The Sex Lives of College Girls star just released her debut EP and took over TikTok in the process.
Renée Rapp doesn’t back down from a fight. Most Hollywood up-and-comers are PR-ified into passive magnets of mass appeal. But Rapp made a name for herself playing headstrong women like Regina George in Mean Girls on Broadway and Leighton Murray in HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls. Now, she’s trying her hand at music, which is the thing she’s always wanted to do most.
Rapp, who is queer, often sings about personal heartbreak and “falling for a straight girl.” Though her talent and vulnerability have won her plenty of devoted fans, she says she’s received some hate online. So what is a new recording artist known for playing take-no-sh*t characters to do with unwarranted critique? Fight back.
“I am a firm believer that if you’re coming for me on the Internet, you’re hating from your parents’ Wi-Fi. You might be 14 in the middle of Minnesota. I don’t give a f*ck,” Rapp tells Elite Daily. “If you’re coming for me publicly, I’m coming back for you — just as I would hope somebody would do to me if I was a kid, hating on the Internet.”
Rapp’s confrontational approach to social media — plus, her long list of talents — has earned her a loyal, rapidly growing fanbase. She’s averaging about 18,000 new TikTok followers per day, and she reached 1 million on Dec. 20. At 22, Rapp is already a multi-hyphenate, and her influence will only grow as she’s playing Regina George again in the upcoming Mean Girls musical film.
But that’s in the future. Right now, Rapp is focused on her debut EP, Everything to Everyone, which came out last month. It’s an impressive display of Rapp’s powerful vocals and pensive songwriting. Ahead, Rapp chats about why her music is so “cathartic,” what to expect in Season 3 of Sex Lives of College Girls, and why she isn’t afraid to go to bat for herself — even if her fans usually beat her to it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Elite Daily: You’ve been very honest about your main goal being making music, telling Rolling Stone you have “been waiting 22 years of my life to do this.” Now that the EP is out, how do you feel?
Renée Rapp: Definitely surreal, but in a good way. It feels so cool. I feel so grateful. Every time I walk into a venue for a show, I get so excited, and I feel so lucky that I have all my friends and family with me. I’m very spoiled. We roll pretty deep, so it makes those moments so much more special.
ED: Your first-ever tour sold out in under two minutes. How did that feel?
RR: That was the biggest relief ever. I was like, “Man, I don’t even know if people are going to want to come.” Respectfully, I would get it. If they don’t want to come, I’m fine. But they did, and I was like, “Yay.” In a way, I was impressed with myself.
ED: How does performing your music onstage compare to your Broadway experience? I’d imagine it’s more personal, since this music is yours, as opposed to someone else’s.
RR: I love performing my music in a very different way. It just feels so much more palpable to me because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Nothing could ever compare. It feels so incredibly different. They’re not similar in my mind, actually. Obviously on Broadway, audiences can’t really interact. But at my shows, we do. It’s great.
ED: Do you feel like you’re playing a character onstage?
RR: No, I guess I’m very blunt, an honest version of myself in that moment. Which for better or worse, people think is funny. The one thing that is kind of a jump scare though is everyone just keeps telling me “You have to do stand-up in your set list.” I’m like, “No, that has to end.”
ED: Do you still feel like you’re “blacking out” during performances?
RR: Yes and no. I’m a bit more present now because I’ve done it a few times, but I still sort of black out in the sense that I just [face goes blank]. Sometimes, I have anxiety attacks that are super internal, so no outward attacks. I had one maybe two nights ago. I thought, “I don’t remember the words to any of my songs.” I always do that. I get really nervous and panic, “F*ck, I’m going to lose my sh*t or something.” But then I remember all the words.
ED: What’s it like to watch your performances later on?
RR: I watch them because I see videos from fans on TikTok. It helps me know what really connects with people. Because as intimate as performing is, there are definitely some barriers just by nature of it being a concert. There are a lot of lights. I have my in-ears in. There’s a lot going on. But I like watching it back. I’m like, “I want to go!”
ED: You had a really sweet fan interaction at your first L.A. show, which was posted to TikTok. So what’s it like to have gone from the fan relating to the artist to being the artist who fans relate to?
RR: It’s so cool. But also, it doesn’t feel legit. Not in a bad way, just I still can’t comprehend that I could impact people like my favorite artists have impacted me. It hasn’t really sunk in. But that moment was quite cathartic.
ED: Has being a musician now changed your outlook on the musicians you love?
RR: I’m like, “Oh, damn it, everyone is just a person.” I used to think that they were like aliens and without feelings. Like “They’re just hot, but they can write all this stuff.” Now I realize that’s so untrue. It’s made me respect a lot of my favorite artists more because I understand that it’s something that is incredibly vulnerable and getting there takes a lot of work on yourself.
ED: Where do Sex Lives of College Girls and your upcoming Mean Girls film fit into your musical aspirations?
RR: I auditioned for College Girls in the middle of the pandemic when nothing was going on. I really wanted to do music, and my agents were telling me to try TV. I was like, “OK, cool.” I thought that any job that I do will get me some sort of a platform so that I can hopefully do music. Mean Girls was my first big job. It’s such a big part of my career and something that I love so much. I always thought it would be so cool to do a movie. So then when they asked me, I was like, “F*ck yeah.’”
ED: What was your reaction to the Mean Girls film?
RR: I was so excited. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a big task to take on. That movie is so iconic and means everything to me. Remakes come with a lot of nuances, but I think the coolest thing is to have a representation of what Mean Girls means to my generation.
ED: How will your approach to playing Regina George differ this time around?
RR: I’ll probably just think about it more now. When I was a kid, I thought, “Yeah, show up at work. Do it. Make it fun. Sing well.”
ED: Do you have a favorite song on the EP? Which do you think would be Leighton’s? What about Regina’s?
RR: Mine is “In the Kitchen.” Leighton’s would be, too. Regina’s would probably be “Too Well.”
ED: You use TikTok to promote your music. The platform’s known for being extremely honest and snarky in the comments section. What has sharing your music there been like?
RR: It’s been great. There are always going to be people that say bad sh*t, but the only real discourse that ever affects me is discourse around my sexuality. That always pisses me off.
In general, though, I think that TikTok’s been quite supportive. My fans are ride-or-dies. One person comes for me, and they’re like [finger guns]. They’re not to be f*cked with. I’m afraid of them.
ED: How has your own lived experience coming out as queer affected your approach to playing Leighton?
RR: It’s been great. I really love her story and the way she’s written. She’s so just fun to play. The scene between her and her dad is so sweet. My dad and I are very close, so scenes like that are the best part of doing that show.
It has opened up a lot of larger conversations about my personal sexuality and things in an amazing way but also in a really f*cking annoying way. I think that’s just life. I understand that, duh, because it’s on TV it’s inherently a bigger discussion. People are paying attention. But it’s really weird. At the same time, it’s amazing, and I love it so much. It’s also tested my own relationship with my queerness. Sometimes I think, “Wow, I'm really f*cking mean to myself.” I’ll say something in my head and realize it was actually homophobic as f*ck. It’s easier to clock now.
ED: Do you find singing these feelings to be easier than saying them?
RR: Yes and no. Sometimes it’s really easy, and sometimes it’s really hard. It depends on where I’m at. They can feel like a similar muscle, but singing will always feel better than acting for me.
For me, acting isn’t even really stepping into someone else’s shoes. I feel like it’s me just being me and convincing everybody else that it’s not. You know what I mean? Even with Leighton, I don’t think I really acted this season like that.
ED: You and your co-star Alyah Chanelle Scott have become super close friends. What’s that relationship like?
RR: The greatest thing ever. She’s just become my best friend in the whole wide world. We’ve really been so there for each other through a lot of really, really sh*tty stuff already. So without her, there’s no way I would’ve been able to get through this last year and six months. It’s been a lot, but she makes everything so much easier.
ED: What do you think of the way Season 2 wrapped up for Leighton?
RR: I love Leighton’s trajectory. She is such a work in progress, and she’s so not evolved but really holds herself to such a high standard. It’s really nice to see her know herself in a moment where her roommates don’t. It’s actually really comforting especially because I think for the first time, Leighton is like “I know myself,” and they're all spiraling.
Still, it leaves a lot to be figured out. She is sort of getting back with Alicia. That makes her really happy, which is great. But I think it happened really quickly after little to no discourse or any healing.
ED: Are you rooting for Leighton and Alicia?
RR: I’m rooting for Leighton.
ED: What are you hoping to see in Season 3, specifically for Leighton?
RR: God, different clothes. Anything but what she’s wearing right now. I would become religious for it. I would go to church.
ED: All the roommates did do that clothes swap in Season 2.
RR: Leighton would never wear a f*cking thing that Kimberly wears, but I think she might take Whitney’s stuff.