Turning the Paige
Lauren Collins STUDENT
Thornlea Secondary, 2004 GRADUATED
English BEST SUBJECT
French WORST SUBJECT
Actor and writer CURRENT JOB Everybody wants to stop Lauren Collins in the street to ask if they went to high school together. In a way, many Canadians — most of whom didn’t attend Thornlea Secondary School — lived the high school experience along with her at Degrassi Community School.
It’s been over six years since Collins left Paige Michalchuck, her perky mean girl with a heart of gold character, behind on the set of Canada’s most iconic adolescent drama.
“The cast always says we’re happy that we didn’t go to Degrassi because it seems like it’s the most cursed school ever, with a date rape one week and a school shooting the next,” says Collins.
Although the plot arc may have been issue-heavy, most remember Degrassi for refreshing honesty compared to its American 90210 counterpart, a tradition that Collins continues at MTV Canada.
Today she hosts 1 Girl 5 Gays, a popular 20 questions Q & A panel where she quizzes five young openly gay men on love, sex and relationships. The discussion is honest and at times graphic. Not a trace of cute TV euphemisms or innuendos.
“It really made me see how important it is for the 14-year-old growing up in rural Ontario to have this show to give him hope. It’s great for them to see 24-yearold guys living in Toronto, out of the closet, completely comfortable with who they are and accepted by family, friends and coworkers,” she says.
A Degrassi storyline in which her character realized her bisexuality cast her into a new role as an LGBTQ rights advocate.
“The defining moment for me was when I got to march at Pride with the guys from the show. It was like they were rock stars to some of the people in the crowd,” says Collins.
As she prepares to leave Toronto for a series of auditions in L.A., Collins recalls fond memories of her Thornhill upbringing, going to prom at Thornlea and living a double life as a high school student playing a high school student.
“I love how it [ Thornhill] doesn’t seem to change. I was in my car the other morning at 7 a.m. It was such a déjà vu moment. I felt like I was in my first car, like I could be driving to Thornlea to go to high school. I felt very nostalgic.”
Lauren Collins continues to help young people understand tough issues