Skaters show support for 'NOH8' initiative

Taping up for a political cause

Nicholas Laroche poses with students Samantha McCain (left) and Gina DeNatale (right).
Nicholas Laroche poses with students Samantha McCain (left) and Gina DeNatale (right). (Adam Bouska)


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By Sarah S. Brannen, special to
(01/11/2011) - Retired competitive skater Nicholas Laroche, professional skater and fashion designer Michael Kuluva, speedskater and Olympian Blake Skjellerup and YouTube celebrity and adult skater Michael Buckley have all been photographed recently for the NOH8 ("No Hate") campaign.

According to the NOH8 Campaign web site, it is a photographic project created by photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley as a response to the passage of Proposition 8 in California.

Photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths and "NOH8" painted on one cheek. The campaign began with portraits of everyday Californians and now includes politicians, artists, celebrities, and athletes.

"It was a really big deal here," said Laroche, who lives and coaches in the Los Angeles area. "I was kind of in the midst of it, and I saw all these people come together to try and prove a point. I felt like everyone did their part and turned it into a big national effect of awareness."

According to Laroche, a number of skaters at the Toyota Sports Center got their pictures taken for the campaign. They told Laroche how to sign up, and two of his students asked to accompany him to the photo shoot.

"Samantha McCain and Gina DeNatale asked if they could come with me," said Laroche. "The photographer was amazing, he was so good. We have each girl holding a skate. It turned out wonderfully."

2001 national competitor and professional skater Michael Kuluva, who is also in the Los Angeles area, says he was the first figure skater to be photographed for the campaign.

"I was the first professional and only figure skater to come out and speak for the NOH8 campaign," he said. "Greg Louganis and Isaiah Thomas were the only pro athletes at that point. I wanted to let everyone else know that it's ok."

New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup, who met some of the 2010 U.S. figure skating team at the Olympics in Vancouver, said he wanted to show his support for the campaign.

"In New Zealand, where I am from, we have civil unions, however I feel like civil unions are a second standard to that of marriage, and I feel like everyone should be treated equally," he said.

Skjellerup says he doesn't believe any other speed skaters have participated at this point, and added that he loves to watch figure skating.

Michael Buckley, whose popular "What the Buck" videos often discuss figure skating, is an accomplished adult skater as well as a fan.

"I was asked by Adam Bouska to participate," he said. "I was in California, and he asked if he could come to my hotel to shoot me at 11 o'clock at night. I got out of bed, threw on a white undershirt and tried to apply my 'Top Model' lessons!

"In all seriousness, I am thrilled to be part of the campaign. I think it has been a powerful, empowering experience for everyone who participated. I hope everyone does a are making a difference by participating and showing your support."