Turn­ing the Paige

Thornhill Post - - Graduates - By Jeff Lagerquist

RE­PORT CARD

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

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