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How Reneé Rapp Went From Theater Kid to Taking Over TikTok and Our Hearts

The Sex Lives of College Girls returns with a steamy Season 2 on Thursday on HBO Max, with all four of our favorite Essex College women returning. With new episodes of the show and her new EP that dropped last Friday, it feels like a fantastic time to talk about the absolute powerhouse that is Miss Reneé Rapp. If you only know her as Leighton in the comedy series, there is SO much to learn. At only 22 years old, Rapp is slaying the game with an astounding resume that has taken her from high school theater gal, to actress, TikTok star, and soul-crushing songwriter.

If you’re a Broadway fanatic you’ve probably heard of the Jimmy Awards: the program meant to recognize musical theater performances by high schoolers and advance them in the realm of the arts. Despite being sick, Renee’s performance in 2018 of “All Falls Down” from musical Chaplin won her the Jimmy for best actress, alongside Andrew Barth Feldmen who won best actor, and would go on to be Broadway’s youngest Evan Hansen. So yeah, these awards are kind of a big deal. This was the catalyst for her career as she skipped college to go straight to Broadway at 19 years old, playing the character Regina George in Tina Fey’s musical Mean Girls. Rapp flourished in the role, drawing more attention to her vocal range.

Since then Rapp has procured the support of female producers/comedians like Infinity Stones. After the pandemic turned Broadway dark, she transitioned from Fey’s high school Mean Girls to Mindy Kaling’s sex positive college girls. In The Sex Lives of College Girls she plays Leighton, a preppy, well-to-do New Yorker grappling with accepting her sexuality. Rapp herself is openly queer and in an interview for Rapp stated, “Leighton’s identity is very parallel to mine in terms of her sexuality. I loved that [the character] was exploring queerness in a comedic way, because I cope with everything in a comedic way.”

On top of all this greatness, Rapp is guaranteed to be one of the up and coming singer/songwriters of this generation. Self proclaimed maker of music “for the saddest of bitches,” she started teasing snippets of her original music on TikTok in March 2022 and fans were continuously edged for months until her first single “Tattoos” was released this past June. After that, two equally gut-wrenching songs, “In The Kitchen” and “Don’t Tell My Mom”, were released in the months following. With brutal lyrics like, “So don’t tell my mom, she’s wearing my heart. Her daughter might cry but she’ll be alright,” she knows how to hit her target audience right where it hurts. The EP, “Everything To Everyone”, fed ravenous fans with four new songs, including an intro, with people raging over “What Can I Do” as the newest “bi anthem.”

TikTok can be credited in part with how she amassed such a following. An account that started as a few videos from her time on Mean Girls is now so much more. From sneak peeks of her songs, behind the scenes shenanigans from The Sex Lives of College Girls, openess about her sexuality, and making overall relatable content for her Gen Z audiences, her TikTok has double the amount of followers than her other socials at almost 700k, and they can’t get enough of her. Scrolling through her page you’ll see comments like, “I have a crush on u,” or, “This song hurts so good,” and, “In Reneé we trust.”


I always fail 😍

♬ original sound –

As a Gen Z’er herself, her songs tackling mental health, relationship turmoil, and identity are perfect for a generation who talks so freely about all of the above. Her music has found a way to connect her with audiences, herself and her character Leighton’s journey with identity is resonating with audiences who also struggle to conform with labels, and her humorous online presence is uplifting and comforting, like she’s our collective big sister. Reneé, we hungrily await your next move… Until then, we can’t wait to watch her on Sex Lives of College Girls Season 2.

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