‘Mean Girls’ star Avantika takes on Karen role, says world needs ‘glamorous and popular’ brown girl characters
After her performance as Karen Shetty in the movie adaptation of the “Mean Girls” Broadway musical, Avantika Vandanapu is the internet’s newest it-girl.
In the film, released last week in theaters, she takes on the iconic role of Karen, the lovable but spacey member of the “Plastics,” originally played by Amanda Seyfried. Avantika, who goes by her first name alone, says she was excited to finally play a South Asian character that wasn’t reduced to being a stereotype.
“The movie felt like an epitome of everything I wanted to experience but never could, like being glamorous and popular, and being able to talk about boys and what outfit we’re wearing,” she said in an interview with Vogue. “Basically, things that kids at my school would snub as vain.”
The 19-year-old actress started her career in Tamil and Telugu films. She went to a school where smarts were heavily emphasized and competition between students was fierce, she said.
“When I first watched ‘Mean Girls,’ I was being bullied in a rigorous South Asian-dominated school, where kids would break into each other’s lockers to leak their report cards,” she said.
Avantika said she was refreshed to play someone defined by their silliness and popularity for once, despite racist comments on the internet that claimed an Indian girl wasn’t the right choice for the role.
She hopes young South Asian girls who grew up in a similar situations to her can see in Karen Shetty another dimension in themselves — one that’s a little more fun.
“I love being in Hollywood and doing a role like this where it feels like I’m breaking a stereotype,” she said.