Mean Girls star Jonathan Bennett has issued an emotional Instagram post to mark World Theatre Day. In it, the actor reveals how teenage bullying took a toll on his mental and physical health, and how doing theatre offered him the refuge he needed to survive.
“Emotional post warning,” Bennett begins. “To celebrate #worldtheaterday I give you a video of a 16 year old gay boy in Ohio. He has a pitchy voice, no rhythm, and can’t dance to save his life. He’s awkward, his teeth are too big for his face, and he lives in fear every single day because he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the boys in his class. He constantly gets pushed into a locker by an asshole named Justin and when he walks down the halls he gets called a f*ggot.”
“He cries himself to sleep every night and develops stomach ulcers because of the stress and the homophobia in his small town,” he continues. “He thinks really dark thoughts and lives miserably in secret. But there is one place (and only one place) that gives him the tiniest bit of refuge. His high school theater.”
“He walks in and for the first time in his life, he feels safe. He feels seen. He actually speaks out loud and isn’t called a f*ggot and no one makes a mockery of him,” Bennett recalls. “He steps out on stage and for the first time in his life, he feels ALIVE. He is home.”
“So to celebrate today,” he concludes, “grown up Jonathan wants to say thank you to every single person who has ever had anything to do with any theater anywhere at anytime. If you were an actor, a stage manager, lighting, sound, wardrobe, front of house, back of house, even if you just bought a ticket and supported theater. You did so much more than that. You made a safe place for so many struggling little Jonathans out there.”
Bennett then offers a compassionate coda. “To anyone reading this that identifies with my story,” he writes, “know that you are not alone and that you are a star and you deserve to shine bright. And never stop singing and dancing, no matter how good you are because it’s not about being perfect, it’s about shining your light. And the world NEEDS your light. The curtain’s up, the stage is set, all the little Jonathan’s out there… ‘You’re on!’ Happy World Theater Day!”
Bennett also knows a thing or two about happily ever after. After scoring roles in hit films such as Mean Girls and Cheaper By The Dozen 2 Bennett came out of the closet as gay in 2017, and has continued to work in television and film, starring in Hallmark’s first queer-themed Christmas film The Christmas House last year. In 2020, he also announced his engagement to Celebrity Page host Jaymes Vaughn.