‘Stranger Things’: Is Gaten Matarazzo Vegetarian?

Gaten Matarazzo is the adorable face behind Stranger Things character Dustin Henderson. Over the last three seasons, fans of the Netflix phenomenon have gotten the opportunity to really get to know what makes his character tick. He’s grown exponentially, easily turning what was supposed to be a minor character into a mainstay. But how much do you know about the boy behind the smile? 

Gaten Matarazzo has Cleidocranial Dysplasia

Gaten Matarazzo
Gaten Matarazzo | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV

Matarazzo is one of the most charming actors on Stranger Things. Surprisingly, he maintains his lovable personality despite living with a rare genetic disease. Cleidocranial Dysplasia, also known as cleidocranial dysostosis or CCD, is a birth defect that affects the teeth and bones. Individuals with CCD usually have underdeveloped or even absent collarbones and delayed maturation of the skull. They also don’t grow as tall as other family members and may even have flat feet, bowed legs, short tapered fingers, and scoliosis. Decreased bone density is also a big problem, often causing early onset osteoporosis

Dental abnormalities are more common: Delayed loss of baby teeth, delayed adult teeth, unusually shaped teeth, extra teeth, misalignment of teeth and jaws, and even oral cysts are all possible afflictions. If that wasn’t bad enough, hearing loss and chronic sinus and ear infections are also possible. Matarazzo has a very mild form of the disorder but still has quite a few of the symptoms.

Gaten Matarazzo mentions his disorder in ‘Stranger Things’

Diehard fans of Stranger Things might remember the scene in the first episode where Dustin is defending himself against bullies. “I told you a million times. My teeth are coming in! It’s called cleidocranial dysplasia,” he yells as the kids tease him about his lisp and teeth. 

The child star actually has one of the biggest tell-tale signs of CCD: no collarbones. While the deformity — alongside his lisp, teeth, and height — caused him to lose out on many roles, it put him ahead of the competition for Stranger Things. The creator took note of his intriguing build during auditions. After finding out more about it, the Stranger Things crew knew they wanted to incorporate his IRL issue in their fictional world. 

“I started explaining what it was,” he said, “and then once I got the part, they said they’re gonna incorporate that and use it in a realistic way. They asked me if it was okay if the kids in the show had bullied me because of it. I said it’s totally cool. It’s realistic.” – Gaten Matarazzo

Since becoming a superstar, the Stranger Things actor has gone on to create his own nonprofit to help other children with the disorder. It is called the CCD Smiles Foundation. 

Does Gaten Matarazzo’s condition affect his diet?

As it turns out, Matarazzo is a tried and true vegetarian — a connoisseur of all things anti-meat. While a vegetarian diet might equate to nothing but healthy eats for most, that’s far from true for this young star. Matarazzo has a pretty intense love affair with pudding, another tidbit pulled from his life and ingrained into Henderson.

Missed the memo? Henderson’s undying love for the sweet snack is included in the seventh episode of the first season, The Bathtub. Oh, and he isn’t the only veggie lover on the show either. Sixteen-year-old Sadie Sink was vegetarian up until she worked with Woody Harrelson on Glass Castle. Now she’s one level up — a vegan.

Given his dental issues, a love for a soft sugary snack makes perfect sense! Avoiding hard to chew meats also makes a ton of sense. But that may not be the reason he has decided to go over to the veggie side. It could very well be that Matarazzo has a soft spot for animals, one that keeps him from chowing down on steak and eggs. That’s okay though, he’ll always have pudding and Eggos to fall back on.