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Embracing Authenticity: Reneé Rapp’s Coming Out Journey and Being Unapologetically Herself

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Written by Sarah Swan

In a world where a lot of celebrities are still forced to hide who they are, it’s incredibly special to see someone who’s unapologetically herself like Reneé Rapp. It’s not easy coming to terms with your own sexuality, and it’s much, much harder to do that when you’re under the scrutiny of the public eye.

Actress and singer Reneé Rapp initially came out as bisexual and was met with loads of love and support. She was already considered to be iconic in the queer community for her role in The Sex Lives Of College Girls, where she plays Leighton. For those of you who have never seen the show, Leighton is a rich, popular girl who seems to have it all, but behind closed doors she’s struggling with her sexuality. Leighton feels the need to hide her true identity to meet the expectations of her status. Meeting other women in secret, publicly dating men and faking interest in them, all this to keep the image she needs to keep for her family’s sake. Leighton’s story is a touching and relatable story for everyone who struggles with their sexuality. The way Reneé plays Leighton touched the hearts of many people, quickly becoming people’s favorite actress and character of the show.

Leighton turned out to be so much more for Reneé than everyone thought, including Reneé herself. Everyone shrugged their shoulders when she came out as bisexual – as it should be – but loads of people were a little taken aback when she started referring to herself as a lesbian, earlier this year. She came out already, now she’s coming out again? Why did she change her mind?

But that’s the thing: Reneé didn’t ‘change her mind; she didn’t wake up one day and felt like changing her sexuality. Sexuality isn’t an ice cream flavor. Reneé was always a lesbian, she simply found out later she was one. And she isn’t afraid of saying it. She isn’t afraid of the world lesbian, she’s just herself.

In a recent interview for THR (The Hollywood Reporter), she spoke about how hard and pivotal the role of Leighton was for her. “It is so interesting that at the time I wasn’t even aware that what I was experiencing in my own personal life was actually exactly what I was doing onscreen. I was in a relationship with a man, incredibly confused, unsure of myself, feeling so insecure in my acting. And I watched the scene the other day, and I was like, ‘Wow, I feel so lucky to have that.’” She continued talking about how complex the process was. “I think it made it a lot easier in ways that pissed me off but I’m also really grateful for. That [show] was the most parallel experience in my life, and I remember doing that specific coming-out scene and not acting at all. At all. I was just sobbing. I see that and I don’t see a character. I’m like, “That’s me.”

Reneé recently went viral during the promo of the recent Mean Girls movie, where she plays the iconic Regina George. Throughout all the interviews, she was unapologetically herself, she said what was on her mind and people loved her. In the music industry, we are very used to seeing neat, very curated images and personas. Oftentimes, what we see is a warped version of that artist based on what their management thinks will bring the most money, no matter if that’s detrimental to the artist’s personal life. If the people in charge say you must be doing cartwheels on stage to go viral, then that’s what you will do.

But Reneé didn’t care about media training, curated personas and all that. She just wants to be herself. And that’s what is clicking with people. Not only her personality is genuinely fun and easy to connect with, but she is just that relatable. And whether this could be another marketing strategy, it doesn’t matter. When Reneé casually said she was a lesbian on a skit for SNL, people had questions. Reneé also posted a video on socials lip syncing to these lyrics “Now my tummy hurts, he’s in love with her, But for what it’s worth, They’d make beautiful babies” from her song ‘Tummy Hurts’. The title of the video was “Writing this then coming out as a lesbian, I contain multitudes.” further confirming she no longer identifies as bisexual.

Before coming out as a lesbian, Reneé talked about gray areas on the Jay Shetty Podcast, about sexuality and identity. She stated, “Over the last 6 or 7 months I have become less gray, but I try to […] view the gray area, or times when I’m struggling for a label, I’ll go through conversations with my girlfriend ‘I actually feel incredibly not bisexual right now’ and I’m just going to try to view it as a little pink area and it’s all good, it’s all cool, it’s pink, it’s good. It’s good whatever it is. If I one day feel like this label or whatever or lack thereof doesn’t suit me then that’s great and that doesn’t suit me. […] But I view it as a little pink area. It’s just good. I’m trying not to be so angry with myself about it, I struggle to want a rhyme and a reason and a label and a season to make sense every single day and I’m just not there and I don’t think a lot of people are. So I think it’s fine.”

In other words, the way Reneé talks about her sexuality and the way she nonchalantly views who she is, sends an important message not only to the community, but to everyone who’s watching: queer people are constantly discovering themselves and that’s okay.
It is okay if the way you identify yourself changes as you grow and discover yourself. Many of us, like Reneé, are forced to fake who we truly are. Maybe we feel like our label needs to be different, or maybe we haven’t discovered it yet. Both of these options are okay. It doesn’t matter if tomorrow you find that another label fits you better. It’s okay to discover yourself. We are all on this journey even if it seems like we’re set.
Moral of the story, artists being themselves and just existing must just be one of the loudest things there is. And I’m hoping everyone who’s currently unable to show who they truly are, is able to break this curse soon.



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