It’s no secret that I love doing a good celebrity interview! However, it’s not everyday that I’m contacted about a celebrity interview, and the celebrity is somebody I sat next to in college. Yet, that happens to be exactly the case with Olympic ice dancing gold medal winner (and don’t forget Dancing with the Stars champion) Meryl Davis. Ten years ago we sat next to each other during our freshman year Italian class at The University of Michigan, and then went through sorority rush together the same fall. I remember thinking Meryl was incredibly nice, and very smart, but had absolutely no idea she was an Olympic caliber athlete- None. She never mentioned it! In retrospect, her modesty doesn’t surprise me at all, it just speaks to the genuinely sweet and sincere person she is. What did surprise me, was years later when my parents called me into their family room because Olympic coverage was on and, “There’s a girl from Michigan on TV!”. I instantly recognized Meryl, casually bragged to my whole family that I knew her (though obviously not very well- again, I had no idea about the whole ice skating thing until that moment), and have loved following her career ever since.
Fast forward to last week, and I had the pleasure of catching up with Meryl at The Four Seasons here in Chicago. We reminisced about U of M (unfortunately, neither one of us remembers much Italian) and she indulged my endless Dancing with the Stars questions (yes, she stays in touch with Maks). It was fascinating to hear about all the things she’s been doing since she and partner Charlie White won Gold in Sochi, and we even had fun talking fashion- Meryl has an exciting new partnership with Vera Bradley which is what brought her to Chicago that day in the first place…
Well 10 years later, now that I know you as a world famous Olympic ice dancing champion… I’m curious to hear how skating has influenced your taste, specifically in areas like fashion and music?
People should ask that more often, it has a huge impact! It has an impact on everything, but especially music and fashion. I started skating when I was five, and I played the flute for awhile, but I think hearing classical music your whole life whether it’s Vivaldi or Mozart, despite a lack of classical training you really appreciate the beauty of the classics. So often we’ll do an interview and people will ask what’s on my iPod and I’ll say maybe some different opera- people don’t expect it, but nothing quite gets to your soul like the classics. I’ve definitely developed a taste for that. As for fashion, my mom and I have pretty much been designing my costumes my whole life so I think I’m a little more conscious of shapes and colors I gravitate towards, and I definitely really like experimenting. I think because in skating we get to play different characters, so even if something is more risque than what I would normally do I feel like I can experiment with it because it’s for a character. In real life I don’t take it quite as far, but the eagerness to experiment is still there.
I can’t imagine anyone goes into ice skating thinking they’ll end up being the major celebrity you’ve become- How has adjusting to life in the public eye been? Do get recognized whenever you go out?
I think I get recognized more often because I have a unique look, at least that’s what Charlie keeps telling me. He seems to fly under the radar very well! I’m finding it really nice though, because people have been very warm. I think as an Olympian you take representing your country very seriously, so to come back to the US and have people not only recognize you but appreciate and want to talk about the Olympics is a real honor. People feel involved in your career because you’re representing The States and that’s really cool!
What’s your schedule like these days? How have you been spending your time since the Olympics and all the vigorous training?
Our schedule now is much more irregular than when we were training. When we were training for the Olympics we were either at home training 5 days a week, very regimented, or at competition. Now, everything changes daily. It took a bit of getting used to, but I’m liking it! It’s different to wake up and have a different routine everyday, rather than the regimented routine of a competitive athlete, but I do like it.
What is going into your decision whether or not to compete in the next Olympics? Are you and Charlie discussing PyeongChang 2018 yet?
Charlie and I keep saying to each other now that we’ve had a chance to step away we realize how much actually goes into preparing to fight for a medal in the Olympics. Having come away with a Silver in 2010 and a Gold in 2014, I think we realize that if we decide to go back in 2018 we need a real reason, and we need to feel that that’s really where we need to be. We’re allowing ourselves a little bit of time to explore and to see if we find that, and then that will really be our deciding factor. At the core if we feel that’s where we need to be, then we’ll go back, otherwise we’ll go on to other things.
How was training for Dancing with the Stars? Everybody always talks about how rigorous it is, but what was your experience like having come from the world of competitive athletics?
It was interesting! The time that went into it was similar. It was more challenging than Charlie and I expected because you’re using different muscles, and we’re so comfortable in skates that, for me, putting on high heels was really, really challenging. But looking back it was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life! Skating is my passion and it’s what I love to do, but because of the level I was at after winning Olympic Gold the pressure and burden of having to be the best was a lot. Then, with dancing I had no experience, I had no training, so I was able to get on the dance floor and have fun performing without feeling that pressure to be the best, and that was a nice change.
Since the Olympics and Dancing with the Stars has there been a standout surreal moment or someone who’s left you starstruck? I’m sure you’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people and have some fabulous experiences!
One of our coolest experiences was meeting Ralph Lauren! We were sponsored by Ralph Lauren going into the games, so we had been working with the company which was great. Often times, you meet important and impressive people who are just that: important and impressive, but don’t necessarily take the time to have a conversation with you. But when Charlie and I walked into the Ralph Lauren headquarters he greeted us like we were long lost friends and took the time to give us a personal tour. He turned what could have been a 10 minute meeting into a 2 hour meeting, and he has an empire to run! Charlie and I were both just so honored and so impressed that he would take the time to talk to us that it has to be one of our most special moments since the Olympics. Plus, I really love fashion, so hearing him talk all about his evolution was amazing!
They’re a company whose product I’ve carried for years!
Did you have the “maize and blue” patterned pieces (which are now retired) like we all did at University of Michigan?
I did! I had all the maize and blue, on campus, of course! Their pieces are so nice and light to carry all your really heavy books and things. It’s perfect. So, being from Michigan I think a lot of people have always loved Vera Bradley, it’s a Mid-Western company. But now, getting to know the company and the people I’m realizing how truly special it is. They’re growing, and getting into new things, and evolving into the fashion world, but they always stay true to their roots which is so special and admirable. Charlie and I try to do the same thing, as we evolve we try to stick true to our roots, and so to be partnered with Vera Bradley and to carry their products isn’t just cool, but a huge honor!
Do you have a favorite Vera Bradley piece at the moment?
I do! I’m obsessed with their leather and faux leather right now! I’ve always carried their patterns, and they’re great, but I feel like the fact that they’re expanding into these pieces that transition from day to night is very cool. They’re so chic! I love the different shapes, and I’m so excited to be partnered with them as they continue to expand into other areas.
Before we wrap up, I know I’m going to get a whole bunch of tweets and emails, if I don’t ask… Do you still keep in touch with Maks?
I’m still very close with Maks! He is a truly unique and very impressive person, and I think that when you’re thrown into an experience like that with someone, I didn’t know anything about him beforehand, it forces you to get to know each other and peel back the layers. The more I got to know him the more impressed I was with him, and it’s so special to be able to maintain that friendship. He’s a great guy!
[Photos By Hallie Duesenberg]