ESPN The Magazine

The Mag’s Roenigk provides insight into profile of “Being Out” cover subject Kenworthy

ESPN The Mag senior writer Alyssa Roenigk. (Chris Beauchamp/ESPN Images)
ESPN The Mag senior writer Alyssa Roenigk.
(Chris Beauchamp/ESPN Images)

When talking about her few months of isolation working on this story, senior writer Alyssa Roenigk acknowledges the experience provided her only the “tiniest glimpse into the loneliness and frustration of living a secret life.”

She is referring to the life of Olympic medalist freeskier and the face of X Games, Gus Kenworthy, who announced earlier today that he is gay.

In an exclusive interview to be featured in ESPN The Magazine’s “Being Out” issue on newsstands, Oct. 30, Kenworthy shares his struggles and the pressure of competing with his secret, and why now is the right time to tell the world, his sport, his truth.

For Kenworthy’s camp, Roenigk seemed like the ideal journalist to tell his story.

“Alyssa just gets it – always,” Jones Social PR’s Nicole Wool, Kenworthy’s publicist, told Front Row. “[I] and other members of Gus’ team knew she would understand the gravity of Gus’ decision for him on both a personal and professional level and the significance of his decision to go public.”

What surprised you about Kenworthy’s story?
In August, I received a call from a publicist [Wool] who had been brought on to work with Gus and his agent once he made the decision to “share his truth with the world.” I love that phrase.

Action sports star Gus Kenworthy is on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's "Being Out" issue.
Action sports star Gus Kenworthy is on the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s “Being Out” issue.

She told me she had an incredible story and they wanted me to tell it. When she told me what and who it was about and why he was ready to share his story with the world, I cried. Like everyone else who knows or covers action sports, I thought I knew Gus Kenworthy.

I remember meeting him when he was 16 and I’ve followed his career and incredible success. He had it all! To find out how much pain and fear was going on below the surface was crushing. He has earned a reputation as one of the most limit-pushing, risk-taking athletes in his sport. But the guts it was going to take to do this dwarfed even the triple corks.

How would you compare this story to others you have worked on throughout your career and the impact it has had on you?
The past few months have been some of the most memorable of my life. I keep telling Gus that as a writer it is my job not only to share his story but to write a story that somehow changes the reader – an editor once told me every story you read should change you; and that’s the job of the writer.

I’ve always taken that to heart. But this time, it was the other way around. He changed me. Profoundly. I’ve spent the past two months flying to interviews and writing in my apartment without being able to share with even my closest friends where I was going or what I was working on. That granted me the tiniest glimpse into the loneliness and frustration of living a secret life.

I’ve spent the past two months flying to interviews and writing in my apartment without being able to share with even my closest friends where I was going or what I was working on. That granted me the tiniest glimpse into the loneliness and frustration of living a secret life.
– Alyssa Roenigk on profiling Gus Kenworthy

I’m a writer. I thought I knew the power of words; I don’t believe I truly understood how deeply they hurt or their potential to kill. Sticks and stones have nothing on the casual misuse of the word “gay” or slurs like “fag.”

It hurts my heart to think about how difficult it has been for him to keep this secret and hide away much of himself and his personality with the world. But watching him become truly happy has been one of the best gifts of my career and my life, and thinking about the kids who are struggling to accept themselves and the impact Gus is about to have on them makes me indescribably happy.

I have had the opportunity to share incredible stories, but working with Gus these past few months has been the highlight of my career.

Alyssa Roenigk interviews Gus Kenworthy in the video clip below. If the video does not play on your device, click here.

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