dancing with the scars

How Come Dancing‘s Louis Van Amstel Has Such a Problem With Calling Out Anti-Gay Bullies?

Though he was willing last season to dance with Niecy Nash to a number about interracial love, Louis van Amstel wasn’t pleased to have his gay-loving partner Margaret Cho wave her fag flag around during what turned out to be their last routine on the show. Having just got done insisting Cho’s rainbow dress “was not a gay flag,” now Van Amstel, who is gay, says the reason they got kicked off was because of her propaganda.

“That was not the story we planned to tell,” the dancer says. “That was not my message. Maybe it was Margaret’s message, but not mine. The minute it was about gay pride, I knew we were gone. I knew it. But if I would have said something then and there, I would have looked like an asshole. The damage was done.”

It’s not too late to look like an asshole. Mission accomplished.

Van Amstel says he and Cho had “a long, serious conversation about it the following day because I couldn’t let it go. I was so unhappy.” According to him, their plan had been to tell the story, through their dance, of her emergence from her painful background of being bullied for being overweight, her subsequent anorexia, suicidal feelings and other difficulties, until she finally learned to accept and love herself. But once the rainbow dress was deemed a gay pride symbol, he says, “She felt, ‘Yes, we’ve got to make a statement. We’ve got that one moment in time with 23 million people watching, we’ve got to take it.’”

“I disagreed with it. I think you change people’s minds by being you — not by provoking, being angry at the world.”

He adds, “One of the people who actually changed my mind was Morgan Freeman. He said, ‘If we take all the labels away, that’s when we will change this world.’ I live by that idea. I live by it.”

Doesn’t that sound familiar? It should — because it’s the exact same line of thinking employed by bigots, who claim identifying LGBTs directly is harmful and ignores all the other types of bullying out there.

Van Amstel says, “If I have to label myself, yes, I’m gay, and I’m proud of who I am and comfortable with myself and my lifestyle. But I don’t want to be limited by that; I don’t want to be put into a box. I don’t want to be labeled in any way because labeling is the beginning of discrimination and hatred.”

Both of which he has felt. Growing up, Van Amstel had his own sad times and experiences with bullies. “For being fat and then for being gay. It makes you very introverted, makes you very quiet,” he believes. “I used that to be creative.”

Well done, Van Amstel. Continue pretending that by not mentioning it, it’ll all go away.

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  • jason

    Van Amstel has a point about labels. But I would have loved to see him be himself by dancing with a man. Why didn’t he dance with a man instead of Cho?

    Dancing With The Stars appears to be homophobic.

  • Orpheus_lost

    If Van Amstel still thinks of his orientation as a “lifestyle” he’s not as comfortable with it as he pretends.


    If I want to kick his ass for his dumbass totally don’t have a clue comments, is it still considered Gay bashing??

  • JNunz

    Why does he get an opinion at all about the message of their dance? Correct me if I’m wrong, but this show is about the “stars,” not the professional dancers. Does he think he’s a contestant/star?

    What a jerk. And now I love La Cho even MORE for standing up for us AND herself.

  • Philosophe

    Van Amstel’s point about labels is worth considering. It’s true that in the modern world, we have an obsession with labels and categorizing things. The sinister thing is that we get so entrenched and addicted to these labels, that they turn on us and begin a secondary identification. Like on the Census: we’ve decided that there are certain options, boxes, a person can check to identify their race. The problem here is that those categories we created then become the only possible ways to identify ourselves. We create categories and then the categories turn on us and begin to limit how we can express ourselves. At the same time, without the ability to label and classify, our entire system of language and comprehension would collapse. Labels can be dangerous, but they can also be useful tools. “You’ve got to change people’s minds by being you,” Van Amstel says. What does he mean? Who is he? I assume that in answering this question, he would, eventually, fall back on labels of some sort. Is he a man? White? Gay? A dancer? An artist? Whichever area you chose, I can show you a theorist with some very convincing work who will break down those categories for you. At the end then, you’re left fumbling for any word at all with which to describe and express yourself. He doesn’t want to be limited by his lifestyle? Okay, fine, then stop thinking of your lifestyle (and we can ignore the question of the appropriateness of that word choice) as something that can limit you. The only one imposing barriers here is Van Amstel. Worse, although I understand that he might not want to be a public, rainbow flag-waving activist type (and, perhaps, morally, he might not even have a choice), Van Amstel, despite his comments, has given more power to labels. If he really wants to “take all the labels away” (if that’s even possible or beneficial) then the way to do it is not by living in fear of those labels.

  • gregger

    He’s all about appearances and not substance. Why does he matter.

  • Stenar

    They lost because he sucks as a choreographer. The best choreographer on that show is the blond kid who dances with Jennifer Grey.

  • the crustybastard

    “The minute it was about gay pride, I knew we were gone. I knew it.”

    Translation: Shut up Margaret! I get paid by the week!

  • slobone

    DWTS has always been a little vague about how people get voted off. It’s “some combination” of judges’ scores and viewer calls. And the judges decreed that she’s a crappy dancer (no argument there). Is it just possible that the viewers agreed?

    Remember, on this show you can only vote FOR people, not against them. So it doesn’t matter how many bigots made calls, they couldn’t affect her vote total.

  • alan brickman

    she’s a horrible dancer….I agree

  • Kevin

    Van Amstel’s job was compromised, so I stand by what he’s saying. He never defamed homosexuality, nor denied his – his points were valid. You gotta respect that although he didn’t agree with Cho, he kept silent on the issue and carried out Cho’s message anyways. Don’t try to label him as a failure to the community; he’s an accomplished, out and proud homosexual.
    He’s also wicked hot

  • Ash

    He’s always been my favourite professional dancer on DWTS, but now…this is very much a turn off. First of all, I really disliked him saying that her dress was not meant to be the pride flag..like what the hell are we supposed to think? You’re gay and Margaret is bisexual! So him denying just kinda pisses me off, because they are already kicked off so why not just embrace it?

    Now I find that he considers being gay a “lifestyle”? Oh no, you didn’t! Duuudddeee, a lifestyle is a choice, being gay is not. Being straight isn’t considered a “lifestyle”, so why should being gay?

  • Shouldn't certain gay sites & their commenters stop bullying gays too? ( John from England)


    Get a life

  • averageguy40

    He’s certainly allowed to have an opinion. So what if he wants to preserve his job? I would do the same thing. Let him be. There’s no way he can please the whole gay community.

  • Michael Compton

    @ No. 7 · Stenar: Well said, Stenar. He IS a terrible choreographer, i’m sorry to say. He also seems to be strung tighter than a piano wire. Very tense.

    Having said that, he is very accomplished, and though this incident was undeniably lame, it shouldn’t define him/our perception of him.

    There must be unimaginable pressure on him – on many levels – from outside, and within. He’s young, in the spotlight, under massive stress, and dropped the ball a bit. He’ll learn from it, and get better at balancing things.

    ps – and Derek (the blonde) is without question the best choreographer on the show – including the folks that choreograph the non-competition dances. He’s truly excellent on every level, and is much less of an ass (personality-wise) than he was in the show’s early days.

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