Louis van Amstel on Margaret Cho's Rainbow Statement: 'I Had a Breakdown'
By Stacy Jenel Smith Posted Oct 14th 2010 08:58AM
"I had a breakdown the next day. I called my friends, I felt horrible," the Amsterdam-born ballroom champ and choreographer tells PopEater.
Viewers will recall that judge Bruno Tonioli complimented Cho on her gay pride rainbow dress, and judge Carrie Ann Inaba chimed in that the show had gone gay, with Cho declaring it the gayest thing that's ever happened on 'Dancing.'
Van Amstel has been going around explaining ever since: "That was not the story we planned to tell. 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 a******. The damage was done."
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."
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."
Now, van Amstel, whose last two 'DWTS' partners were Niecy Nash and Kelly Osbourne, hopes "people like me as a person, like what I do and what I do with my celebrity ... I'm working my a** off to show who I am, as someone who is passionate about what I do, who'll play devil's advocate to get the best out of you if necessary ... That's what I was known for, but with this one moment, suddenly, this is what sticks."
With this season's work complete, Van Amstel is concentrating on his dance classes, his Louis Dance Blast franchising and online pursuits, plus the 'DWTS' spin-off tour he produces, Ballroom With a Twist, which is touring Canada with several 'DWTS' personalities. He's also busy with charitable pursuits, including the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), "which is working in education, in schools, to create a bully-free environment. All kids should have a great time at school. It's a human rights campaign, covering every minority, every kind of discrimination -- that's what I support," he says.
And as for that rainbow? "Yes, I know that the gay community uses the rainbow flag, but to me, it's important to also remember we all live under the rainbow."
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