In The Spotlight With Reneé Rapp

With only three singles under her belt, Reneé Rapp has presented a talent of a vast extent with no need to prove herself, as she casts authenticity, fierceness, and stardom. Rapp has been used to claiming a stage since she was in diapers performing on a coffee table, she’s progressed onto the Broadway stage in her role as Regina Goerge in the Tony-nominated musical ‘Mean Girls.’

Today, Reneé Rapp gives triple threat vibes with show-stopping vocals, natural acting skills, and a long history of participating in dancing competitions. After the dancing wasn’t serving what it once used to, Reneé Rapp decided to focus solely on one thing – to sing.

Unexpectedly, the 22-year-old was faced with exciting opportunities and got the role of the iconic Regina George in the musical ‘Mean Girls,’ though Covid put things on hold for a while. During the period of musicals’ hiatus, Rapp was encouraged to try out doing audition self-tapes.

Not too long after, Rapp was intrigued by the script of Mindy Kaling’s hit HBO/ITV series The Sex Lives of College Girls and landed the role of Leighton, one of the four main characters.

As a musician, Reneé Rapp is talented beyond words, with recent single, ‘In The Kitchen’ matching the magnitude and heartache of Beyonce’s ‘Listen.’ With fresh release ‘Don’t Tell My Mom‘ already igniting a buzz online, there’s no limit on how far Reneé Rapp’s impact on the music scene.

As she is filming the second season of The Sex Lives Of College Girls, Reneé Rapp talks us through the inspiration of the ‘In The Kitchen’ music video and explains why her debut ‘Tattoos’ means to her more than she ever anticipated. She also tells the story of how she almost didn’t accept the role of Regina George.

Do you remember what type of music and artists inspired you the most to pursue a career in singing?

RR: Yes. Beyonce was my biggest inspiration. It was a lot of the queens like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Jazmine Sullivan and then I had a lot of rock influence from my dad’s side of the family, so I love Journey, I love Heart and The Carpenters and stuff like that so it was really a mix of the two but my favourite artist and songwriter of all time is Frank Ocean, so that also really played into.

Could you tell us more about the first time you performed on a stage, how did it feel?

RR: Oh my god, I don’t even know. I mean this isn’t really a stage, but it was a stage for me, I’ve been forcing people to watch performances of mine since I was like two. Since I could stand I would invite the entire neighbourhood of the house that I grew up in over to watch me perform on a coffee table in diapers and my parents would write invites and stuff. I was just like a psychotic child, like from the moment I was alive I was like this is what I will do, very delusional but super determined and huge ego and I was just like this is what I have to do. So, those moments I remember a lot but also, I grew up in dance competitions and I remember just being on stage constantly dancing and being like ‘fuck this, I just wanna sing’ like I was so pissed, I remember being at competitions and being so angry, I was just like ‘why are we all up here in these frilly little fucking costumes, let’s just change’ – it was just so dumb to me. 

What inspired your new single ‘In The Kitchen’?

RR: Heartbreak, despair, and anger. 

What is the prevailing emotion you wanted to capture in the accompanying video?

RR: Something that is really important to me is that I want all of my music videos to be the space that highlights what people would very annoyingly call, but rightfully so, this triple threat aspect. So, I want the music videos to feel like they could stand alone on their own and be short films because cinematic, beautiful pieces are super important to me and I think that comes into the whole crossover thing, where I’m really appreciative for my job and everyone that teaches me there. But, what I really wanted to convey was this moment of ‘fuck this’ and this manic housewife that I had somehow convinced myself that I had become in this previous relationship and so then when the relationship was over, I was like ‘what was I doing?’ like that is not who I was. I am not a housewife who sits there and cooks and cleans, that’s not who I am. That’s amazing if that’s what somebody wants to do but I am never, ever again going to make myself smaller to appease somebody else’s life – especially a man’s, I’m not going to do that again. So that’s really where that stemmed from and my best friend Alyah (Scott) creative directed the video because she watched me go through that breakup, and watched me go through that relationship, and watched me lose myself in that relationship and just feed into a very misogynistic stereotype and so it was really important for me to do the video in that way so that it was reflecting on what can happen to somebody in that sort of situation.  

Why did you choose ‘Tattoos’ as your debut? Personally, what was special about this record?

RR: I felt like it was the first-time other people were excited, therefore I felt excited because I solely rely on external validation. I had posted the song online and it had got a lot of online attention, to be blunt, so that really gave me the coverage and the pressure to do something. I don’t know if it weren’t for that and if it weren’t for people supporting me blindly, I don’t know that I would have done it, because that ‘Tattoos’ person was a two-week thing. I don’t think the song would be as important to me if it wasn’t received in the way it was because I would have been like I messed with this man for like a second and I don’t care if they live or die, y’know it wouldn’t have been that serious. The way it was received made me feel like it was impactful, therefore it was impactful to me and means a lot to me now. That person doesn’t but the moment does. 

On your socials, you post videos from your studio sessions, how do you get into such a vulnerable state and are able to record? 

RR: I pretty much live in a vulnerable state. I really do, for better or for worse. I think I have always been the friend growing up who was made fun of for being so emotional and for being so sensitive and for a long time I was super ashamed of it and I still am now, I think I still deal with it now because people still make fun of me for it but at this point I’m like this is something I struggle with but this is also the thing that makes me great. That is probably the only thing that I’m really confident about in myself and in my life, that I’m like nope this is what I do well and I know that. So, I honestly, consistently operate in a vulnerable state, for better or for worse – anxiety’s a bitch but it helps in studio sessions. 

Could you tell us a bit more about landing a role as Regina George for Broadway’s musical ‘Mean Girls? Do you remember when you found out the news?

RR: Yes, I at first didn’t want to do it because I wanted to do music and at first it was for the tour and I was like if I leave New York that’s not good for my music career and so I was like ‘no’. Then they were like would you do the Broadway thing? And I was like hmm, I don’t know because I want to do music and then Tina and Lauren were so supportive of my music career and my dad was like ‘you’re so stupid, like literally take this job, are you dumb?’ And I was like… ‘Okayyyy’. But A) I was a baby, I had just turned nineteen so I didn’t know what I was doing, in a good way and B) I was really lucky and super fucking spoilt to have that opportunity so young to the point where I was just like, maybe not. Now I’m like, ‘are you kidding me!?’ But it also goes to show me that like music is the one thing that I love and I was willing to throw away a huge job and financial stability to do what I loved, so I will do anything to do what I love, but I remember being offered it the first time and being like, ‘hmm… I don’t know’ and then being like ‘wait…I’m stupid, I need to do this job’.

You also play ‘Leighton’ in HBO MAX/TV series ‘The Sex Lives Of College Girls,’ could you elaborate on how did this role come about, how was your audition? What are some of your favourite memories from the set? 

RR: This came about because Covid had just kind of hit so I was obviously out of Mean Girls and we were on hiatus from the show and I was trying to work in music and I was trying to meet new people in music and everything was on zoom at the time so my agents at the time were like ‘look, TV’s going to come back quicker than anything else, you should audition for TV, you should start doing self-tapes’ and I was like ‘I don’t know if I can do that’ because again I thought I was a horrible actor. So, I did a self-tape for something and I think this was my second or third tape that I did and I remember receiving the materials and I never read auditions before I do them, which is probably not smart but I kind of like to do things on the fly and I actually read the materials because I saw that she was gay and I was like, ‘oh I care about this, great!’. Because also I hadn’t got any auditions to play queer characters before and to me that was so exciting because it felt really validating and I was like ‘yes, good, this is a huge part of me’ and so I read the materials and I was like, ‘alright I fucking love this’ and I actually put a lot of hard work into it. I think I memorised the sides, which I typically don’t, I like to read them off of a computer screen. Then I just did it and then I was pinned for the job for a couple of months and then I got the job shortly thereafter and ‘I was like oh perfect, this will move me to LA permanently so that I can do music’, and now I’m here so it worked. 

Do you resonate with the characters you play at all, if yes, in what ways?

RR: I definitely do, in ways that I don’t even like. I think I absolutely have a bitchy side and I think Leighton in a lot of ways is a bitch and not in a great way. I think she’s super judgemental, I think she’s super ignorant and I think young Renee was very judgemental and probably very ignorant in so many ways, so for better or for worse I definitely relate to her on that end. But I also can relate to somebody who is really ashamed, in a weird way of a part of herself that is not something to be ashamed of but is just so used to this societal kind of norm and how she’s grown up that, y’know it’s scary. I relate in the very topical way of like, being gay, but I also relate in the way of this shit is kind of hard.

What can we expect form you in the future? Any new music releases we should keep an eye on?

RR: We’re working right now to release an EP and then hopefully some live performances and stuff but I just have to muster up the courage for all of it. 

What are you manifesting for yourself?

RR: Winning Best New Artist at The Grammys.

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Words: Karolina Kramplova