Jonathan Bennett is living his truth — and breaking barriers.
The 39-year-old, whose first major acting role was as Aaron Samuels, the stereotypical and heterosexual hot jock in Mean Girls, is on the cover of The Knot with fiancé Jaymes Vaughan, making them the first LGBTQ couple to be featured by the wedding magazine.
"Being a closeted gay teen heartthrob, living in misery, I never would have thought in a million years that one day I would be on the cover of the biggest wedding magazine in the world with my fiancé, who I love, in a picture that is pure pride and joy," Bennett tells Yahoo Life. "Ever since I made the decision to live my life loudly and proudly, everything just has felt better and brighter in my life."
While the couple has been living loudly and proudly since getting together in 2017, the impact of Bennett's exposure as a gay man isn't lost on Vaughan. "There's something to this cover that's in stores all across America for people to see that it's not just two men that are in love, but it's Jonathan who so many people grew up watching in Mean Girls. So many people had a crush on Aaron Samuels," Vaughan says. "There's a recognizability that they're going to see this guy that was Aaron Samuels and this huge pop culture thing to so many people, now living an authentic true love and I think there's something really cool to that that's going to allow people to identify and relate with it, even if they're not an LGBTQ+ couple. Just to relate to someone that they grew up watching and they're now seeing him in love. And it does translate."
Vaughan recalls a time when the couple were at a restaurant and the waitress told Bennett that seeing him come out gave her courage to do the same. "You don't realize that some of these simple things that you're doing are mattering so much to other people," Vaughan says.
When it came to their wedding, however, the couple was very much aware of what this moment would mean to the LGBTQ community. They even share that some initial rejections propelled them to share their journey so that other LGBTQ couples could avoid businesses and vendors that aren't accepting.
"When the original hotel we were going to get married at told us no, we couldn't because we were two men, that was a sucker punch to the gut," Bennett says. "At that moment, we realized that our wedding is bigger than us."
"We want to make sure that we help to identify businesses and vendors that gay couples can go to from the moment they want to get engaged until their honeymoon and find places where they're safe and celebrated," Vaughan adds.
It's for this exact reason that the couple also teamed up to create OUTbound — a travel company looking to create memorable excursions for the LGBTQ community.
"We were able to really create something and craft something that is for our community," Vaughan explains. "Our first five trips we have coming up, they're all cruises. So we completely charter the ship, so it's all of our own staff, it's all of our own people. Everyone on there is LGBTQ+. And so we have our own space where on that ship you can hold your partner's hand, you can kiss your partner at dinner. You don't have to worry about expressing yourself or wearing something that may get a look out in public in your hometown, we've created that safe space on the ship. And then we very carefully select our itineraries and we very carefully craft where we're going to based on where we are safe to be ourselves."
With the historic cover of The Knot and the launch of OUTbound, Bennett and Vaughan are already making a difference within the LGBTQ community. Still, they want to do more.
"We want to be trailblazers," Bennett says. "There are already doors open, right. Where are the doors not open yet? That's where we're headed."
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