Reneé Rapp on the Broadway co-stars that affected her eating disorder

At 23 years old, Reneé Rapp has experienced a meteoric rise to stardom, and she’ll be the first to admit her success in the entertainment industry is far from glamorous. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Rapp looked back on her short years in the spotlight and the challenges she faced behind the scenes.

In 2019, Rapp scored her first major role starring as Regina George in the Mean Girls musical on Broadway. Right away, she found that some of her fellow actors played the mean girl a little too well.

After opening up about her lifelong battle with an eating disorder, Rapp recalled how it was exacerbated by her Mean Girls castmates, who “would say some vile fucking things to me about my body.” The disorder got so bad that her parents flew to New York to urge her to quit the show, which she eventually did.

Rapp would go on to land a leading role on Mindy Kaling’s hit series The Sex Lives of College Girls, playing the preppy and (at first) closeted lesbian Leighton. Rapp herself was coming to terms with her own bisexuality, and she has discussed the pressures of portraying Leighton’s coming-out journey while in a heteronormative relationship.

Last year, she was diagnosed with a mood disorder, which offered some clarity. “Getting diagnosed made me feel – and this is a derogatory term, if you want to talk about mental health – like I wasn’t just stupid, like I felt for so long,” she said. “I used to beat myself up asking like: ‘Why can’t I do this?’ and, as a kid, hearing people say: ‘Suck it up and stop.’”

As she continues to focus on herself, Rapp recently announced her departure from the show in order to return to her musical roots. She released her debut album, Snow Angel, last Friday and is gearing up for a tour in September. With live performances once again on the horizon, Rapp described her parents as “more worried than they ever have been, because they know more now.

“Eating disorders don’t just go away and like, you’re healed, like: ‘Sorry, I can eat again, ha ha!’ It’s a lifelong thing. There are battles with addiction and whatever everywhere. I still struggle with it, but at least my parents know that I’ve been taken out of environments that were really harmful to my sickness, which is awesome and a huge win. They worry like hell, but they’re chilling, I guess.”

One comfort, at least, is knowing she is part of a brighter future. “My generation and the generation that will follow mine is much more open – especially women, non-men, queer people,” she said. “I do think I’ve been afforded more opportunities than women before me, men and queer women before me. This generation is still super mean to each other. But we are more outspoken – and give less of a fuck.”

For now, Rapp is channeling her past and her emotions into music, through confrontational lyrics that recall volatile relationships and her regrets.

“I’m not making art to say this is my moral high ground and this is what I believe and agree with – I’m making art to be like, damn, this is what I’m feeling right now,” she explained. “That doesn’t mean I’m proud of those feelings, but they are what they are – and that’s just art at the end of the day.”

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