Vanessa Hudgens: Punching Beauty
BY Brandon Voss
March 04 2011 9:55 AM ET
An international star thanks to her role as good girl Gabriella in the High School Musical trilogy — and a four-year romance with costar Zac Efron — Vanessa Hudgens now plays a beautiful outcast opposite Alex Pettyfer’s pompous beast in Beastly, out filmmaker Daniel Barnz’s modern twist on Beauty and the Beast, costarring Neil Patrick Harris. Next seen as an ass-kicking asylum inmate in Sucker Punch, a Zack Snyder–helmed action flick in theaters March 25, the newly single 22-year-old tells The Advocate why she’s drawn to gay directors and doesn’t blame mean gay men for coveting her man-candy.
The Advocate: Up until the past few years, your projects have been primarily geared to the Disney demographic. As you take on more mature roles, have you become more aware of gay fans? I know you hung out at the Abbey in West Hollywood over Presidents’ Day weekend.
Vanessa Hudgens: I have been called “fierce” a few times. [Laughs] I do have a bunch of gay friends, my hairstylist is gay, and my makeup artist in New York is gay — just lots of people in my life that I love. But when it comes to the projects I choose, I just go with my gut instinct, and hopefully people will enjoy the ride I take them on. And the High School Musical movies actually reached out to so many people, young and old, gay or straight.
Ryan Evans, Lucas Grabeel’s effeminate character in the High School Musical films, is commonly considered a coded gay character. Did you see Ryan as gay?
[Laughs] Maybe a little bit. I remember Ashley Tisdale and I wondering, “Is he or isn’t he?” He is very musical theater–inclined. I think he just hasn’t figured it out yet.
Is America ready for an openly gay character on the Disney Channel?
That would be groundbreaking, and it would definitely be nice. Society is a lot more open than it used to be, so I don’t think there’s a better time than now.
You played Mimi in last summer’s Hollywood Bowl production of Rent, a musical that’s close to the gay community’s heart. When your casting was announced, some major bloggers expressed concern that you might not have the chops or the grittiness to pull it off. Did you feel the pressure?
I tried to not pay any attention to anything anyone was saying. It’s all about manifestation, so if you put something negative out into the world, or if somebody else puts something negative into your head, you can start to believe it. Why put yourself through that? Rent is very close to my heart too. I loved the music, and I thought Mimi was such a fantastic character, so I just allowed myself a fair shot to create something new and have an amazing time doing so.
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