Sam Champion, weather anchor of ABC-TV Eyewitness News in New York City, admits he has few hobbies beyond meteorology. But Champion is anything but boring. Just ask his husband, artist Rubem Robierb, who will tell you that Champion is passionate about advocating for causes close to his heart.
“Sam and I connected on every level early on,” says Robierb. “We have always connected on important social issues. As we have grown more as a couple, we enjoy tackling them together and being around like minds.”
Whether they’re at their home in Manhattan (complete with a rooftop garden) or in Miami Beach (boasting panoramic ocean views), the couple devotes a chunk of their leisure hours to rallying for equal marriage, supporting the National LGBTQ Task Force, and advocating for organizations like GLAAD and Point Foundation LGBT.
“As individuals, Rubem and I intend to spend the rest of our lives looking for deeper meaning and going the extra mile to help others, as well as build on our own love,” says Champion. “We are interested in climate change and major social issues affecting everyone. We want to do our part in finding equality for all.”
Champion grew up in a military family, which meant moving to a new city every two years. It was tough going, but it shaped him—helping him develop a talent for meeting and understanding diverse types of people. It made a career in broadcast journalism (where constant relocation and reinvention are required for success) seem like a natural fit. After graduating from high school in Fairfax, Virginia, he earned a degree in broadcast news from Eastern Kentucky University in 1983.
Then there was a string of local broadcast markets: First, Paducah, Kentucky, where he cut his teeth in the weather department. Then it was on to Jacksonville, Florida, until he landed the most coveted local market of them all: New York City. In 1988, he left Florida for a weather forecasting gig at WABC-TV’s Eyewitness News.
In 2006, Champion was called up to the TV big leagues: promoted to ABC’s Good Morning America and ABC News. “This was great for me because I could concentrate more on my passions of environment and climate,” says Champion. “Working for a network is different from local. Local is merit-based, while network is exciting but political.”
In 2013, he went from network TV to cable TV, leaving ABC to become an on-air broadcaster and a managing editor at The Weather Channel, a time, he insists, when he “didn’t take a day off.” He left three years later.
But eventually, Champion missed television. He returned to ABC as a fill-in weather forecaster on Good Morning America during chief meteorologist Ginger Zee’s maternity leave. By 2019, he had re-installed himself on the weather beat at WABC-TV, where he now broadcasts four days a week.
To balance his on-air life with the love of his life, Champion splits his time between New York and Florida—flying to Miami Beach each Thursday for long weekends with Robierb at their South Beach condo, and heading back to New York each Sunday.
That schedule might exhaust some couples. But it suits Champion and Robierb—who met at a Miami Beach New Year’s Eve Party in 2009—just fine. The pair was married in 2012 during a ceremony held at their New York apartment. South Florida was out of the question, as same-sex marriage was not legally recognized in the Sunshine State until 2015. A few days later, the couple flew to Miami Beach to celebrate their nuptials.
Robierb—a prominent visual artist—grew up in Maranhão, Brazil. He says his first artistic expression was poetry. A love for photography followed soon after. “Like with poetry, I could see how to create photographic images that convey a more profound meaning; like reading a poem would reveal layers of meaning and metaphors,” he says.
He received formal photography training after moving to São Paulo, Brazil, to work as a commercial photographer in fashion and fine arts. It wasn’t long before he was discovered by the French Art et Partage Association, an organization that sponsors art exhibitions in France. In 2005, they offered Robierb his first solo photography show called “Bresil Autrement.” His works were shown in Paris, then in Aix en Provence, France; Milan, Italy; Zurich, Switzerland; and Monte Carlo. “I traveled with my big pieces for the show and was invited to exhibit with the group for the next three years.”
But Robierb was moving in new directions beyond photography. So in 2008, he relocated to Miami and opened a studio in Wynwood. In the center of international and local art galleries mixed with street art and graffiti, he began to pursue yet another artistic form: painting. Soon he was also creating sculptures. He took a break from photography to concentrate on silk screen and murals. “Art finds a way to express itself,” he says. “I wanted to bring to the surface my statement and revolutionary vision.”
Since then, Robierb has combined his talents of poetry, painting, photography, and sculpture to create captivating multimedia works of art. They’re full of symbolism and messages, as Robierb seeks to elicit an emotional response from those who view his work—using it as a platform on behalf of a multitude of social causes. “We can connect with people through art,” he says. “The message is powerful, and my message has to mean something.”
Robierb moved to New York in 2013 to debut a show called “Bullets and Butterflies,” juxtaposing the beauty and delicateness of butterflies with elements of war like bullets and machine guns—a powerful metaphor with messages about life, war, death, and metamorphosis. Two years later, the city of Fort Lauderdale commissioned him to create a large-scale public mural that drew heavily on the themes of “Bullets and Butterflies,” painted on the walls of Shade Post downtown.
In 2019, during Art Basel Miami, Robierb used his artistic voice to draw attention to climate change. His Climate Meltdown, a 36-foot long floating ice sculpture, was placed in The Shore Club swimming pool. It featured the words, “How dare you?” carved into the ice, alluding to a powerful speech that Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg had recently delivered at the United Nations. “The intent was to send a clear message that we are against the clock on climate change,” Robierb says. “The sculpture completely melted in eight hours.”
In March 2021, he installed a new 12-foot heart-shaped sculpture at Boynton Beach City Hall. “I wanted to pay tribute to the health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic,” says Robierb, who also created another sculptural show in May on racial equality at Randall’s Island Park in New York. “As an artist I use any medium to tell others what matters.”
But it’s not all work for this dynamic duo. “There are times I need to be in my studio and [Sam] is at work, but all of our free time is spent together,” Robierb says. To that end, Champion and Robierb recently bought a vacation home on Ipanema Beach in Brazil. They are now renovating it and hope to use the sun-splashed space at least two months a year to help them slow down and enjoy life together.
“We are happiest when together now more than ever,” says Champion. “We always put the other first. We both believe his needs are more important than mine.”