Tolerance and equality are rights that people should be afforded without question. Louis Van Amstel is known on the ballroom floor as a fierce competitor, respected professional and skillful teacher.He is a three-time world champion ballroom dancer, Emmy-nominated choreographer, “Dancing With The Stars” pro dancer since its inception and fearless leader in a campaign called NOH8 (No Hate). This campaign stemmed from California’s Proposition 8 ballot measure that called for the ban on marriage of same-sex couples. Celebrity photographer Adam Bouska took to his lens to photograph subjects with the NOH8 scribe on their faces. The face as a perfect canvas, the campaign now has over 5,500 photographs of every day people to celebrities displaying their ‘silent protest.’ Louis believes that the NOH8 Campaign is so much more than just about the marriage rights of couples whether they are of the same sex or not. Louis said, “I started thinking about the concept of NOH8. It has nothing to do with just one label, or one issue. It’s everything. The more I met with Jeff Parshley and photographer Adam Bouska, the co-founders of the NOH8 Campaign, I said I’d like to be more involved especially because I think you really promote to stop hate in general. They said they were willing to open up more. And in the beginning I don’t think that they understood how powerful their pictures are. It’s in your face, it’s the picture.” Louis has invited his friends from “Dancing With The Stars” to appear in additional NOH8 photographs as well. Pictured to the left are Louis Van Amstel, Marlee Matlin, Denise Richards, Kimberly Locke, Niecy Nash, Brooke Burke and Marissa Jaret Winokur. Photos above by Adam Bouska.
View the NOH8 Campaign PSA featuring celebrity spokespersons in their native languages.
Louis Van Amstel is featured in this video. Originally from Amsterdam, he is speaking in Dutch.
The NOH8 Campaign is also reaching out to promote NOH8 with youth. Louis said, “We did a music video this summer. It was done to raise money for underprivileged kids that are coming out of low income families, gang-related families or have a family member that is a gang member or have been attacked by a gang. Those kids are great musicians and great writers because they write from the soul because of all they had to go through as kids.”
View the “NOH8: Hate We Will Overcome” music video below.
Some of the work that Louis is doing is not only promoting the NOH8 Campaign by lending his face to portraits, he wants to also get the word out personally by talking with people and asking questions. Louis said, “Why are we always so judgmental about being different? Being different makes this place so much more interesting. If we were all White, what would this place look like? If we were all Black, what would this place look like? If we all think the same, if we all fall in love with the same type, how boring would it be? One likes red, one likes blue and it shouldn’t matter what it is. And I think the NOH8 Campaign especially now, they have expanded. I just was told by Tom Bergeron, because he knew that I was very involved with them, he said, ‘Louis, I’m really proud to say that I did a PSA for the NOH8 Campaign yesterday against all of the bullying.’ And I said, thank you Tom because we really have to promote this. If a person like this is helping, and he’s the host of the #1 show, I mean more people need to stand up and say that’s enough.”
LOUIS IS FIGHTING BACK AGAINST BULLIES
Louis also works to help stop the bullying in coordination with GLSEN which stands for Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. GLSEN “strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression,” (Courtesy of the GLSEN.org Web site). Louis talked about GLSEN’s work in schools against bullying and how kids between the ages of 6 years old up until the ages of 18 and even 21 are just figuring out exactly who they are in life, and it is in this time they should be free of bullying and fighting. Louis has been teaching kids since he was 17 years old. Now 38, he wants parents to instill a great work ethic in their children without stifling their passions. Louis said, “I truly believe that it is your prime time to find out who you are, what you’d like to be, what your career moves are, who you want to date and what your thoughts are about marriage. You go to school during this time. You need to be free of all of the bullying during this time. That’s why I’m involved with GLSEN. It’s important if you are a celebrity and are part of a show that is #1 in the country to give back. I’ve taught every age category and people just don’t believe in themselves, the outside world makes them feel like they are nothing. Parent’s don’t believe in the passions of their sons or daughters. Parents need to listen to the passions of their children.”
People are starting to recognize the importance of the online community where the attacks may not seem as hurtful but can definitely penetrate one just as deeply with the hurtful comments, postings and negative online behavior. Facebook recently posted a video asking users to report any online bullying they see. Watch the video they’ve created with current Facebook employees below.
WORKING TO FIGHT OBESITY WITH DANCE
Louis passions take up a lot of his time, especially while participating on weekly episodes performing on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars.” He is also passionate about keeping his contact with the community by teaching classes and helping to promote healthy active lifestyles. Teaching in Sherman Oaks, you can catch him teaching his partner-free program called “Louis Dance Blast.” This program is in over 40 dance and fitness studios in Europe and has 5 levels from beginning to professional. Louis created this program because he wanted to help people continue to keep a positive attitude about exercise and to fight obesity with dance at the same time. In addition to his work with the NOH8 Campaign, GLSEN and the Human Rights Campaign, he also works with the American Heart Association to fight the growing epidemic of obesity. He said, “People can go to dance studios and learn this program first hand. I’m also going to go to studios to teach the teachers how to do my program for their students. I’m going to take this program throughout the states. I’m very passionate about working with the American Heart Association to fight obesity and I truly believe that dance can help a lot of people. Anybody can do it. Anyone can dance.” For more information about his program, visit the Louis Van Amstel Web site at www.DancingWithLouis.com.