Michelle Kwan: Ice Skater
05/08/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
AT THE WORLD FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS IN London in 1995, Michelle Kwan took to the ice without a spot of makeup on her face. The 14-year-old from Torrance, Calif., placed fourth, despite executing seven flawless triple jumps. "I thought, 'Okay, the judges are trying to tell me something,' " Kwan, 19, recalls. " 'Grow up!' " In the five years since, that's exactly what she has done. "The thing about skating is, it's a whole package," explains her sister Karen, 21, who competed with Michelle until 1997. "Ability is not supreme. It's also about your dress, your hair, your makeup." Ice princess Nancy Kerrigan, 11 years Kwan's senior, took Michelle under her wing, and Kwan soared, winning an Olympic silver medal in 1998. She has also claimed four U.S. National Championships and on April 1 became the first American since Peggy Fleming to win three world titles. Kwan's physical transformation, from ponytailed pixie to svelte sophisticate, is ongoing. The UCLA freshman loves to try new products and techniques, I change cosmetics all the time," says Kwan. "Guys have their cars, girls have their makeup!" She's also growing out her hair, which she impulsively cropped two years ago. "I just want it a little longer," she says. But the 5'2" Kwan accepts that she can't change everything. "My sister is 5'8" and wants to be taller," she says. "It makes me crazy!" Kwan also laments her "skater's butt," which she claims "sticks out like a bubble." Her friend Brian Boitano, an Olympic gold medalist, disagrees. "She has perfect proportions," he says. Besides, there's a flip side to the occupational hazards encountered on ice. "My coach Frank Carroll believes the cold air preserves your skin," says Kwan, "and you get fewer wrinkles."