In yet another feat of reboot culture gone wild, cinema seats are currently filling for the new Gen-Z adaptation of Mean Girls, a musical version of the iconic 2004 flick starring Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried and Rachel McAdams. But while reviews for the film itself are still pouring in, one thing seems to have been decided; people are loving its breakout star Reneé Rapp’s lack of interview filter.
In Mean Girls, North Carolina-born Rapp plays Regina George, legendary Queen Bee and the centre of the plastics. Responsible for dictating the social hierarchy of school, it’s a role that the 24-year-old earned after appearing as George in the Broadway run of the show, earning praise for her strong vocal and the level of nuance she brought to one of Hollywood’s most infamous bitchy characters.
Rapp is also known for her role in US TV hit The Sex Lives of College Girls (in which she plays Leighton Murray, a rich girl from New York coming into her lesbian identity), and for the release of her debut album, Snow Angel, out last summer. At time of writing, Rapp’s social following is huge; 2.1 million TikTok followers, and another 1.6 milli on Instagram.
On the Mean Girls promo tour, however, she’s also making a name for herself for some pretty ‘chaotic’ behaviour. As anyone who has seen these kinds of interviews will know, media training for young actors is common, and with a production company’s reputation to uphold, stars normally stick to reasonably dull platitudes about how much they enjoyed making the movie, how deeply they respect their colleagues, or how moved they were by what the character taught them about themselves. But in true Regina spirit, Reneé Rapp appears to have shrugged off any of that pressure, choosing instead to say, well, whatever is on her darn mind.
First there was the comment about putting a driving tour bus operator – named Buddy – in her Burn Book, after she took umbrage with the way he spoke to her friends. “If you’re watching this,” she says to the camera, “I can’t stand you, and I hope your business burns. You are so disrespectful and so misogynistic, and I hate you.” Then there were some gentle (and very funny) jibes at her male co-star for not being au fait with Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s ‘Telephone’ (‘“You’re not cancelled! No, it’s OK! You’re just straight.”), and a rather bizarre chat show interview in which she declared herself as ‘ageist’ after being put off by mean comments about her from millennials.
Lastly, and best of all, there was sticking up for Megan Thee Stallion (who features on her track ‘Not My Fault’), responding to a question about what it was like working for her by going full monologue about what it means to be Team Megan.
“I’m a true Meg supporter. I hate that other man, so I love Megan Thee Stallion. I love her. If anybody tries her when it comes to that sorry ass-man, it’s a do-or-die fight for me.”
The latter, as many social media users have pointed out, goes harder than a lot of hip-hop colleagues of Megan’s have been willing to with regards to her criminal case against Tory Lanez, marking Rapp out as an artist with a likeably upfront streak. Whilst internet discourse has sometimes branded Rapp as cocky or obnoxious, she feels reminiscent of Billie Eilish in many ways, unafraid to let her face tell us whether she is frustrated, or bored, or has something to say which may challenge typical pleasantries. It’s easy (and a little bit sexist) to write this off as being ‘unhinged’ or ‘chaotic’ or brash, but in a world where many mainstream artists won’t say much about anything for fear of alienating a potential audience, there is something very refreshing about hearing answers that don’t carbon copy from one interview to the next.
not an OUNCE of media training. do you see poor christopher? he was lost. confused. scared…. i love her. pic.twitter.com/M7U120ZJxu— elle. 🦇 (@constantreeling) January 10, 2024
It’s an approach that carries through to Rapp’s social media. On TikTok, talking about her bisexuality and white privilege, she shares salient points about erasure and identity, but can just as easily poke fun at flying objects when she’s on stage, or chat about the less glam parts of touring and theatre life. Certainly, not all of her thoughts are entirely through (we’re still not quite sure about that ageism comment), but there’s something very normal and honest about how she airs them, exactly what you would expect from a 24-year-old figuring things out in real-time and having a laugh with her fans.
Even with a more cynical hat on, Rapp’s ‘untrained’ energy may well be a savvy business manoeuvre. In a week that has seen devastating blows for music journalism and the very infrastructure of pop-cultural criticism, a pop star with a big personality or who is genuinely up for a frank chat is always a welcome and popular thing, the kind of artist with whom writers and journalists can really elicit interesting or surprising answers. On ‘Snow Angel’ Rapp has developed a lyrical style that shows she isn’t afraid to go ‘there’ – on “Poison, Poison”, she sings the now meme-worthy phrase “Yes I am a feminist / but bitch you’re making it hard for me to be supporting all women”. Like Hayley Williams and Taylor Swift before her, she’s likely to get shit for it, but it’s the kind of approach that sums up exactly where she’s at, spilling her messy, conflicting emotions in the hope that they might reach someone else. Is it flattering? Perhaps not. But have we all had a similar thought every once in a while, and is there value and humour in sometimes letting that out? Almost definitely.
Whatever Rapp is doing, it seems to be working. Mean Girls is on track to shift well over $50 million at the box office, while Rapp’s forthcoming ‘Snow Hard Feelings’ shows in London have been upgraded twice, making clear that ‘full-time recording artist’ can be her very viable next role. It’s early days, but Reneé Rapp is having fun with it — why not let her?