Avantika Vandanapu’s Take On Karen In The Mean Girls Reboot Is What My Teen Self Needed

Although Mean Girls is a reboot of a beloved classic, it has given a bunch of people something new to look forward to. For some folks, it could be new songs. For others, it could be a new celeb crush — *cough* Reneé Rapp as Regina George *cough*. But for me, it’s Avantika Vandanapu‘s role as Karen Shetty (formerly named Karen Smith).

Growing up in the 2000s, Mean Girls was one of those flicks you couldn’t escape. On $2 casual clothes days at school, my friends and I would all wear pink if it fell on a Wednesday. We’d randomly yell out quotes — the faves being “You don’t even go here” and “You go, Glen Coco” — during the most inappropriate times. And we’d take those Buzzfeed personality tests that would tell you which Mean Girls character you were.

Ooft one from the archives.

Although I lied when taking those tests — always hoping to get Janis — I knew there was always one character I related to the most. That was Karen.

She was clueless, needed a lot of time to think when it came to specific topics, she had sex appeal and she became a news reader — or weather reporter to be more specific. She was everything I was (and wanted to be) in a nutshell — except she was white, blue-eyed and blonde; all things I couldn’t relate to.

About 20 years later, unbeknownst to me, Mean Girls the reboot, inspired by the 2017 musical of the same name, was being created. Upon seeing the movie — without seeing any spoilers or reading too much about the background of the reboot — a grin formed on my face as soon as I saw Avantika take on the role of my fave plastic.

(Image source: YouTube)

FINALLY. Brown gal bimbo representation, AKA ME on the big screen!!!!

Throughout the whole movie, I would literally beam when Avantika acted out all the unique quirks of Karen Smith. However, there were two specific scenes where Avantika’s performance felt like looking in a mirror.

The song “Sexy”

I’ve yet to see the Broadway production of Mean Girls, however, I’ve seen the song “Sexy” floating on my TikTok For You Page for yonks. The song “Sexy” is sung by Karen, and it’s literally a song about how she wishes it was always Halloween (and for world peace) and how the holiday allows you to be the sexiest you!

“Sexy” embodies the infamous Cady Heron quote: “In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”


The song embraces being sexy, being who you want to be and just being true to yourself.

Seeing Avantika — a woman who looks like me — belting out this feminist anthem about self-confidence and being sexy just struck an emotional chord within me.

You see, growing up, people who looked like me or were of South Asian or Southeast Asian descent were never the sexy characters. Actors of similar descent were usually typecast into roles, therefore, seeing Avantika take on a role where she is one of the most desirable women in her social circle was just satisfying and empowering.

Speaking to PEDESTRIAN.TV, the Spin star shared how “liberating” her Mean Girls role was, and how Karen allowed her to defy the stereotypes tied to South Asians.

“It really is kind of very antithetical to what I feel like we’ve seen South Asians play in Hollywood,” she began.

“It just felt really liberating to be able to embrace a character that was so unlike what we’ve stereotyped Indian people — Indian women especially.”

She continued to say she was “empowered” by the role and hoped it would inspire other Indian women to pursue roles outside of the stereotype.

“I think it really helps showcase that this facet of our community exists,” Avantika continued.

“I feel really empowered to be able to take on that. I hope that it will inspire a new generation of Indian girls to aspire they can truly play out a wide variety of characters if they want to be actors rather than feeling like they have to play the doctor or the nurse of the taxi driver.”

The Winter Talent Show

The Northshore Winter Talent Show is arguably one of the most iconic scenes in teen movie history. We were blessed with Damian’s beautiful solo, Kevin G and The Power of Three’s iconic rap and the Santa Little Helpers dance routine. This was the second scene involving Avantika as Karen that truly resonated with me.

The 2024 version of the Plastics dance was v. different from the OG film. In this scene, before the Plastics took the stage, Regina and Gretchen had a small argument about their placements on stage. In this scene, Regina also took aim at Karen’s outfit for being too sexy. She also slut-shamed her for both her look and her body count.

As a result, Karen immediately pulled up her top as Regina sucked the self-confidence and self-assurance she had.


Although this might not be the case for Karen — as we do not know her family situation — I’ve had so many times where I was shamed for wanting to show a little bit of skin or wanting to be a little sexy.

Being a first-generation immigrant child from a large family who has a strong faith in the Pentecostal church, it was very hard for me to express anything that wasn’t in their norms, and being sexy was (and still is) a BIG NO NO.

I will never forget the shame I felt when I had an intervention for posting bikini photos on Instagram. Keep in mind I was at the beach in these photos.

There was even this one time a cousin had her dress pulled up by a stranger at a church function, and she was only wearing a black silk slip.

Karen succumbing to shame brought on by Regina just brought up a lot of emotions to a point where I audibly gasped and peered over to my friend who also had that look in her eye.

Say what you want about the Mean Girls reboot, but Avantika’s performance has to be one of my favourite things about the reboot.

Shout out to both Karen Smith and Karen Shetty. Because of you, I’m now a sexy journalist.