The Truth About This Criminal Minds Star

Kirsten Vangsness has played the quirky, adorable
Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds for 13 seasons. She’s beloved on the show, but what is her
real life like when the cameras aren’t rolling? From acting, to advocating, with a few cats
and unicorns thrown into the mix, we’re revealing what you don’t know about the colorful bombshell
behind the Criminal Minds fan favorite. “As queer as a purple unicorn” Vangsness may be comfortable these days saying
she’s, quote, “as queer as a purple unicorn singing Madonna,” but she wasn’t always so
open about her love life. She came out quietly at the 2006 People’s
Choice Awards when she took a woman as her platonic date, telling the Advocate, “[I told her], ‘You have to act like my date. You’re going to hold my hand.’ I thought maybe that way I can kind of let
everybody know I’m [queer]. […] I never wanted it to look like I was
[attention seeking].” Vangsness has since used own experiences,
to advocate for GLSEN, GLAAD, and the Trevor Project. Prior engagements Kirsten Vangsness dated Melanie Goldstein
[GOLD-steen] for nearly three years before getting engaged in 2009, several years before
same-sex marriage became legal. At the time, Vangsness told People, “I never thought I would want to [get married]. Then when you meet the person, you’re like,
‘I want to marry you. I don’t care if there’s a law against it!'” The couple split before they made it down
the aisle, but Vangsness didn’t give up on true love. She announced her engagement to actor and
writer Keith Hanson in November 2015, telling the mag, “He’s the perfect partner for me. […] I was not expecting it to be a guy,
but everyone has his or her own intricate stories. If I were straight, I would say I was, but
I don’t totally understand it myself.” Self-professed cat lady Vangsness loves her four-legged friends and
is active in numerous animal rights causes. She even worked as an animal feeder at a zoo
before she hit it big as an actress. But if you need proof of her fondness for
felines, just check out her Instagram for snaps of her cats, Friggy and Gus Gus. The actress told BuzzFeed that she even takes
care of the neighborhood cats, saying, “There’s a group of fixed-and-then-released
super feral cats in my hood and they have some sort of network between themselves and
the local possum and raccoon community. They all collectively show up at my house
for proper breakfast.” Going in for “Latino male” Vangsness told The Advocate that she only
auditioned for the role of Garcia in Criminal Minds as a favor to a pal — because the
part was originally written for a Latino male. She said, “It’s all so amazing to me that everything
started to take off when I was exactly who I am. I really thought that you had to fit. And I don’t fit — I would be afraid if I
fit. That would be a scary day.” Thanks to her chemistry with the rest of the
cast, the part was eventually rewritten around Vangsness’ colorful, sassy personality. “Well Garcia since your area of expertise
is relevant on this one, I want you to join us in the field.” “Me? Going wheels up? Sir, yes sir.” Multi-talented powerhouse Vangsness not only acts, she also produces
plays, and has written scripts for Criminal Minds. She told Parade that acting in episodes she
scripted can feel odd, saying, “It was a bizarre experience. It was very emotional. I had written something for a character that
I’ve been playing. […] My spin as an actor was different than
what I had written as a writer, or what I knew as a writer. It was a really interesting experience.”

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