Reneé Rapp is on the Rise: on Stage, on Screen, and on Tour | Playbill

Special Features Reneé Rapp is on the Rise: on Stage, on Screen, and on Tour

The Mean Girls alum talks her first international tour, the resilience that got her there, and if she would ever return to Broadway.

Katia Temkin

When Reneé Rapp speaks, she does so with a confidence that may come off as arrogant to those unfamiliar with her style, especially in an industry that is often unforgiving to women with ambition. But strip away those expectations, and the 23-year-old multi-hyphenate is straightforward, driven, and equipped with the talent to back herself up.

“When a woman is very sure of themselves, or says exactly what they mean, a lot of times people are really uncomfortable with that,” Rapp says. “[They] turn it into ‘Oh, she’s being a bitch,’ or ‘Oh, she should be grateful’...You say that you want something, and everybody’s going to say that you’re not grateful for the other thing.”

Rapp’s determination has taken her far—worldwide, in fact. The artist is currently on the road for her first international tour, Snow Hard Feelings. With this tour, in support of her first full-length album Snow Angel, Rapp ventures into pop stardom with a magnetic presence. She’s no stranger to the stage, with years of Broadway and television experience under her belt. But performing as herself, telling stories through personal songwriting, may be where Rapp shines the brightest.

Rapp has built up this confidence over years of working in a variety of artistic mediums. She sprung into the national spotlight in 2018, when her performance in her high school’s musical earned her the Best Performance by an Actress title at that year’s Jimmy Awards. In May 2019, it was announced that Rapp would take over the role of Regina George in Mean Girls, making her principal Broadway debut at 19 years old. She remained with the production until its March 2020 pandemic closure.

As the entertainment industry reopened, Rapp was cast as Leighton Murray in HBO Max’s teen comedy The Sex Lives of College Girls, where she remained as one of four leads for two seasons. In 2022, it was announced that Rapp would play Regina in the forthcoming film adaptation of Mean Girls: The Musical (Rapp was unable to comment on the film due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike). Even as she made a name for herself as an actor, Rapp knew that a career as a musician was her goal, and using her Mean Girls/College Girls platform, she released her debut single, “Tattoos,” her 2022 EP Everything to Everyone, and finally, Snow Angel, in August of this year.

To be in the limelight in this many ways at a relatively young age is a feat in itself, and Rapp has earned fans’ adoration by sharing her experience candidly. In particular, Rapp has spoken publicly about her experience in Mean Girls, where her career took off. While she often expresses love and gratitude for the production, it wasn’t always perfect.

A few weeks after Rapp took over as Regina, audience members noticed her costumes had been altered from her predecessor’s to include more coverage, like a skirt being added to a corseted Halloween costume that was previously only worn with tights. Rapp says she received nasty messages about her body from audience members, and around the same time, the production decided to change her wardrobe without Rapp’s input.

In a recent interview, Rapp recalled the fitting for her new wardrobe pieces. From the demeanor and apologies of the costumers, she inferred that the change had to do with her appearance. Rapp detailed how the experience affected her mental health, as she dealt with a crippling eating disorder during her time in the production. At the same time, she noted, being asked to speak on her experience as a “curvier” actor was counterproductive not only for herself, but by taking space from plus-size artists, whose struggles in the industry are often brushed over.

“I was really, really, really afraid to speak up for myself. I was constantly invalidating my feelings. I think that now, I am much more sure of myself and more outspoken when it comes to things that I see happening,” Rapp says. “In so many ways, I was so lifted up on that production, and I felt so loved and taken care of. It really can just take one thing—it happens in theatre a lot, it happens in acting a lot, it happens in the dance world a lot—it’s intense. I’m not saying that I'm glad I went through it, because I’m not. But I think I’m grateful for the things that I took away from it.”

Rapp is outspoken not only in interviews, but in her lyrics, as well. Snow Angel, Rapp’s first full-length project, is an angsty pop-rock masterpiece, with lyrical storytelling for fans to resonate with. In Snow Angel, Rapp effortlessly delivers a variety of musical styles, with soulful, R&B-infused vocals. Rapp excels from the ballad “I Hate Boston,” an anti-love letter to an ex’s hometown, to “Talk Too Much,” a catchy take on overthinking with an electric guitar emphasis, to “Pretty Girls,” an ode to a queer woman’s hot-and-cold relationship with a flirtatious, “straight” female friend.

Queer identity is another area Rapp has been open about and celebrated for throughout her career. The artist identifies as bisexual, as do many of her fans (at a performance this writer attended, Rapp remarked fondly that her fan base is entirely gay, theatre kids, or both). Her character in The Sex Lives of College Girls identifies as a lesbian, which Rapp has said was difficult to portray while struggling with internalized homophobia. Today, she is outspoken about her identity, with several of the songs and music videos for Snow Angel depicting LGBTQIA+ relationships.

“In a selfish way, the more you feel people accept you, the more you start to accept yourself, right?” Rapp says. "It becomes this community circle—everybody should feel very supported and very safe. It’s been imperative to my personal life.”

Rapp's authenticity has earned her a devoted legion of fans over the years. And if her current tour, which is almost entirely sold out in the U.S., is any indication, her music career is on an upward trajectory.

Now for the question that Playbill readers may be dying to ask – will Rapp ever return to Broadway? She answered instantly and enthusiastically: “I would fucking love to.”

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