Nova Scotia

Meatloaf, 'N Sync and other stars back lip-sync contest for people with disabilities

L'Arche Canada is hosting a lip-sync video contest to celebrate people with disabilities and share a little joy.

L'Arche Canada launches fun-filled contest to raise smiles and funds

Nick Herd says he has a blast co-hosting Battle of the Fans. (Submitted by Nick Herd)

L'Arche Canada is hosting a lip-sync video contest to celebrate people with disabilities and to share a little joy.

The national organization, which supports people with intellectual disabilities, says the event is the first international lip-sync contest hosted by people with disabilities.

Nick Herd, a member of L'Arche Toronto, is co-hosting the Battle of the Fans. Herd says they started the contest this year as a way to have fun and connect during the pandemic. 

"I don't have a favourite one, but I do have a few favourite ones," says Herd, who lives in Toronto.

"One of my favourite videos is by L'Arche Toronto: Lady Marmalade from the movie Moulin Rouge, which is one of my favourite musicals. And another one I really like is from N' Sync: Bye Bye Bye."

The videos feature the community members dancing, acting, and of course, lip-syncing. Many have a cameo at the end from the celebrity in the song where they talk about the positive impact someone with a disability has had on their own life.

Didi Conn, who played Frenchy in the 1978 film Grease, says her son has autism.

"He has taught me how to be patient. He's taught me to love him in the way he needs to be loved," she says. 

Herd says hearing messages from the celebrities involved makes him happy, but "also a little bit emotional."

"I've been through discrimination. I have been bullied in the past — in school even — because of my disability," he says. "Hearing these celebrities talk about disabilities makes me feel more at home. I feel good inside."

Herd has faced double discrimination, both as a gay man and as a person with Down syndrome. 

"This makes me feel much better. Like I'm not alone in the world because there are other [people with] disabilities out there that probably feel the same things that I do," he says.

Herd studies theatre and brings a lot of energy to his hosting duties. Each round pits two L'Arche communities against each other; the one with the most likes, shares and donations goes on to the next round. The overall winner will be announced shortly before Christmas.

The videos have mostly come from Canada, but they've welcomed L'Arche communities from Africa and New Zealand, too.

Lindsay Quimby and Damien Chauveau live in L'Arche Cape Breton and were part of the team that created videos for Greased Lightning, I Would do Anything for Love and All I Want for Christmas. 

The Christmas song features a mystery box containing a prize that is probably at the top of everybody's wish list this year: the COVID-19 vaccine.

In the Greased Lightnin' video, Quimby pulls on a leather jacket and dances to the top of the pyramid.

"It's something I can dance to," she says. "It's, I would say, very lively."

She hopes lots of people will watch the videos and change how they think about people with disabilities. 

One of L'Arche Cape Breton's newest members, Jordan Maclean, plays a starring role in the Meatloaf video, adding a COVID twist. 

"I was so impressed with his acting part and the emotions that he shared," Chauveau says.

Meatloaf spoke about how much love and respect he has for L'Arche. He says he has a disability himself and so understands the challenges and rewards.

Chauveau says L'Arche honours disabilties.

"We're proud of who we are, whatever your disability is," Chauveau said. "There's no shame."