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Rapp rules in new ‘Mean Girls’

But music career comes first to native of North Carolina

By Théoden Janes, The Charlotte Observer
Published: January 13, 2024, 6:04am
2 Photos
Renee Rapp attends a &ldquo;Mean Girls&rdquo; photocall Dec. 4 at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills in Los Angeles.
Renee Rapp attends a “Mean Girls” photocall Dec. 4 at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills in Los Angeles. (Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures) Photo Gallery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Reneé Rapp had a pretty extraordinary 2023, starting last January with a sold-out concert for 2,300 fans of her pop music at the O2 Forum Kentish Town in London and ending in December with her being named one of the Associated Press’ five “breakthrough entertainers of the year.”

And 2024 almost surely will wind up being even bigger for the 23-year-old Huntersville native.

It’ll open with a double-whammy of splashy opportunities for her to build her following. On Jan. 12, the movie-musical version of “Mean Girls” landed in theaters with Rapp atop the marquee; then on Jan. 20, she is set to be the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live.”

Those familiar with her already know that Rapp has a bit of a history with “Mean Girls,” a franchise that was created by “SNL” alum Tina Fey and first immortalized on celluloid almost 20 years ago as a vehicle for then-It-Girl Lindsay Lohan.

But for the uninitiated, some background:

That 2004 teen comedy co-starred Rachel McAdams as the iconic antagonist/leader of “The Plastics” — Regina George — a character who would be made even bigger and bolder when the movie was adapted for the stage and opened as a musical in 2017. The role of Regina George was originated in Washington, D.C., by Taylor Louderman, who continued playing her after the show moved to Broadway in 2018.

Meanwhile, in May 2018, Rapp won best actress at The Blumeys (a collection of musical-theater awards handed out each year to high school students in the greater Charlotte area) for her turn as Sandra in “Big Fish” for Northwest School of the Arts. A month later, she won the national high-school-musical-theater award called the Jimmy Awards.

The following year, she was hired to replace Louderman as Regina George on Broadway.

Fey, who remains in charge of the franchise with “SNL” head honcho Lorne Michaels, then tapped Rapp to play the role again for the movie update that premiered this week.

‘I think about music every second’

Rapp has hinted, however, that the “Mean Girls” film will mark the end of her acting career for the time being.

We’re not sure where that leaves her when it comes to Max’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” which she starred in for two seasons and to which she seems to be attached for an announced third season in the future. But she’s certainly been going big with her pop career over the past year.

Last February, she put out a deluxe version of her “Everything to Everyone” EP that featured two new songs. In August, her full-length studio album “Snow Angel” had the honor of enjoying the biggest first week for a debut album by a female artist when it nabbed the No. 44 spot on the Billboard 200.

In support of that album, she launched a fall tour that included a sold-out hometown gig at The Fillmore. Then last month, she and rap icon Megan Thee Stallion dropped “Not My Fault,” the first single off the soundtrack of the “Mean Girls” remake.

Perhaps the clearest indication of Rapp being more music-focused than acting-focused is the fact that she’s being featured on the first “SNL” episode of 2024 as the musical guest. (Actor Jacob Elordi will serve as the show’s host.)

In fact, in her interview with AP to celebrate her inclusion on its “breakthrough entertainers” list, Rapp said: “I think about music like every second. … I could be going through the worst thing on planet Earth and all I’m thinking in the back of my head is like, ‘Oh, this is what my next album is about.’ I don’t care if that’s sick. That’s what I do.”

Paramount Pictures dangled an opportunity to speak with Rapp in front of The Charlotte Observer so she could promote the new “Mean Girls,” but we were subsequently squeezed out due to “very limited time” constraints.

However, she did speak to us for a story we published back in March 2023.

At the time, we asked the 2018 Northwest School of the Arts alum whether the stardom she’d achieved thus far looked as she imagined it would back when she was growing up in the Charlotte area.

Her reply: “I think it’s tangibly everything I imagined that it would be. I think it emotionally doesn’t feel like you think it would. Just in the sense of, like, I’ve learned — and I will likely continue to learn, as I’m getting older — that the things you dreamed about and the goals that you want to achieve are not everything.”

Case in point: “I remember when I went and did ‘Mean Girls,’ I told my parents, I was like, ‘Aw, f—. I’m making money on my own now, and I genuinely thought that my anxiety would just disappear, ‘cause this was the goal, and I felt like when I achieved things, that those achievements become everything, and they erase the bad s—. But sadly, the bad s— is still there.”

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(She’s been open, for a long time now, about the fact that she has grappled in the past with eating disorders, her mental health, her bisexuality and drug use.)

As for acting, here’s what Rapp told us at the time:

“Acting was never the goal, because … I thought I was a terrible actor. That was my big insecurity in the theater growing up. I was like, I cannot act for s—.

“When I got ‘Mean Girls,’ I was like, Oh, well, I’m just getting this role ‘cause I can sing, and that’s fine. I’ll try to act but, you know, whatever. Then when I got ‘College Girls,’ I was like, I still don’t think I’m good at this. Then after Season 1 going into Season 2, I was like, I can kind of act. I do kind of like this. So I did discover a certain love for it.

“But that doesn’t mean that I love being on a set. I am big on questioning authority. I don’t really like doing what people tell me to do. … And it’s nothing close to the love that I have for music.”