Actor Daniel Franzese, who played Damian in 2004 teen comedy hit "Mean Girls," has come out as gay.
In an open letter addressed to Damian and published on Indie Wire, Franzese wrote that he decided to come out publicly at age 35 to help other closeted actors feel comfortable with being themselves, and help mitigate some of the fears of being gay in Hollywood. Franzese admitted that he denied being gay numerous times before and after playing Damian because he feared being stereotyped and typecast because of it -- and found that he was anyway, often being denied the chance to even audition for certain roles because he was deemed not "masculine" enough.
"You were proud of who you were; I was an insecure actor," Franzese wrote to Damian. "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."
Franzese said that he had no idea how popular "Mean Girls" would become, or how much of an impact it would have on teens, especially gay teens. ("To paraphrase Gretchen Wieners, 'we can't help it that we're so popular,'" he wrote.) But that popularity came at a price, the actor admitted, and he had a hard time reconciling his public image with his private life, asking his reps to lie about his sexuality and scrubbing his online trail.
But with the 10th anniversary of "Mean Girls" approaching, Franzese said he re-examined the role that put him on the map, and took inspiration from the fearless character he played to hopefully inspire others to be equally fearless.
"[L]ooking back, it took YOU [Damian] to teach me how to be proud of myself again. ... I have always been different and that's rad," Franzese wrote. " ... 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.)"
The entire, inspiring letter -- which is riddled with wonderful references to iconic "Mean Girls" quotes -- is worth the time to read.
[via Indie Wire, h/t HuffPost Entertainment]
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