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Avantika: The Actress to Watch

Actress Avantika Vandanapu on the “Mean Girls” red carpet.

Her birthday is this January 25th, and she’s just turning 19. But despite her young age, Avantika Vandanapu (also known as just Avantika) is well on her way to leaving a mark in Hollywood.

You’re probably familiar with her recent starring role as favorite ditsy popular girl Karen in the “Mean Girls” musical-movie adaptation. Although this isn’t nearly her first role, as she got her start in Tamil and Telugu films as a South Indian actress, as well as Disney Channel’s “Spin” and comedies “Senior Year” and “The Sex Life of College Girls,” “Mean Girls” has thrown Avantika into the spotlight.

Avantika has gained a cult following online, clearly becoming the internet’s newest it-girl. Many fans have noted her talent, her beauty, and her authenticity. She’s even been recently featured on the cover of Vogue India.

Avantika was incredibly excited to be able to play Karen in “Mean Girls.” Before the movie was released, she received lots of racist backlash about being a South Indian girl in a role previously played by Amanda Seyfried, who’s white. But this is exactly what drew Avantika to take the role.

“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.”

She described growing up in a school environment where smarts were idealized and those who didn’t fit that criteria were bullied. Getting to play a sillier role was refreshing to her. “I love being in Hollywood and doing a role like this where it feels like I’m breaking a stereotype,” she said.

“The first time I felt properly represented in Hollywood is probably Bridgerton, which is fairly recent,” she told an interviewer on TikTok. Avantika hopes to break away from South Asian and Indian stereotypes in film and become true to herself.

Mean Girls: The Musical

One change made in the film, to become authentic, was Karen’s last name. Originally “Smith,” producer Tina Fey asked Avantika if she wanted to change the name for something that would represent Avantika’s background. They decided on “Shetty,” a South Indian name.

“This is a rare occasion in which South Indians, specifically someone of Telugu heritage, could get representation,” Avantika said of the change. “I told Tina [to name her Shetty] and the next day it was in the script.”

She did have a bit of anxiety about the responses to the new “Mean Girls,” but came to embrace its goofiness. “When you’re in Hollywood, it feels like there’s a sword on your neck and the clock is constantly ticking to prove yourself,” she explains. “I’ve learned that things are just not that serious.”

Avantika doesn’t want to typecast herself into any one genre. She’s soon to appear in the horror movie “Horrorscope,” the fantasy “A Crown of Wishes,” and an unnamed Hindi/English drama series. She’s sure to be a hit in all of these roles, and we will surely be watching.

 

By Caileigh Winslade, Freshman, DePaul University

Instagram @fairytwist / Twitter @fairytwist_

 

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Written by Caileigh Winslade

I'm your local writer, video editor, and game designer, but when I'm not creating things I'm probably fueling my rhythm game addiction or cuddling one of my four cats.

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