Chiseled AF Olympian Gus Kenworthy doesn’t know he’s a sex symbol.

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – He may not have won a medal at the Olympics, but Gus Kenworthy won something bigger: international attention.

As the first openly gay Olympian, Gus went into Pyeongchang representing more than Team USA. He was representing the LGBTQ+  community, something that weighed heavily on him since coming out after 2014’s Sochi Olympics.

SEE ALSO: Freestyle skiier Nick Goepper went from suicidal thoughts to the Olympics

I thought coming out for myself was going to be kiss of death for my career,” he tells Very Good Light. But doing so had the opposite effect. Not only has it boosted Gus’s profile, it’s allowed him to put a face to LGBTQ+ athletes, normalizing gay men and women throughout the world. This is important, especially in homophobic countries like South Korea, where gay identities are actively suppressed. 

And so it was powerful when video captured Gus sharing a kiss with his boyfriend Matthew Willkas. It may have been innocent, but it was completely defiant.

“I’m a sex symbol, really?!”

“Didn’t realize this moment was being filmed yesterday but I’m so happy that it was,” Gus tweeted Sunday.
“My childhood self would never have dreamed of seeing a gay kiss on TV at the Olympics but for the first time ever a kid watching at home CAN! Love is love is love.”

The kiss, shared by two men, is a historic moment, one that normalizes the LGBTQ+ community, while promoting visibility internationally. “I think that’s the only way to really change perceptions, break down homophobia, break down barriers is through representation,” he told media Sunday. “And that’s definitely not something I had as a kid. I definitely didn’t see a gay athlete at the Olympics kissing their boyfriend. And I think if I had, it would’ve made it a lot easier for me.”

(Photo courtesy P&G)

Homosexuality after all, is still illegal in 74 countries. In 13, homosexuality is punishable by death. These countries include: Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, UAE, parts of Nigeria, parts of Somalia, parts of Syria and parts of Iraq. In 17, including Russia, homosexuality is considered propaganda and banned from all media. Gus’s kiss broadcasted around the world, was able to defy these countries and their hateful perceptions, while inspiring and representing LGBTQ+ people across the globe.

Of course, it hasn’t been completely easy for Gus. He’s had many critics, especially on social media, who believe sports and politics should be completely separate. But it hasn’t deterred Gus from being outspoken, speaking out against President Trump and Vice President Pence.

“I think it’s so important to have your own opinion and stand up for what you believe in,” he tells Very Good Light. “For anyone saying athletes shouldn’t have opinions on politics – it’s similar to anyone commenting on sports if they’re not a professional athlete. I am a citizen and because I’m an athlete, I do have a platform that allows me to speak up more.”

“Athletes 10 or 20 years ago wouldn’t have had this opportunity [to come out], so I want to make the best of it.”

He’s come a long way since his last Olympics when he was a fresh-faced, green, relatively unknown skiier. Today, he’s grown into his looks, has gained muscle mass, while finally sprouting some facial hair. His aesthetics have only helped him with his many magazine covers to campaigns for the likes of Head & Shoulders. Today, he’s become a sex symbol.

“If you asked me this five years ago, I wouldn’t believe all the positive recognition,” he says, before stopping us. “I’m a sex symbol?! All the support is incredible and I am so fortunate. A sex symbol, really? Thank you!”

And with that title, comes great responsibility – that is, maintaining your good looks. “I was a total babyface at last Olympics,” he tells us. ” I couldn’t grow beard if I tried and it actually happened shortly thereafter.” Now that he has it, he won’t be seen without facial hair. “I use a Braun buzzer so I never really shave my face down to the skin. Beard oil goes a long way to maintain it. I also love Art of Shaving products.”

As for his curly locks, he isn’t as obsessed with them as everyone else is. “I do wash my hair every day – Head & Shoulders Old Spice shampoo smells awesome – but I’m pretty fussy about it. You always want the hair you don’t have. Mine is curly naturally and I always hoped for straighter hair so I actually wear a beanie after I shower to flatten it. If it still needs work I’ll use a medium hold pomade to comb it flat.”

For protecting his complexion while skiing, Gus uses Kiehl’s with SPF 15 every day. “With skiing, people don’t realize that even if it’s overcast and you’re not thinking about the sun, the snow is reflective and amplifies the sun so you have to wear SPF always,” he says.

Of course, your good looks don’t matter unless you’re confident from the inside out, something Gus knows all too well. While competing at his first competition after coming out, he was understandably nervous about the public’s reaction. But as he landed his run at the Dew Tour, he saw that there were Pride flags held up and waved in the crowd. It gave him confidence to become even better. He later won the entire event.

That’s how it’s been – a lot of unexpected support,” he tells us. “I just feel so lucky to be out and represent the LGBT community and hope that I can be an inspiration for kids coming out now and those in the closet. Athletes 10 or 20 years ago wouldn’t have had this opportunity, so I want to make the best of it.”

And that you have, Gus. The world is beaming with Pride. 

Freestyle skiier Nick Goepper went from suicidal thoughts to the Pyeongchang Olympics

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – After three X Games gold medals and a triumphant Sochi Olympics, freestyle skiier Nick Goepper found himself throwing rocks at cars.

It was August of 2014, and the then 20-year old had spent almost a half-year celebrating his bronze medal win at the Olympics. He’d become a celebrity. In a matter of a day, his face was stamped on Kellogg’s Corn Flake boxes nationwide. Multiple endorsement deals came flocking. Television shows like the Today Show couldn’t get enough of him. He even asked Taylor Swift out on a date.

“I started to really question myself and my motives, having these crazy existential questions like why am I doing this?”

SEE ALSO: Actor Cameron Fuller had ‘really awkward’ teenage years

But as the flashing lights faded, the media lost interest, he found himself surrounded by silence, one that forced him to confront his inner demons. Spiraling in depression and anxiety, Nick questioned if he ever wanted to ski again. He started heavily drinking. Thoughts of suicide weighed on him. Which led him to that fateful night in August where he piled rocks and started throwing them at passing cars.

A little pre-Olympic shred here in Korea. ?: @alexhallskiing

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How did this happen? How did a promising Olympian hit rock bottom when he had everything in front of him?

As Nick will put it, it was a mix of many things.

“I think after the Olympic sweep I got caught up a lot with the social media and some of the celebrity idea, like I’m a celebrity, I’m super cool, I can do whatever I want and just partying with my friends and whatnot,” Goepper said to USA Today recently. “I think that initial high, that initial rush, it took me a while to sort of really process all that had happened during the whole Olympic cycle.”

“I started to really question myself and my motives, having these crazy existential questions like why am I doing this?” he said. “What is the point?”

But this isn’t a story of tragedy. It’s one of redemption. Now stronger – physically and mentally – Nick is competing again in Pyeongchang and ready for the competition. Having spent 60 days at a rehab facility in Texas, he realized he wasn’t alone. There, he found others were experiencing depression as well.

“Honestly, I had a lot of help,” he tells Very Good Light from South Korea. “I went to a treatment center for 2 months in 2015 and was in a great environment, surrounded by supportive people that were all going through similar things as me. It was just a great eye-opening experience and I was lucky enough to have that type of support system to help get me through.”

And he kept up his treatment long after he left rehab. He’s refused drinking (he can proudly say he hasn’t had a drink since Sept. 26, 2015) and has made a conscious effort to think about the world differently.

Now 24, Nick is in a very different place in his life. Now more confident and grounded, he feels a lot better about tackling the ski slopes, talking to media and handling those endorsement deals. One of them is from P&G and its “Love Over Bias,” campaign, one that celebrates Olympic mothers and their sacrifices.

“We’re all equal no matter where you come from or what you look like and to be able to give props to my mom for always supporting me through my challenges I’ve faced means [so much],” he tells us.

“For 18-months I really challenged myself to put myself out there.”

As for how he’s preparing for the brutal South Korean winter? Smelling nice and moisturizing  a ton.

“Smelling good is really important to me,” he tells us. For that, he’ll simply use an Old Spice deodorant in the morning. As for keeping his skin in tact? That’s a little more difficult.

“My skin takes a beating from the high-elevation climates and such cold conditions,” he tells us. “My biceps, triceps and shoulders get really dry so I’ll use Burt’s Bees Moisturizer to keep me hydrated. It’s actually pretty humid in Korea so it almost acts as a natural moisturizer compared to some of the drier places I’ve skied.”

But the most important aspect of prepping for the Olympic ski slopes is confidence. Finding that allowed him to overcome his experiences with anxiety and depression.

“I think just putting yourself out there is the most important thing,” he says to Very Good Light. “I was really socially awkward and hated going out to socialize or being the center of attention, so for 18-months I really challenged myself to put myself out there and meet new people and see new places. It was challenging, but it was what I needed to build a lot of confidence.”

Cheer on Nick Goepper Saturday as he goes into the qualifying rounds. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicide thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It’s a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 1-800-273-8255

This 16 year old is already the CEO of his own beauty brand

Formula Z

(Photo courtesy Formula Z)

He’s the CEO of his own beauty brand – one that’s breaking down gender barriers– and has worked with labs and chemists for over two years.

Oh, and he’s 16-years old.

Traditionally, many of us have been raised to believe that we have to fit gender stereotypes and roles (i.e. blue vs. pink, sports vs. ballet – yawn). However, for Zach Dishinger, cookie-cutter assumptions were never really his thing. Navigating your early teens and finding out who you are isn’t easy for anyone. But for Zach, staying true to himself was what brought his success.

“With everything I do, I want to inspire others and promote conversation,” he tells Very Good Light. “As a society we’re told too often to keep our heads down and stay quiet, but I want to talk about things. I want people to step out of their comfort zones and be who they really are.”

SEE ALSO: Brands are obsessed with boys and beauty. Is this a passing trend?

He’s certainly not the only beauty boy launching a brand. He follows in the glittery footsteps of those like Jeffree Star and Patrick Starrr, self-taught beauty boys who have taken the industry and Internet by storm. Each launched their own lines – Jeffree by himself and Patrick with MAC. In 2018, it’s clear that we are taking progressive steps away from boxing in talent.

@outmagazine LOVE ISSUE ♥️ [photo by: @msharkeystudio]

A post shared by ZACH + FORMULA Z COSMETICS (@zachdish) on

Called Formula Z Cosmetics, it’s exclusively available on his website, with a collection of lip tints called “Forever Lips.” They come in six highly pigmented, 100% cruelty, paraben and gluten-free semi-matte lipsticks that are creamy, long-wearing and smudge-proof. Shades range from bold “Bowie” to everyday “Jocelyn,” all with a price point of $18. The best part? Zach says you can wear them on your cheeks and lids too (very versatile!).

Makeup seemed to be a natural point of interest for Zach. Growing from his early years in theatre, a highschool makeup class seemed to make it all click for the Florida-based teen. At 11, he was mixing bronzers and lipsticks in his kitchen, trying to find the perfect shade and texture to beat all the rest. Creating his own makeup line was always something to strive for but with this came a broader message: creating an inclusive space.

“When people think about myself and my brand, I want them to think of [the words] ‘individuality,’ ‘creativity,’ and ‘passion’ – and oh, they have have bomb lipsticks too,” he tells us.

Understanding that we’re all not that much different from one another is something some people have trouble with. “People can assume that that I don’t fit the typical binary of a ‘masculine male’ because I’m a makeup artist and wear makeup,” he says. “But that isn’t the case. Wearing makeup doesn’t define who I am, rather, it’s a way that I express myself on any given day. My beauty line was made to be inclusive – it’s meant for anyone, regardless of race, age or gender.”

By engaging in these conversations, and including marketing that features a variety of people, Zach hopes to inspire kids to feel comfortable in their own skin. “When I’m true to who I am, being bullied over my sexual orientation or unconventional interests, doesn’t matter anymore,” he says. “When you are comfortable being yourself, everything in life just comes easier. The critics and bullies – they’re just noise.”

What it’s really like to have the most famous hair on the Internet

Blumaan

“No one can ever figure it out,” admits Joseph Andrews, AKA BluMaan, the YouTube star.

We’re talking about his accent, one that’s infused with many inflections and tones. “Everyone says I sound American but then Americans think I’m British. It’s basically everything by now,” he tells us. The familiarity of his voice and his many intonations is perhaps only one reason the 23-year old is so likeable. Affable, disarming, unpretentious and funny, he’s like that best friend next door. Except, with perfect, thick, enviably shiny hair.

SEE ALSO: Meet Chaz French, the self-proclaimed ‘sappy ass’ rapper

No surprise then, that he’s amassed over 1 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, which led him to an ambassadorship with Head & Shoulders.

It’s quite a departure for Joseph, who never even dreamed about such an opportunity. Growing up in different parts of Africa without many close friends, he’d never had the opportunity to think about his personal grooming. For him, life was about dirt biking up the mountains, motor biking in parts unknown and getting into mischief.

Born in South Africa, he found himself growing up in various parts of the world, due to his father’s profession doing charity work for World Vision. After South Africa, he grew up in West African countries and then the U.S. before settling in Kenya and then Tanazania for his formative years. Which explains his indiscernible accent, a hodgepodge of British, African and American influences.

Blumaan

It’s moving so often that also compelled him to create his YouTube channel. “I don’t have many close friends,” he admits. “Because I was moving so much I was never able to keep friendships.” YouTube, then, was one way to make connections.

Deciding to take a year off before college, Joseph spent a year with his aunt and uncle in Washington D.C. “The deal was I’d babysit their kids and I’d get to live there,” he says. In the second part of year, he worked at a local toy store while launching his channel. “It was the first time I’d lived in the U.S. in a first-world country as an adult,” he says. “I was just getting to an age where I was understanding physical appearance, something I had no clue about.” It’s after hours of research on YouTube where he was able to find his own confidence. He decided to name it BluMaan, an ode to a secret word he and his friends used in the 7th grade. “We passed notes to each other and if the teacher intercepted them, she wouldn’t know who BluMaan was,” he explains.

His first video happened to feature a product called Claymation, by the brand Hanz de Fuko, a San Francisco startup. After uploading the video, the brand immediately featured it on its Facebook. In a matter of a day, the video went from 20 views to over a thousand. “That was huge for me,” he recalls. “I couldn’t believe that a brand I admired for a while was driving that traffic.”

The very next day, he received an email from Hanz de Fuko, asking if he’d join them in Los Angeles for a shoot. “I had 3 subscribers then. For them to email me out of the blue was insane and I couldn’t believe they’d do that. ” There, he collaborated with other YouTubers he’d admired and with SlikHaarTV, the biggest men’s hair channel at the time. After one haircut video with them, his subscribers soared to close to 1,000 in a single day. It’s this chance opportunity that made him feel he could do this for a living. After a year and a half, he was able to make a steady income from his videos.

It’s also when he saw himself getting ready for the next step of his career: creating a product line. After a chance email he received from his future business partner, who lives in Canada, both launched the brand, BluMaan. The goal, he says, was to create a brand that builds confidence, something that’s always been a part of his mantra.
“Having confidence, to me, is identifying a passion you have in your life and doing the best you can in that,” he says. 

As for advice he’d give to future YouTubers? “It’s all about portraying the best you across that camera,” he says. “It’s about being authentic and being original, not doing what anyone else is doing. But it’s also having a good amount of luck. Luck is a key ingredient but only one part of it.” In the end, he says, it’s about forming bonds. “It’s a weird online friendship you’re making,” he says. For all good YouTube has brought to the internet, it’s also been the downfall of many people. Namely, Logan Paul, a popular YouTuber who uploaded insensitive footage of a suicide in Japan. He’s now created a documentary on suicide prevention

“Logan Paul made a massive mistake,” says Joseph. “I think the frustration isn’t just on what Logan Paul did. We see these controversies all the time and YouTube’s lack of response has been on the mind of many of us creators. They issued a response a week later. Logan has clearly messed up in a major way that shouldn’t be forgive but I hope he’s learned from this [experience]. Clearly, YouTube has deemed the Paul Brothers as ‘golden boys.'”

In the meantime, Joseph plans to create even more positive content for his fans – and more to come from Head & Shoulders. “Even when I was in Tanzania we had Head & Shoulders. It was a brand I used as long as I can remember and did a good job removing all that dust and particles. It’s almost as if I’ve come full circle.” Indeed, he has.