Stars of 2004’s original Mean Girls Daniel Franzese, Jonathan Bennett and Rajiv Surendra have more in common than you might think – they’ve all come out publicly as gay.
Franzese who played Damian, Bennett who played Aaron ‘hair looks sexy pushed back’ Samuels and Surendra who played Kevin Gnapoor have all opened up about their sexuality since the iconic teen comedy first arrived 20 years ago.
With the arrival of the 2024 Mean Girls musical adaptation featuring notable advances in queer representation – providing audiences with loud and proud LGBTQ+ characters and narratives – it becomes clear that the early noughties LGBTQ+ mainstream representation now feels firmly set in the past.
While Franzese, Bennett, and Surendra were closeted while making Mean Girls, several of the new film’s cast are openly queer and proud to speak about it.
“I’m gay,” Rapp told The Times. “I’m not out here playing [Regina] as a straight girl.”
Rapp’s not alone as a cast member talking about the new film’s firm LGBTQ+ rooting.
Auli’i Cravalho, who plays school outcast Janis, was originally rumoured to be a lesbian but in the new film, Cravalho has clarified Janis is a “loud and proud” lesbian – a welcome evolution following the ‘Lebanese’ joke employed by the original film.
With the release of the new musical iteration, it’s a great time to reflect on the gay trio at the heart of the original Mean Girls.
Daniel Franzese came out publicly as gay in 2014
Playing the loveably ‘too gay to function’ character of Damian in the OG Mean Girls left quite a mark on Daniel Franzese.
In 2014, on the film’s 10th anniversary, Franzese received a fan letter that gave him that final push to come out publicly.
He paraphrased the letter to Page Six in 2022: “I don’t know if you’re gay or not, and it doesn’t matter, but when I was in eighth grade, I was beat up for being chubby, and I was tortured every day for being a sissy.
Mean Girls star Daniel Franzese came out in 2014. (Getty)
“And then your movie came out. And then on the first day of my freshman year in ninth grade, the popular senior girls walked up to me and said, ‘You’re like Damian! Come sit with us’… Thank you for giving me something in media that I can point to and say, ‘That’s me, and I’m proud.’”
Franzese has also previously discussed his experience of being in the closet and his hardships with coming out.
He has also revealed that he was “brainwashed” into participating in so-called conversion therapy in 1999.
Franzese was 21 years old when a conversion ‘therapist’ tried to “convert” him to heterosexuality. This was five years before he starred in Mean Girls as Damian, who, according to his bestie Janis, is “too gay to function.”
On set, however, Franzese found a kindred spirit in fellow actor Bennett.
The actor noted that he confided in Bennett and shared the “private misery of having to be in the closet.”
More recently, Franzese also told PRIDE it was “so wonderful” to see Mean Girls alumni Bennett and Surendra come out.
“I wanted us to come out together, but they just weren’t ready,” Franzese also explained.
“At that point, we had all confided in each other, with Rajiv being a later revelation.”
Franzese is now a vocal LBGTQ+ activist and has become an official ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation as well as hosting GLAAD gala events.
Jonathan Bennett came out publicly as gay in 2017
Jonathan Bennett played Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls, who (according to the Plastics) is one of the hottest and most popular guys at high school.
Like Franzese, Bennett has reminisced fondly on his Mean Girls experience.
“I’m also proud of Mean Girls because it was – for this generation – one of the first movies to have a predominantly gay character that was one of the leads,” Bennett shared with TooFab.
Mean Girls star Jonathan Bennett married his husband in 2022. (Getty)
Bennett also noted how integral Franzese’s character is for young LGBTQ+ folk: “Damien was such an important part to a lot of high school kids for this generation,”
In November 2020, Bennett got engaged to Celebrity Page host Jaymes Vaughan. Vaughan proposed on the set of The Christmas House, in which Bennett stars.
“That was a sucker punch to the gut. We decided in that moment that our wedding was bigger than us,” Bennett said.
“It’s about the LGBT+ community. We’re really making a point to make this wedding very loud on purpose.”
Ahead of the 2024 Mean Girls, Bennett dished out some advice to the new Aaron Samels actor Christopher Briney: “He must nail the word grool.”
“The fact they took a movie that has such a gay cult following and made it a musical, the fans are going to go crazy. So I’m very excited,” Bennett also added.
Rajiv Surendra came out publicly as gay in 2018
Completing the gay Mean Girls trio, Rajiv Surendra came out in 2018.
Surendra’s Kevin G is remembered for his ‘Bad-Ass M.C.’ rap persona and for officially dating Janis by the end of the original Mean Girls.
His public coming out came in the form of a profile for The Washington Post in line with his memoir, The Elephants in My Backyard.
Mean Girls star Rajiv Surendra came out in 2018. (Getty)
“Surendra’s sexual awakening as a gay man is related with a sweetness and openness that could inspire other teenagers,” the outlet reported.
Following his role in Mean Girls, Surendra stepped back from the acting world when he wasn’t cast in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi.
However, like his fellow actors, Surendra – who is now a chef on YouTube – has shared praise for the new movie.
“So honoured to be a part of the new [Mean Girls] movie premiere tonight! Congrats to the new cast, y’all did a fantastic job!” he wrote on Instagram.
Surendra wore a Mathletes letterman’s jacket on the pink carpet referencing his original character, now played by Mahi Alam.
Mean Girls is in cinemas now.
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