Renee Rapp Is Not Your Typical ‘Mean Girl’
Whether you know her from Broadway, HBO, Spotify, or TikTok, Renee Rapp seems to be everywhere at the moment. She made her debut stepping into the iconic pink pumps and scribbling into her Burn Book as Regina George in the musical adaptation of Mean Girls. After starring in a hit new show about the lives of college girls, she released her debut EP, Everything to Everyone last year, and her fans immediately latched on to her blend of pop melodies and vulnerable lyrics.
Rapp has also been open about her struggles with acceptance of her bisexuality, both from the people around her and from herself. In February, she appeared on a popular Spotify podcast and shared her story of realizing that she was queer.
When she developed a crush on a girl at school, she immediately assumed that she had to be gay, because she had seen people in her family make fun of other bisexual people in her life, telling them to “pick a side.” Later, when she was in a more heteronormative relationship, she felt like her queerness was overlooked altogether. In fact, Rapp said, it was not until she played a lesbian on a TV show that her family saw that she could love both men and women, and it was only then that she could feel fully accepted.
Embracing all sides of yourself appears in Rapp’s music in more ways than just her sexuality. Throughout her EP, and the deluxe version of the same name, which she released earlier this year, she appears in equal parts confident and self-conscious, in love and heartbroken, angry and sensitive. As Rapp often shares in interviews, her lifelong sensitivity drives much of her music, allowing her to channel her deep feelings into art. In “Bruises,” a song Rapp added to the deluxe edition of Everything to Everyone, Rapp describes the dual sensations of feeling hurt by her friends and wanting to be able to take a joke. For everyone who has ever wondered if they are too sensitive, this song captures the hard realization that there is no hard and firm “line” of whether your friends go too far.
Like many artists, Renee Rapp’s songs also dive into themes of heartbreak, and all the conflicting emotions it can bring up. In “Tattoos,” Rapp sings about the desire to know someone better, mixed with the fear that they will hurt you like other people have. This single, which was not on the EP, appears to be the flipside to one of Rapp’s personal favorites from Everything to Everyone, “In The Kitchen.” In one of her few purely acoustic songs, Rapp sings about the hurt after a heartbreak, even as she and a former partner go from “strangers to lovers to enemies.” Even though she feels hurt and anger over the breakup, she still hangs onto the “bittersweet memories.”
Because of these brilliantly captured conflicts, the EP title and introductory track, “Everything to Everyone,” feels both ironic and deeply self-actualized. While Rapp acknowledges that she “can’t be everything to everyone,” and that her tendency to self-sacrifice can also be self-destructive. Through this introductory lyric, she accepts herself in a way that many of us still struggle to do, and offers a blueprint for our own self-acceptance. Yet it is also interesting that Rapp begins the album with an announcement of her limitations, then proceeds to chronicle her almost limitless capacity to hold many emotions at the same time. It is a conflict that the sensitive among us, and everyone who is still figuring themselves out, knows well. We can’t be everything to everyone, but we can be everything within ourselves.
Given that Rapp’s career is just beginning — her show was renewed for a third season, she sells out concerts left and right, and she is slated to reprise her role as Regina George in the movie musical Mean Girls — we can expect to see much more of her in the years to come. Whatever she does next, I hope she will continue to show us that we can be not either/or, but both/and.