America voted. At least, the Americans glued to a show about twirling celebrities did, thus eliminating Margaret Cho, along with her partner Louis van Amstel, from this season of ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Were voters uncomfortable with the couple's supposed loud-and-proud gay message? Out recently chatted with van Amstel, the Netherlands native and professional ballroom dancer who's been on the show for seven seasons, to get his reaction. And to talk about Johnny Weir versus Evan Lysacek. And sex.
Out:Do you think it's true what they say about a man's dancing skills reflecting his skills in the bedroom?
Louis van Amstel: Oh my god, we're going there?
Yeah, we're hitting the ground running.
Actually, I'd say so, yes. I think if somebody is very musical in his movement, he's already a warm-hearted person. I'd like to say that really helps in the bedroom. Let's not forget the flexibility.
Do you think, as with dancing, practice makes perfect?
I think that counts for everything. I'm a ballroom dancer, which is always done with a partner, so I'd like to say so. Practice makes perfect.
So why has Latin dancing in particular been the focus of your career?
It has been since I was 10 years old and I was not occupied with sex or sexuality at that point. I think that Latin music just makes you want to dance. It has such a wide range of motions and emotions. I got hooked.
As you grew older, do you think you connected more to the passionate sexuality in Latin dancing?
The arousal -- I think that's something that we all want. It's like if someone hugs you and then just hugs you with passion. With Latin dance, you don't need to be drunk, you don't need to be stoned or take some pills to take you to that moment, that place where it is so special. That can turn into passion and that can turn into sex and everything in between.
Being from the Netherlands, do you think you've earned your street cred as an honorary Latin lover?
I'd say so. I've invested a lot of time into studying the history and the background of where our dances come from. If I'm going to learn samba, I want to go to Rio. I've been there twice. For me, that gives you the true depth. I studied the flamenco and bull fighting in Spain to give me more understanding about the paso doble. And you know what? You have great vacations.
You brought your boyfriend with you when you went on Chelsea Lately with Kelly Osbourne during season 9'
There so wasn't an agenda there.
I was wondering, are you still together?
No, we're not, and not because of that broadcast.
Are you dating someone currently?
No, I'm not. I'm so busy, there's hardly any time. I'm as single as can be.
Was it important for you to be more public with your sexuality and your relationships?
Well, I don't really care. I hate labeling. After that moment on Chelsea Lately or the [equal marriage rights] storyline with Niecy Nash last season, people said, 'Oh, we're so proud of you for coming out.' I never came out. Chelsea asked me a question: 'Is your boyfriend in the audience?' I just said, 'Yes.' It's not a message: "Oh, I'm gay by the way." I'm proud of who I am. I am not bound by those words. But at the same time, I'm being honest. He was there. With the message that Niecy and I sent, all I said was, 'You have to help me in the fight so I can get married.' It doesn't matter what label you have. Are you happy with the person inside of you? That to me is really important. It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bi, transsexual or if you want to be overweight and be happy with it or if you wear glasses or if you're an albino or a redhead -- we all have the right to be passionate about something and no one has the right to take that away.
Do you think labels had an effect this season on you and Margaret Cho being eliminated?
Unfortunately it was a very labeled, in-your-face message that wasn't even Margaret's and my message. I was angry. If you want to be accepted as a gay guy, don't label yourself, because what is the message? Boom. You get voted off. In the end, that means you missed opportunities each week to let people like you for who you truly are. Margaret was so on a roll. She was such an advocate for everybody that felt weird about themselves -- maybe they were overweight or they were anorexic like her, almost killed themselves -- and this woman is growing as a person. That was our message. Unfortunately, the judges and the production company decided not to share our real message.
What do you think they tried to change it into?
It turned into a whole gay pride thing. In the package, Margaret said she wanted to celebrate that everyone should be proud of who they are. Bruno said, 'Oh, I love that you are wearing the gay flag as your dress.' In my package interview I stated very clearly why I chose those colors, because for me the rainbow represents this planet where seven billion people live under the rainbow. The colors all represent that we're all different. It had nothing to do with the gay community. ABC decided not to portray that, and I was so pissed off but I decided not to make myself look like an ass. I didn't say, 'Oh, by the way Bruno, it's not the gay flag,' because they always make you look like the bad guy if you talk back to the judges. It was a very disappointing evening. Margaret thinks different.
What's her reaction?
She felt you have to be proud of who you are, and, because her demographic is the gay demographic, she went with it. And then when we were with Brooke, she said 'The gay suicides just got to stop. Enough.' And I thought, What about all the other families who lost their kids who were straight or maybe overweight or maybe they were redheads or maybe they were bullied for other things than being gay? We talked after the show. She said, 'You have that one moment where you can take a stand and make a message and it's powerful and it will be remembered.' Tuesday morning I broke down. I cried. I was so disappointed because I work all my life to not be labeled. I was bullied for being fat and gay and short. And all my life I worked hard to overcome that and be an advocate for anyone who's being bullied.
It sounds like you and Margaret have the same goal just different approaches.
Absolutely. That's why I love her, and we had such a great conversation because we want the same [thing]. But the bottom line is that was not our storyline. Why do people have to come out? Just be who you want to be. To me that's the next step. Another example I can give you is what happened last season with Evan Lysacek. Evan was on the show, Johnny Weir was not. And Johnny Weir wants to be on Dancing With the Stars. He's pushing for Evan to come out and I'm like, "If Evan is gay, it doesn't really matter." The fact is he won the gold medal. Johnny Weir, why don't you win the gold medal? Put the pedal to the medal. To me, that's how you change people's minds about the gay community.
So Evan just doesn't want a label?
Nope, and that's why I love him.
Well in addition to DWTS, you've also choreographed for So You Think You Can Dance. Did you see the episode where two men auditioned together doing ballroom?
Yes, because they're my friends. William and Jacob, I think that was last season.
What was your reaction?
I can understand why a lot of people find it weird because you're so used to seeing a man dance with a woman. But just because you're not used to it doesn't mean it couldn't be groundbreaking and emotional to watch. Beautiful things can happen when people of the same sex dance together.
When I think SYTYCD, I think 'Mary Murphy.'
Yes, and that's the one reason I think FOX made a huge mistake by not keeping her on the show. I know the real reason but I can't go there. It was sad, but Mary is one of my closest friends. I love that bitch.
Have you ever ridden on her 'Hot Tamale Train?'
Oh yes, we've been on many 'trains' together since 1991.
I'm going to say the names of some of your past DWTS partners and you give me one word to describe them: Priscilla Presley.
One word? There's a few. Very sincere. Quiet. I know, people will be shocked. Actually, quiet and serious. Very serious.
I have so many words for her. Brilliant.
And beautiful. She's very beautiful.
That's why I say brilliant. She went into the competition with the least fans, and she won so many people over by just being Kelly Osbourne, the real one. The girl's just magic. I think she's going to be an advocate for every minority group, for every person that ever didn't feel self-beauty. Kelly showed everyone it's possible.
Lastly: Lisa Rinna.
To me that's something she did out of her own insecurity, and I'm very proud of her for doing something about it. I think recently, whatever was in her lips, she has taken it out. That really deserves a lot of admiration to say, 'Yeah, I fucked up, but here I am.' Were they out of proportion? Yeah, maybe they were, but Lisa Rinna is so much more than those lips. We've gone on vacations together. We're close.
Sounds like you keep up with all your past partners.
I'm actually seeing Priscilla in an hour. Kelly I saw last week. Margaret, we're going for dinner next week. I'm going skiing with Trista in February. Lisa, my class is next door to her store. I'm close with all my partners. You go on a journey together.
For more information on Louis van Amstel, visit his official website.