“Mean Girls” star Daniel Franzese, who played the gay character Damian in the popular film, decided to officially “come out”.
Franzese penned an emotional letter in hopes of helping others, which makes news a week before the film’s tenth anniversary.
The actor penned a letter addressed to his character Damian from the film on Indiewire blog Bent, thanking him for the encouragement to be himself but in part blaming him for getting stereotyped.
Daniel, now 35, writes, “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. You WERE beautiful in every single way and words couldn’t bring you down.”
Daniel, who admitted the cast had no idea how popular the movie would become, said he was terrified to play the role of Damian at first.
Daniel did say the role made him typecast as a gay character and he struggled to find other varied parts as a result.
He said, “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.”
He explained, “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, clichéd butt-of-a-joke?”
Franzese remembered attempting to hide his sexuality from everyone but his close friends and family, even when that meant having no romantic life.
In his open letter he writes, “Damian, you had ruined my life and I was really pissed at you. I became celibate for a year and a half. I didn’t go to any gay bars, have any flings and I lied to anyone who asked if I was gay. I even brought a girl to the Mean Girls premiere and kissed her on the red carpet, making her my unwitting beard.”
He explained, “It wasn’t until years later that grown men started to coming up to me on the street – some of them in tears – and thanking me for being a role model to them. Telling me I gave them comfort not only being young and gay but also being a big dude. It was then that I realized how much of an impact YOU had made on them.
“Meanwhile, I was still in the closet. Deleting tweets that asked if I was gay, scrubbing IMDB Message Boards for any indication, etc. (It’s important to note that I was actually DISCOVERED singing in a Florida gay bar by casting director, Carmen Cuba, for my first role in Larry Clark’s “Bully.”)”
He concluded the letter by saying he isn’t afraid to be himself and thanked his character Damian.
He writes, “I had the perfect opportunity in 2004 to let people know the REAL Daniel Franzese. Now in 2014 – ten years later – looking back, it took YOU to teach me how to be proud of myself again. It’s okay if no one wants to sit at the table with the “art freaks.”
“Being a queer artist is one of my favorite things about myself. I have always been different and that’s rad. People have always asked if I was really gay? While my reps usually lied to protect me. My friends and family all knew the truth but now it’s time everyone does. Perhaps this will help someone else. I had to remind myself that my parents named me Daniel because it means “God is my judge” So, I’m not afraid anymore. Of Hollywood, the closet or mean girls. Thank you for that, Damian. (And Tina.)”
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