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The Mean Girls movie is a bit meh, but Reneé Rapp is its bonafide star

Reneé Rapp, 24, has become the internet’s biggest girl crush (Getty Images for Paramount Pictu)
Reneé Rapp, 24, has become the internet’s biggest girl crush (Getty Images for Paramount Pictu)

Regina George is arguably one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history. Portrayed by Rachel McAdams, the quintessential Queen Bee has continually captivated audiences since 2004 — with her famous quotes (“Get in, loser, we’re going shopping") and outfits (“On Wednesdays we wear pink”) firmly embedded in Gen Z vernacular.

Now, we all know Hollywood executives love a remake (IP is everything, baby!), so perhaps it’s no surprise that they have resurrected the teen comedy 20 years on. Based on the Broadway Musical (which is based on the original film), writer Tina Fey explained that the studio agreed to the remake only if they could find a charismatic enough actor to take on the near-mythical role. Cue: 24-year-old Reneé Rapp, who has already become the internet’s biggest girl crush.

Meet the microplastics: Gen Z's updated Mean Girls musical is just no good (Jojo Whilden)
Meet the microplastics: Gen Z's updated Mean Girls musical is just no good (Jojo Whilden)

Having played the leader of The Plastics in the Broadway show from 2019 to 2020 — where Fey described the then-19-year-old as “the smartest person on her team” — Rapp was always destined for the coveted role. If you’ve been anywhere near TikTok’s For You page in the last week, then you would have seen why.

“The best ass I've ever seen in my life," the triple threat performer responded when asked about working with Megan Thee Stallion on their Mean Girls song “Not My Fault”. As for her one and only “boy crush”? She says it's Justin Bieber, only because he “looks like a lesbian” (Rapp herself is bisexual). When asked what she’d say to the original Mean Girl McAdams: “Date me?”

Then there’s her early-morning rant on daytime television on what’s out for 2024. “The man that yelled at me this morning at 8am and told me to smile. Go to hell,” she said, before adding another. “And also my out is the man that was making a bunch of jokes about women last night at the Golden Globes.”

Reneé Rapp and Megan Thee Stallion (Getty Images for Paramount Pictu)
Reneé Rapp and Megan Thee Stallion (Getty Images for Paramount Pictu)

These are just some of the clips of Rapp’s unhinged press tour junkets that have been going monstrously viral, with fans obsessing over her “lack of media training”. Code word for her no-holds-barred, utterly Gen Z humour — which has already earned her a legion of devout fans, who proudly get behind the mantra: “Girls don’t want boyfriends, they want Reneé Rapp”.

Following last Monday’s New York premiere, the movie debuted with an impressive $33 million (£26m) at the box office. Although critics are divided, one thing they can agree on is that Rapp is the best thing about it. Here’s how a girl from semi-rural North Carolina took over the world.

From North Carolina to Broadway

Rapp grew up in Huntersville, North Carolina, with her music store owner parents and little brother Charles (who makes a brief cameo in the movie). As a teen, she fronted a girl group called Daddy’s Little Girl, which she referred to as “white girl Destiny’s Child” to Fault Magazine. “It was f***ing trash,” she added.

Reneé Rapp grew up in Huntersville, North Carolina (Getty Images for MTV)
Reneé Rapp grew up in Huntersville, North Carolina (Getty Images for MTV)

She was also a member of her high school’s varsity golf team and performed regularly in the school’s musical theatre plays. From an early age knew she belonged on stage — in 2018 she won the prestigious national Jimmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress for her reading role as Sandra Bloom in Big Fish. Less than a year later, she helmed the popular musical on Broadway. "You know, I’d never had a job before,” she confessed to Vogue earlier this month.

Despite her early success, musical theatre was never her true calling. Nor has she hidden her true intentions for the platform she’s built off of it. “I was like, I know you mother****ers do SNL. So I will do it if you agree to help my music career for the rest of my life,” she told The Cut about accepting the role of Regina George. “And they have. It was just always as a means to make this happen.”

But then, Covid hit. As Broadway (and the rest of the world) shuttered, her agent encouraged the star to start auditioning for film and TV roles, believing the two would come back the fastest. By October 2020, she had booked her fan-favourite role as newly out lesbian undergrad Leighton Murray in The Sex Lives of College Girls.

Her TV debut and Regina George 2.0 

Reneé Rapp, Alyah Chanelle Scott, and Pauline Chalamet attend the premiere of
Reneé Rapp, Alyah Chanelle Scott, and Pauline Chalamet attend the premiere of "Sex Lives Of College Girls" Season 2 (Getty Images for HBO Max & Pheno)

In November 2021, the first season of The Sex Lives of College Girls dropped to a near-instant cult fanbase and served as Rapp’s first foray into television. The series follows four college friends as they navigate their first year attending New England’s prestigious Essex College. Rapp starred as Leighton — a queer freshman and wealthy legacy student from New York.

However, Rapp has talked openly about the criticism she unfairly received from her castmates during filming. “Somebody asked, ‘Well, you’re only gay for here, right? You’re not really gay in real life?’” she said. “I told them I was bisexual, and they were like, ‘But you have a boyfriend?’ And it was like, ‘G— it.’”

As she was filming the second series, it was announced that Rapp had also been cast as Regina George in the upcoming 2024 Mean Girls remake. But her speedy ascent into Hollywood wasn’t without its trials. “I go back and forth, because I get so anxious on sets and I feel s— about myself, so I feel like I shouldn’t put myself back in that environment,” she told the Los Angeles Times about the physical and mental strain of the acting world.Still, her starring role as George has put her firmly on the world stage, with many enamoured by her take on the iconic role. Perhaps her most viral description of it was that “Regina George was a lesbian”. She’s since doubled down on the history-making caption, explaining that she brought elements of herself to the role. “I’m gay,” she said. “I’m not out here playing her as a straight girl.”

She continued: “I’m a serial flirt. So I’m flirting with everybody, especially the girls, right? I have a bitchy attitude, so I’m going to be bitchy. I also am very dry, so she’s going to be dry,” she told Vanity Fair on the characters’ charm. "I think this is much more of a 'less f**ks given' version of it. It's just like not trying."

Her next (slightly unexpected) move

What do you do when you’ve got the whole acting world at your feet? Surely it’s not leave it all behind, right? Well, not for Rapp — who throughout the Mean Girls press tour has been also touring her latest album Snow Angel.

Rapp performs at Teen Vogue Summit 2023 (Getty Images for Teen Vogue)
Rapp performs at Teen Vogue Summit 2023 (Getty Images for Teen Vogue)

Pursuing music full-time has always been her end goal. “[I thought], I can do music on the side, like, I can just hustle. And now I’ve just kept acting because it keeps supporting the music… Acting was my way into tricking everyone that I warranted attention, so that I could have this interview with you,” she told Variety.In 2022, Rapp signed with Interscope Records and released her debut EP, Everything to Everyone. The lead single Too Well became an immediate TikTok hit, with her nascent music fandom gathering around the star and self-appointing themselves “Young Ex-Wives” about a line from Rapp’s song Colorado. “Might even feel compelled to sing karaoke down at the local dive / And meet some young ex-wife / We’d start a brand-new life and never be lonely.”

Rapp has declared that after Mean Girls she will never again return to acting, with Deadline announcing back in July that she would be massively downsizing her role in the upcoming season three of The Sex Lives Of College Girls. To confirm the news, Rapp took to her Instagram stories to thank series creators Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble for believing in her. “A lot of queer work gets belittled — but playing Leighton has changed my life. I love who I am 10x more than I did before knowing her. I hope she gave y’all a little bit of that too.

From left, Bebe Wood, Avantika Vandanapu, and Rapp attend a
From left, Bebe Wood, Avantika Vandanapu, and Rapp attend a "Mean Girls" photocall at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles in December 2023 (Getty Images for Paramount Pictu)

“She’s such a tiny part of representation but even the tiny parts count. I wouldn’t be half the person I am without her and y’all. I love that b**** more than you know. I’m so excited for this season and I can’t wait for you to see what we have coming for her and the girls.”

As for the promises Fey made the budding Broadway star all those years ago, Rapp will be the musical guest on next week’s SNL. Hosted by Jacob Elordi, this is set to be the programme’s most Gen Z lineup yet — and a fitting tribute for a star on the rise.