June 18, 2007 12:00 PM

For years after her breakout role at age 11—playing junior-high loser Dawn Wiener in the 1996 movie Welcome to the Dollhouse—Heather Matarazzo was typecast as an ugly duckling. “I wanted to be a gorgeous sex symbol,” the actress, now 24, recalls. “I was always like, ‘Why can’t I be the blonde?'” It wasn’t until a past manager told me, ‘Because you don’t look like the girl next door.’ I was like, ‘Oh !'” Ever since, the onetime foster child from Long Island has relished playing oddballs and sidekicks—including Anne Hathaway‘s buddy in The Princess Diaries films. She also makes no apologies for her personal life: At 21, Matarazzo came out as a lesbian. “It was the end of a long press day [for The Princess Diaries 2] and I had been asked all day, ‘Do you have a Prince Charming?'” says Matarazzo. “I said, ‘No, but I have a Princess Charming!'” That relationship ended, but the actress, who lives in Manhattan, isn’t sorry she revealed her sexuality. “Some people said it would ruin my career,” says Matarazzo, who went on to land several film roles and guest spots on Showtime’s The L Word. “But I still have a major movie coming out.” That would be gruesome Hostel: Part II, a definite departure from past roles. But Matarazzo likes breaking the mold. “I feel like I’m just on the outskirts of Hollywood,” she says. “I kind of like that.”

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