Jonathan Bennett revealed in an emotional post to social media just how important theater was to him as a teen. The actor, who appeared in Mean Girls and The Christmas House posted short clips of himself as a 16-year-old performing onstage at Rossford High School in Ohio. Bennett told followers the school’s theatre department was not only his safe space from the daily homophobic abuse and bullying at school, but also celebrated his differences and gave him the chance to shine on stage and later in life.
“Emotional post warning,” Bennett opened his post, noting that to celebrate World Theater Day, he was sharing video of himself as ”16 year old gay boy in Ohio” who he said suffers from “a pitchy voice, no rhythm, and can’t dance to save his life.”
Bennett revealed he felt his teeth were “too big for his face” and that he lived in fear “every single day” because he didn’t fit in with the boys in his class, constantly getting “pushed into a locker by an asshole named Justin” and got called “a faggot” by random students as he walked the halls of school. He suffered from insomnia and developed stomach ulcers, and he felt alone and worthless, crying himself to sleep every night. “But there is one place (and only one place),” Bennett wrote. That place gave his teenaged self “the tiniest bit of refuge.”
It was his high school’s theater department. “He walks in and for the first time in his life, he feels safe,” Bennett wrote. “He feels seen. He actually speaks out loud and isn’t called a faggot and no one makes a mockery of him.”
The star of Van Wilder: Freshman Year revealed that not only was he not ridiculed for being differed by his fellow thespians, he was “CELEBRATED” instead. “He’s not a loser, they actually make him a STAR,” Bennett wrote. “They give him leading roles and he goes on to do dozens of shows for years in the safety and comfort of those 4 walls. He steps out on stage and for the first time in his life, he feels ALIVE. He is home.”
Bennett first gained famed for his performance as the hunky Aaron Samuels in the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls. Since then, he has appeared in variety of roles, hosted Cake Wars on the Food Network, released a cookbook, and most recently appeared in last year’s The Christmas House from the Hallmark Channel. The yuletide movie starred Bennett as Brandon, who has returned home for the holidays with his husband, portrayed by Brad Harder, as they await word about their attempt to adopt their first child.
In his personal life, it was announced last November that Bennett was engaged to actor and Celebrity Page host Jaymes Vaughan. The couple had been together for three years before Harder proposed.
“What we have is really special,” Bennett said at the time, later adding “I feel like there’s nothing in the world we can’t accomplish when we are together.” Times have obviously improved by Bennett, and he made clear he did not forget those who helped him when he needed support and affirmation through the darkest period of his life, thanking “every single person who has ever had anything to do with any theater anywhere at any time.”
He also had a message of support for queer teens struggling with their identity and sexuality in a homophobic school environment. “To anyone reading this that identifies with my story, know that you are not alone and that you are a star and you deserve to shine bright,” Bennett concluded. “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.”