Following a series of suicides by gay teens in recent weeks, Margaret Cho and Louis van Amstel chose a theme of gay pride for their Dancing with the Stars samba on Monday – and later spoke to PEOPLE about the bullying they suffered as kids.
“When I was a teenager, I was bullied a lot, and I felt very insecure and very scared, and I didn’t want to live,” said Cho, who is bisexual. “And I just want to reach out to these kids and make sure that they stay with us.”
Van Amstel urged gay teens to find strength in their talents. “I’ve been bullied for being gay when [I was] 10 years old because I loved dance,” he said. “You just have to find out what you’re really good at. Put your mind, body and soul into that. For me, it was dance, and it was great therapy.”
The pair dedicated their samba to all the families who have lost children to bullying, and hoped their performance could have a positive effect on troubled kids.
“It’s about having pride in who you are,” said Cho, “and that’s why we wore the rainbow colors, because we want to talk about pride. We want to just really, really express that in ourselves and impart that to the world.”
“It’s ridiculous. It’s got to stop,” said van Amstel.
For more on bullying, see the new issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday, and our special week-long series with Anderson Cooper 360, airing on CNN nightly starting Oct. 4, along with a special PEOPLE-CNN-Cartoon Network Town Hall on Fri. Oct. 8 at 10 p.m.