Gus Kenworthy’s performance at the 2020 Aspen X Games may not have gone exactly as planned, but that didn’t stop fans from packing a cozy igloo-like structure in the hopes of seeing the Olympian and budding actor at a special screening of American Horror Story: 1984. (He played “token AHS Hot Guy” Chet Clancy and died in a really gruesome murder involving a rowing oar. You know, for the craft.)
Before the screening, the skier and Instagram clap back pro spoke with Cosmopolitan about his return to the snow after taking a break to pursue acting, his game plan if he ever has to lip sync for his life, and why taking the high road can be overrated.
Cosmopolitan: You recently got back on your skis for the first time in nine months. How are you feeling having just competed in your 10th X Games?
Gus: I don’t know if I necessarily had the performance I was hoping to, but I landed a run in both slopestyle and halfpipe that I was really proud of. I feel like I can walk with my head held high. It just wasn’t what I necessarily came to do. But I had taken nine months off and was filming the show [AHS]. I hadn’t been on snow for a while. So to just be getting back to snow and come here and feel like I’m right there in the mix is a good feeling for sure.
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The inaugural Special Olympics Unified Skiing event went down at the @XGames, today! Six @SpecialOlympics athletes were each teamed up with an X Games pro and in teams of two we raced down a GS course with each team's combined time determining the results. My partner was 17-year-old Palmer Lyons, who absolutely flew down the course, and together we won the competition! I feel grateful and honored to have been asked to be a part of today's event. The competitors we teamed up with exuded sportsmanship, camaraderie and goodwill and I got more hugs, high fives and smiles than I even knew what to do with. Thank you for letting me share your day, Palmer! 🙏🏼❤️
You just switched from Team USA to Team Great Britain ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics. How has being on the new team changed your mindset?
This is my first competition competing for GB [Great Britain], but it’s nice. I feel like it’s a little bit more of my own program. I feel like I kind of get to do it the way that I want to do. Whereas with the U.S. team, there’s so many people on the team and so many moving parts with coaches and physios and wax techs and all of it that it’s kind of an operation and you’re just a part of it. Now, I feel like it’s a little more self-sufficient.
What is one of the hardest things about switching gears from skiing to acting?
It’s been really fun. I’ve kind of always dreamed of getting into acting and that’s what I want to do post-skiing. I’m very fortunate that I got to dip my feet into it in this way. I’m still skiing and planning on competing for two more years until the next Olympics. But hoping to act here and there—between then and now—and then just act full-time after.
But it was pretty nerve-wracking. I think, like, in the same way that skiing makes me nervous and competing makes you nervous. There’s a lot on the line and it’s like a little bit of the unknown. In skiing, I feel like I’ve done it for so long. I’ve just had a lot of years to build up a confidence, a self-security, and feel good in myself and my performance and everything like that. And then in acting, I’m starting as the total novice, super nervous on set. But it was amazing and really, really wonderful. I think I learned a lot and I can only improve.
What was your favorite scene to film in American Horror Story?
My favorite scene to film was actually the scene that I died in. I got killed in a rowboat by Leslie Grossman’s character. It was just so much fun, and I was proud of myself in the scene.
I definitely want to do comedy [in my acting career]. I wish that I got to do a little bit more of that on the last season—that’s what I hope to do moving forward. I’d like to do maybe more, I guess, almost like character work, also. I feel like my role in Horror Story was that of a jock, and I guess that’s sort of what I am. So it’ll be nice to do something a little different.
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American Horror Story: 1984 (A One-Woman Show) From left to right: Brooke Thompson → Montana Duke → Margaret Booth → Xavier Plympton → Donna Chambers a.k.a. Nurse Rita → Trevor Kirchner → Chet Clancy A HUGE thank you to the hair and makeup girls for helping me play dress up with my costars' stunt double wigs! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! @analyncruzmakeupxhair @kt_chandler @romainemarkus @carleighherbert @ahsfx
You’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race and even went on the show once. If you had to lip sync for your life on the show, what song would you want to perform?
Well, I hope to God that I never have to lip sync for my life because I am the worst dancer. But maybe something fun, like a Carly Rae Jepsen song or Kim Petras. Something upbeat, poppy.
You’re a big advocate for equal rights. How do you stand firm in your decision to be vocal about politics and social issues when some critics think you should just stick to sports?
I’m just a firm believer that everybody has a voice—everybody has a point of view. It’s so important to share that. I think it’s even more important to share when you are in the public eye, when you have a platform—from sports, from entertaining, from singing, whatever it may be. I think it’s really important to speak up, and speak up on behalf of those who aren’t being spoken for, speak up on behalf of the disenfranchised voices, and stand up for what you believe in and what you think is right. People can say “shut up and dribble,” whatever, but they’re also weighing in on sports. So it’s like, don’t talk about sports, you’re not an athlete.
Your Instagram followers know you’re a pro at clapping back but also killing ’em with kindness. Do you have and tips for not letting trolls get to you?
I do let them get to me sometimes, and I wish that I didn’t. I feel like I can post something and have hundreds of really sweet, nice comments, and then you see a handful of ones that are dragging you and you fixate on them and focus on them. I’ve tried to remind myself not to do that. I feel like it’s very true that anyone who’s trying to cut you down is already so far beneath you, and they’re just looking for attention. By dwelling on it, you’re giving them exactly what they want. So it’s best to try and just ignore it, focus on the positive. And if there’s an opportunity for a snide clap back, sometimes I take it. Cause it’s not all about the high road.
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