Avantika, who moved to New York for school. Illustration: Maanvi Kapur

In this year’s Mean Girls reboot, Avantika plays Karen, the dumbest member of the plastics. (Over at Vulture, Jackson McHenry wrote that the actress “somehow finds a lane of ‘stupid’ both hilarious and distinct from Amanda Seyfried’s.”) In real life, the high-school valedictorian is now eating most of her meals at some of the city’s most exclusive culinary establishments: Columbia University’s student dining halls. The freshman is in the midst of her second semester and preparing for the release of a new horror film, Tarot, while simultaneously prepping for Fashion Week and a move off-campus. Busy! 

Thursday, February 1
I woke up and went to a meeting before class with some people from Valentino and some people from L’Oréal. We went to Electric Lemon. I ordered avocado toast with sesame seeds, two poached eggs, celery-mint-lemon juice, and fingerling potatoes with sriracha mayo. Having an audition in the morning before class would be stressful, because you’ve got to prepare all this material before you go into the room, but these meetings are fairly introductory. I can be myself. It’s very chill.

I went back to campus for my Life in the Universe class. It’s basically physics and astronomy. My friend Silas and I went to one of Columbia’s dining halls called Lerner. I get like 12 swipes per week. I don’t use all of them just because I will probably have two meals a day, and then I’ll probably go out at some point or mooch off of my friends. Silas convinced me to get a hot chocolate because I took a sip out of his and it was really good.

After a boxing class, I went back to my dorm to shower and get ready. I’d promised one of my best friends of all time — who now goes to NYU — that I would hang out with her and her friends. Most of the people I hang out with in the city are from Columbia, though. I see some of the Mean Girls cast, too. We shot the movie after I’d already applied to colleges. I was filming in my last semester of high school.

We went to Ayat in the East Village. I was really tired, so I thought I might just say hi, but when I got there, they had the food out already, and I was like, Damn it. It ended up being a feast: We had grape-leaf rolls, a crunchy chicken and rice pita bowl, laffa, and a fattoush salad.

Friday, February 2
I woke up and went to boxing class, and then I had a self-tape to do. I just could not find time to eat, so after class, I munched on a protein bar and an apple. I managed to make a self-tape area in my dorm room on a blank wall. Usually, I’ll ask one of my friends on the floor to come to help me focus the camera or stand in front of the camera so I can focus it. I’ll usually set up my reading lamp for a light, or in the daytime, there’s natural light flowing in. It’s pretty good for a dorm setup.

Eventually my friend Jonas was like, Do you want to make a Chipotle run? We went and got a big burrito with extra sofritas, white rice, pinto beans, fajitas, salsa, corn, lettuce, light sour cream, and cheese. It was a massive, double-wrapped moment. I also got guac and chips. We sat outside, ate our burritos, and people-watched.

Afterward, I went to the Beekeeper, the new Jason Statham movie. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Then I ran a few errands and hung out with my friend at their apartment. I just sort of floated on my burrito all night.

Saturday, February 3
In the morning, I made myself a big dining-hall salad-bar salad with chicken, spinach, romaine lettuce, pickled radishes, shredded carrots, tomatoes, macaroni salad, and garlic croutons. I also had a plate of strawberries and a slice of strawberry cheesecake on the go because I was going to a salon. They reached out asking if I wanted a facial, and I was like, “Of course! Fashion Week is about to start!”

That night, I went to SNL with a college friend to see Ayo Edebiri host. I think she’s one of the best hosts they have had all year. Lorne Michaels produced Mean Girls, so usually his team is really nice. If there is ever a guest that I’m really, really excited to see, I just reach out. I went for Reneé’s, because I love her, obviously. At the taping this week, I got to speak to AOC, which was insane.

The SNL after-parties always start so late. We got there around 1:30. At around 4, I was like … maybe it’s time to head home. Neither of us were particularly pressed about going to the after-after, which is a thing that goes up to 7 a.m. I was just like, “Do you want to get food?” by which I meant, “Do you want to go to Taco Bell?” We went to one in Times Square, and I had the same order I’ve gotten since I was a kid: the Crunchwrap Supreme with chicken instead of beef. I got back to Columbia around 5 a.m.

Sunday, February 4
I woke up for an 11 a.m. meeting — it was on Zoom, thank God — and then went back to sleep for a few hours. When I woke up for real, I went to the John Jay dining hall — it’s closest to my room — and had red Thai curry with tofu, plus two slices of French toast. The French toast at JJ’s? It is simply the best I’ve ever had.

I went over to my friend’s room and hung out for a little bit. I played back some of the SNL skits from Ayo’s episode and you can hear my laughter in the bisexual-warlock-Christian boy one. It was so good.

Around 12 a.m., I got Dino Nuggets and a vanilla milkshake with crushed-up Oreos from our 24-hour spot on campus. It’s literally a few steps away from my hall. I was still so tired and fell asleep.

Monday, February 5
I skipped my class because I had to go to some Fashion Week fittings. I’m attending Tommy Hilfiger, and working with some really great designers, some of whom I was able to work with on the Mean Girls press tour. I’m really excited. I had part of a chocolate muffin and some raspberries.

I ate for real fairly late in the day. I went to the dining hall and had this Cajun cod po’boy with pickles, coleslaw, tomatoes, and lettuce. They keep it spicy. We have this station that does bowls and so they’ll do a chana masala Indian-inspired bowl or ramen. People love to complain about the dining halls, but they usually kill it. I’m satisfied, to be honest.

My school situation right now is going to change soon. I’m not gonna be a standard student anymore, which disqualifies me from being in the regular dorms, so I have to move off-campus. First semester, because of the strike, I didn’t have any auditions so I could fully focus on school. During the last two weeks — finals season — it overlapped with Mean Girls a little bit: getting in the last ADR dubs, taking pictures, stuff like that. Our actual press-junket week — weeks, plural, really was during winter break. I just had to come into New York a little earlier before school started to do all those interviews. Now, with so much going on for Fashion Week and other stuff in the pipeline, it didn’t make sense for me to be a standard student anymore.

While I was packing, I got hungry, so I went back to the 24-hour spot and had a grilled chicken sandwich and a small ice-cream sandwich. So good.

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