and the pressure. It has everything!
When I saw last year that Peacock is the new home of Eurovision in America I slowly started dropping hints. I would whisper "I love Eurovision" to anyone I passed in the hall while working at NBC. It could have been a big boss or someone working in wardrobe, I told anyone that would listen about my love for Eurovision. Last week they called me up and asked me to host it.
Even though I go to Japan in a couple of weeks and I am on the ice a lot right now, I dropped everything. Fly me wherever I have to go and I will do it for free if it needs to be. I just love Eurovision!
I hope the public watching is just as inspired by the contest as I am…
WCT: I saw your reaction on Instagram and you were jumping up and down with your dog. What was that moment like for you?
JW: It was wild. I am not somebody who manifests a whole lot, but in the traditional sense, I guess I was manifesting. This is in so many ways a dream gig for me and I am hosting it by myself.
I don't have Terry Gannon, who handles so much of our play-by-play and a lot of the heavy lifting when making our telecast for the Olympics happen. I also don't have Tara Lipinski to banter with. It is just me as the crazy fan. This is legit and as organic as possible. I am a true blue Eurovision fan and have been for a long time.
I knew I would at least cover it for my own podcast or something. I just knew at some point that this would happen and it did.
When I got the call and was asked to host I was overwhelmed. I was doing a costume fitting and my mom was reporting on the moment. It was weird. She comes walking up with her phone. She is usually pretty feeble with it anyway and it was shaking. "Hama, which is what she called when I was growing up because I looked like a hamster, someone is calling for you!" It was Eurovision on the phone line.
WCT: Israeli singer Netta won Eurovision in the past and is performing at our Pride festival in Chicago. You should come in town to see her show!
JW: I come home from Japan at the end of June so maybe I can come and see her. I love Netta. [Mimcs her sound]
WCT: I saw her perform at Tel Aviv's Pride and she put on a stellar concert.
JW: I think she was up against Greek singer Eleni Foureira during Eurovision. I have skated to Eleni's song "Fuego" on tours and in performances around the world.
That is awesome that Netta will be there. It has been a minute since I have been to Chicago, so that might be a good reason to come!
WCT: What are you looking for this year? What would you like to see happen?
JW: There are so many good acts and I think that is what people have a hard time understanding. These people are already stars in their individual home countries. They all come to one stage to perform and it is always compelling. It is glamorous, over the top and campy fun!
Two of my favorite artists Mahmood & BLANCO are representing Italy and singing together, but they have their own individual incredible solo careers. They are beautiful men and I love them.
The Netherlands artist S10 sings all in Dutch. Her emotions and swagger are just electric in performance. Greece is great and Norway is super fun. Lithuania's Monika Liu sang all in Lithuanian and surprised me today even though I couldn't understand a word. She was so slinky with a Berlin cabaret kind of style that I loved.
I think one of the more poignant moments that we are going to see on the grand finale on Saturday will be from Ukraine. Anytime there is someone singing on the stage from Ukraine in a competition or an actor in a film, we need to support them. We need to be there for this band Kalush Orchestra because for them to just get there has been a huge undertaking. Bringing a little sparkle to them is so important.
Europe votes on the winner and I think they will stand strong with the Ukraine contestants. I can't expect anything but a Ukrainian victory in this contest and I am rooting for them. They should do well overall.
WCT: What do you think about the LGBT Eurovision contestants in 2022?
JW: There certainly is a wide variety this year. The singer from Israel Michael Ben David is very fancy and works it. Eurovision is like a gay Pride event. There are all the same bells and whistles of it along with the joy. I feel proud as a gay dude to watch Eurovision. There is literally someone for everyone in this contest and it is very inclusive.
WCT: I like seeing the fact that the local gay bars have showings of Eurovision because our crowd just seems to love it.
JW: Yes, we do. I thought I was so chic and exclusive to love Eurovision in the past then I found out how deep it goes into American gay culture to be fans of it. I love how it is a part of our fabric and culture.
I used to watch it on Russian television because I speak Russian, French and English. I have Russian television channels at my house so I can hear the language every day and it stays a part of me. I know what is going on over there and what they are lying to their people about. Those channels are currently blocked, unfortunately, so this year I was wondering how I would be able to watch it. That has opened me up to the fact that many people watch it in America and around at gay bars for several years now. They can now all watch it stream on Peacock. We can support the country where we come from, which is fun.
WCT: Do you have a song from Eurovision that you are skating to currently?
JW: This year for my tour, I started preparing routines that had music from two Ukrainian artists before the pandemic began in the spring of 2020. One of them, named MARUV, qualified for Eurovision but stepped away from competing. The other, named Verka Serduchka, competed in 2007; he is very famous in the gay world and wears a big star on his head.
I will have some Ukrainian representation with their music on my tour this year.
WCT: Anyone else you see taking home the grand prize for Eurovision 2022?
JW: Eurovision has some bold voices this time. I was blown away by the semifinals. How are they going to decide and choose who gets eliminated? The performance level is so good this year.
WCT: Describe your experience at The Masked Singer television competition.
JW: I can sing well and hit a good note here and there whether at home or in my car. This is coming from a person who can't even watch any of his previous broadcasts because I hate the way my voice sounds. I think a lot of people feel that way.
I came away from The Masked Singer with a lot of appreciation for singers. I was out there trying to sing in a giant mask where I could barely see. I had to find my way to my mark and hit the lighting cues. In one ear I had my track and in the other ear, I had my vocal coach reminding me of things. I tried to not fall off the stage and perform at the same time!
All of those things go into the show. It is not just someone standing with a microphone and singing. It gave me more appreciation for singers and what it takes to be a great artist.
WCT: What are you doing for the rest of the year?
JW: The figure-skating season starts in October with a new Olympic cycle. I am obviously super-excited about that. The Olympic Games are what I live for!
The grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest took place May 14, and the broadcast is available on-demand following the live stream. For more information, visit eurovision.tv/ .
Look for Eurovision winner Netta to perform at Pride Fest in Chicago during the June 18-19 weekend on Halsted Street. More information, including the upcoming schedule, can be found at NorthHalsted.com .