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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The rise of Reneé Rapp

Pictured is Reneé Rapp.

Whether you know her from “The Sex Lives of College Girls” (2021–), her hilarious TikTok account, which boasts 1.3 million followers or her recent music releases, it is clear that Reneé Rapp is a star. At just 23 years old, Rapp’s career has spanned musical theater, television and now music with her EP, “Everything to Everyone” (2022), the deluxe version of which was released on Feb. 24. With her fame clearly on the rise, many are asking the question: How did she get here?

The start of Rapp’s life as an “it” girl can be traced back to 2018 when she won Best Performance by an Actress at the National High School Musical Theater Awards, commonly known as the Jimmy Awards. Following this success, Rapp went on to do more theater productions and a couple of cabaret shows at the famous Feinstein’s 54 Below. Her big break, however, would have to wait until June 2019.

When many people think of iconic teen comedies, one film that was so ‘fetch’ stands out among the rest — “Mean Girls” (2004). Over a decade after the film was released, original screenplay writer Tina Fey adapted the film into a musical in 2017. In 2019, Rapp would take on the highly coveted role of Regina George, the world’s best pink-wearing diva.

Rapp commanded the stage as Regina at only 20 years old. With a powerful voice and sassy attitude, it was clear that Rapp was the best choice for the role. After a month of performances, it was announced that Rapp would become the permanent Regina — a role she remained in until the show closed when Broadway shut down due to the pandemic.

While it was sad to see her leave the stage, when one door closes, another one opens. Rapp was soon cast in “The Sex Lives of College Girls” as the snobby, heart-of-gold character Leighton. As Leighton, Rapp proves she can captivate audiences both on stage and on screen. Her comedic timing is always impeccable, and she brings emotional depth to a character who could have easily become another ‘rich girl’ stereotype. On the show, Rapp’s character struggles with coming out as lesbian in the first season, something that was deeply personal to the actress. 

Rapp is openly bisexual and has discussed how being on “The Sex Lives of College Girls” helped her accept her own sexuality. Recently on the “Call Her Daddy” (2018–) podcast, Rapp stated that doing the show felt like coming out, as she never had an official coming out moment herself.

Off-screen, Rapp committed to her music and has found her voice in her EP “Everything to Everyone.” Rapp’s fan-favorite hit “In The Kitchen” has over 24 million streams on Spotify, and she performed the song on both Jimmy Kimmel and her recent small tour. The song contains some heartbreaking lyrics and is paired with intense, crystal clear vocals, as Rapp sings, “Strangers to lovers to enemies/ So I’ll dance with your ghost in the living room.”

The beauty behind Rapp’s music is her honesty. “What Can I Do” is a beautiful, queer song about loving a friend who cannot love you back. With the opening lyrics, “Your boyfriend’s in the bathroom, and I’m holding your hand/ I wonder if he notices the things that I can,” Rapp takes the common ‘I can love you better than he can’ trope and makes it her own in a unique and relatable way. The EP is truly a journey. You will feel emotional while listening to “In The Kitchen” and immediately want to get up and dance when “Colorado” plays. 

The deluxe version of the EP brought two new songs — the extended version of “Everything to Everyone” and “Bruises.” The latter has an important message, which Rapp makes clear at the start of the funky music video which presents a trigger warning that includes, “A metaphorical story about how words hurt.” The lyrics “All my friends make sweet fun of me/ I guess it’s funny, but the truth’s I bruise easily” highlight that making fun of your friends, even as a joke, can hurt. “Everything to Everyone [Extended]” builds on Rapp’s honesty with graceful instrumentals complementing her dreamy vocals.

That is how Reneé Rapp went from a high school musical theater girl to a widely recognized television star and musician. What sets Rapp apart from many young stars is that she is unfiltered in the best way. Whether in interviews or her music, Rapp stays true to herself. Though we are unaware of Rapp’s next plans for music, she has a packed schedule with a confirmed third season of “College Girls” and production beginning on the movie adaptation of “Mean Girls The Musical.” Rapp has already made an impact on the industry, and she shows no signs of stopping any time soon.