Olympic skater Adam Rippon on becoming a voice for the LGBTQ community

Rippon, who's been called "America's sweetheart," spoke to "Nightline" special correspondent Gus Kenworthy about becoming the first openly gay U.S. athlete at the Winter Olympics.
7:05 | 05/04/18

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Transcript for Olympic skater Adam Rippon on becoming a voice for the LGBTQ community
Reporter: From the most awesome moves at the olympic games to his front and center role in "Stars on ice." And now his high-scoring steps on "Dancing with the stars." Even if he wanted to, you can't escape Adam Rippon. As it turns out, neither can I. Adam's skills on the ice got him a bronze medal at the winter olympics and massive attention from millions, including Reese Witherspoon and Britney spears, both tweeting their fandom. I wasn't expecting the response that I got while I was there. And I think every time I got on my phone, it was like blowing up, like my Twitter would crash, my Instagram wouldn't open up. Reporter: Adam, winning over America with his combination of grace, charm, and self-dep ra casing sass. Girl, I'm ready, what's taken you so long? I'm like a witch and you can't kill me. I keep coming back every year, every year I get better. When I went out and I was skating, I was super focused that I was going to do my best so that people weren't like, oh, this is some trash kid who has a big mouth. Like no, he's a serious athlete who has a big mouth. And is trash. Reporter: Adam boldly declaring himself America's sweetheart. I want it to be about my amazing skating. And being America's sweetheart. Here's the thing. Tell me. I gave myself that title. I figured. I was thinking like, you know, I feel in a very powerful place right now. I'm going to say that I'm America's sweetheart once and see what happens. I said it once in a press conference. And then I did something on the news. And I could read on the screen underneath and it was like, America's sweetheart, Adam Rippon. And I was like -- He arrived. Yeah. Reporter: Off the ice and away from the spotlight, I know him as my friend Adam who walked next to me at opening ceremonies. That moment was special for the honor we both shared, becoming one of the first openly gay male competitors in U.S. Olympic history. One of the things that we both have in common, besides being olympians, is that in 2015, we both came out of the closet. What was the reaction that you received when that happened? So I think my coming out was a little bit more under the radar. I had little to no negative feedback or people writing to me saying nasty things. Basically, the only like messages that I would get over and over were like, is this really necessarily? Coming from a really small town and feeling like I didn't have many people to look up to as a young kid, I felt like it was necessarily. You became a role model for the lgbtq community. What does that mean to you? What my mom taught me when I was young, that it's important to treat others well. The way that you want people to treat you is the way you should treat other people. Not everybody responds to that. And not everybody will give you the respect that you think that you deserve or you want. But it doesn't matter. Because you can teach them. If you show somebody a little bit of kindness, you can really change their whole world. ??? Happy birthday to you ??? Reporter: Before Adam was the darling of the winter olympics, he had to overcome a lifetime of challenges to get to the sport's biggest stage. Born one of six children raised by a single mother, his first two attempts to make the games ended in disappointment. That entire month in Korea was crazy. It was something I'd wanted to do my entire life and I failed to do two times before. To actually be at the olympics and have that moment was so incredible. Reporter: At the games, Adam made news when he openly criticized the decision to have vice president Mike pence, who has supported anti-gay positions in the past, lead the U.S. Delegation. If that current administration was watching us right now what would you want to say to them? I would say that the young people of America are watching. And are acting. There was a lot of talk in Korea about you having a sit-down with vice president pence. Is that something that you have any desire to do? I think that if we aren't willing to listen to each other and have an open conversation, nothing will change and nothing will get done. On the flip side of that, the conversation, it's not for me. It's a conversation for that trans man or woman that can't even go to the right bathroom. It's a conversation for the trans man or woman that can't join the military. It's a conversation for the Muslim family that got broken up or had a mother, father, travel and then wasn't allowed back in. And it's an opportunity for them to have their stories told. Absolutely. I'm just using my platform to the best of my ability. Reporter: When olympians from the winter games visited the white house, some like Adam and myself, chose not to meet with the president. If we see an administration that discriminates against trans members in the military or our own muslim-american citizens, that we need to speak up. Because at one point or another, like it's great that we can be having this interview right now as two out men. But there was a time not too long ago where this would be like too weird. Reporter: Using his platform and his popularity to make a big statement. Olympic bronze medallist, Adam Rippon! Reporter: Three months since the olympics, Adam is still competing, this time in L.A., trading his triple lux for the tang goal and the cha cha. ?????? on his first night on "Dancing," Adam blew the competition away. 8! 8! 8! Do you think you'll have an advantage being a figure skater? A lot of people say you're already a dancer. Do you think that's true or not true? I think the only advantage I have is that I've been working with music my entire life. And choreography. Yes. Do I know any dance steps? No. And it was a harsh learning curve. And it's every day is a whole new experience. Reporter: Since I taught him everything he knows on the ice, I thought I'd teach him dance moves too. I've never done it but you're going to jump on my back like a piggy back, put your legs out. I'm going to spin. Ly say now, I'm going to flip you into my arms. Have you tried this with anyone? No, not yet. Great. You ready? Yeah. . Wait, I should flip my legs around. Yes, flip your legs around. Ready, America? Wait, you didn't do it. . I hope your dancing is going better than this. Are you breathing deeply? Try again. Try to catch me. I know. Nte otra vez. You have to -- Reporter: Okay, maybe I'll stick to the slopes. For "Nightline," I'm Gus Kenworthy in Detroit. Gus and Adam reunite next month cohosting New York's Trevor project gala, to benefit at-risk lgbtq youth. Celine Dion has never

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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