Daniel Franzese, the actor who plays the "too gay to function" Damian in Mean Girls, officially came out on Tuesday in a touching open letter to his memorable character.
Franseze's letter, posted to queer-culture blog /bent, details his struggle with being gay and compares it to Damian's more confident lifestyle:
I was twenty-six; you were sixteen. You were proud of who you were; I was an insecure actor. You became an iconic character that people looked up to; I wished I'd had you as a role model when I was younger. I might've been easier to be gay growing up.
So why did it take so long for Franzese, the actor, to come out?
When I first became an actor, I wanted to play lots of roles - Guidos, gangsters and goombahs were my specialty. So, would I be able to play all of those parts after portraying a sensitive, moisturizing, Ashton Kutcher-loving, pink-shirt-wearing kid? I was optimistic. Hollywood? Not so much. I was meeting a "gay glass ceiling" in casting.
There were industry people who had seen me play you in Mean Girls but never seen me read in an audition but still denied me to be seen for "masculine" roles.
However, I did turn down many offers to play flamboyant, feather-boa-slinging stereotypes that always seemed to be laughed at BECAUSE they were gay. How could I go from playing an inspirational, progressive gay youth to the embarrassing, cliched butt-of-a-joke?
And it was Damian who turned it all around again. Franzese writes of grown men approaching him on the street "in tears" because of how much the character meant to them as teenagers. "I had the perfect opportunity in 2004 to let people know the REAL Daniel Franzese," he writes. "Now in 2014 - ten years later - looking back, it took YOU to teach me how to be proud of myself again."
The whole letter is worth reading.
[H/T TooFab, image via Getty]