8:00 AM PST 11/19/2020 by Natalie Jarvey
Addison Rae was just about to start her freshman year at Louisiana State University when, on a whim, she downloaded TikTok. A lot of the girls at her dance studio were on the social video app, which in the summer of 2019 was just starting to take off in the U.S., and she soon found that her own videos of choreographed moves were attracting an audience. By the time Rae showed up at LSU, her few hundred thousand TikTok followers were enough to make her something of a campus celebrity.
"I was on the football field for orientation and one of the cheerleaders came up to me and was like, 'Hey, I know you from TikTok,'" recalls Rae, whose plan was to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. "It was a really weird experience, but I didn’t think much of it."
Everything changed when she hit 1 million TikTok followers that fall. That’s when Rae (born Addison Easterling) sat her parents down and told them she wanted to leave college and move to Los Angeles to make the most of her newfound online fame. Not only did they agree to let her go, but they soon relocated the entire family, including her two younger brothers, out west. "I had a lot of big goals that I was willing to work toward," says the 20-year-old, who under the username AddisonRe is the second-most-popular creator on TikTok, with 69 million people following her daily postings, most of which are dance and lip-sync videos. (Charli D’Amelio is tops with 99 million followers.) "And I think they trusted my instincts that I’d be able to do something with this."
Life has been a whirlwind for Rae ever since. In the past 11 months alone, she’s nabbed Hollywood representation at WME, created a clean makeup line with Madeby Collective, launched a podcast with her mom, Sheri Nicole, a TikTok star in her own right with 12 million followers, and struck up a burgeoning friendship with Kourtney Kardashian. ("She has great advice," Rae says of the reality and social media star.)
Through it all, Rae's family has been by her side. Dad Monty Lopez also has a TikTok account of his own, where he goofs off for his 4 million followers. "Not only are we working together but we're also family, so sometimes we butt heads," says Rae, noting that brothers Enzo and Lucas are warming up to platform, too. "But it's definitely helpful to have people that I trust and I know are there for me at the end of the day, no matter what."
She’s ending the year with her biggest project yet, a starring role in Miramax’s gender-flipped reboot of 1999 teen rom-com She’s All That. Though Rae will play an influencer in the film, titled He’s All That, she wasn’t just handed the part. "What's most important is having the right person in the role," says Munika Lay, vp film at Miramax, noting that Rae's social media presence (including 31.3 million Instagram followers) "signaled that she has the ability to speak to her generation."
The months-long audition process included shooting a self-tape and later reading lines in person at the home of producer Jennifer Gibgot. "I know she’s green, but she’s got the goods," says director Mark Waters. "There’s a built-in charisma that she has that makes people really respond to her, and that’s exactly what you want from a movie actor."
With filming beginning the week of Nov. 16, Rae put in the work to prepare for her first onscreen role, working out two hours a day, running through the script with her acting coach and meeting with Waters. Though the circumstances that led to her sudden rise to fame were hardly predictable, they weren’t accidental either. To hear the former competitive dancer tell it, she had Hollywood designs long before TikTok even existed. "My entire life I’ve really worked for and planned to do this," she says. "I’ve always had that inner determination to make it happen."
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.