Addison Rae Is Ready to Prove You Wrong

Culture
addison rae easterling headshot in pink shirt

Phylicia J. L. Munn

Addison Rae Easterling is really famous—and always knew she’d appear onscreen. Growing up in a constellation of small Southern towns, the 20-year-old thought a career in broadcast journalism would be just the ticket. But after three months at Louisiana State University, Easterling found TikTok, a social medium she took to immediately, attracting a mind-boggling follower count (82 million thus far) with her lip-sync videos. It wasn’t long before she was off to L.A.

Of course, internet fame doesn’t always add up to traditional stardom, but she’s unlocked that algorithm as well, landing her first major Hollywood role as Padgett, a social media influencer (naturally) in Netflix’s He’s All That (out Aug. 27), a gender-swapped remake of the 1999 teen rom-com She’s All That.

Below, Easterling opens up about channeling her own experiences to play Padgett—and why she says she has to work twice as hard to be “taken seriously.”

Your character in He’s All That is a social media influencer dealing with cancel culture and online trolls. How much did you channel your own experiences while acting?

“[Padgett] has so much growth and development in [figuring out] who she is. And I’ve had to figure that out too. At the end of the day, it’s just really about knowing who you are for yourself and you don’t really have to prove that to anyone else. That’s something my character [and I have learned]—that it doesn’t even matter what people think about me anymore; it just really matters who I know I am.

That’s the part where experience comes through. You live and you learn, and that’s how you figure out exactly how you’re going to handle [trolling] from that point on. I’ve done a lot of that. I think living and learning and figuring out what are the things that are personal and private to me, and what are the things I want to share. And then really making sure I differentiate the two, always.”

addison rae hes all that netflix

Annie Jacob, Isabella Crovetti and Addison Rae in He’s All That.

KEVIN ESTRADANetflix

What was it like preparing for your first major movie role?

“I was in acting classes probably three times a week, and doing personal coaching over Zoom as well as script analysis. [I tried to find] things I could relate to in my life and how I felt in that moment. The biggest part was being able to connect emotions and figure out exactly how I wanted to read a line or be in a scene. Delivery is the most important part. Even the day of, [before doing] a scene, I would call my acting coach Nancy, and she’d be like, ‘All right, what are you channeling today? What exactly is the mood you’re getting into? How are you going to feel? How are you delivering that line, and how is your character going through this event?’ Then I’d have to get myself in that space. I would sit in my trailer for a few hours before I’d go and do the scene and read my lines and then make sure I was mentally in that space.”

Your good friend Kourtney Kardashian cameos in the movie. How did that come about?

“It’s perfect. I’m so excited for people to see that. It definitely came about because of our friendship. And it just seemed like something so fun, so we talked about it and loved the idea of doing it.”

What actresses do you look to for inspiration?

“I love Julia Roberts, she’s one of my very favorites. Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston—she’s a classic. For sure, those three are amazing. Joey King, she’s amazing. Zendaya is so great. I’ve been watching a lot of her stuff—she really has done a lot of diverse roles recently. There are so many women in this industry that I look up to and I’m so inspired by. I also love Gwyneth Paltrow… She’s amazing. I’m definitely a fan girl, so I’m just watching and learning and observing and just studying what they do.”

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Did you always want to be on the big screen?

“Coming from a small town… I feel like a lot of people don’t normally hear someone say they want to go to Hollywood and be an actress. That’s not a very common thing. Or maybe it is something that people say, but don’t really get the chance to do. I felt like it was unattainable at the time. So I thought, my way in is to go study journalism, and I can be on TV still, but in a way where I could get a degree and then make it in a little more traditional [way]. Then I got super lucky with TikTok, and was so blessed with the chance to move to L.A.”

addison rae hes all that netflix

Madison Pettis, Myra Molloy and Addison Rae in He’s All That.

KEVIN ESTRADANetflix

Was leaving college to pursue a career in entertainment a difficult decision?

“No, I always wanted to live in L.A. I came when I was 16 years old—it was my only birthday wish. I was like, ‘Mom, please, I could even not get anything for Christmas, either. My one birthday wish is for me and my friends to go to LA.’ So we went, and I fell in love, and was like, ‘Oh, I know I’m going to live here one day.’ I hadn’t gone back since, and then when my videos were blowing up, a few people in L.A. reached out to me, and I was like, ‘I need to go. I need to go.’ So my parents supported me fully.”

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What has been the biggest adjustment since being thrust into the spotlight seemingly overnight?

“There’s no right answer for how to handle it; everyone handles it very differently. Some people are super strong, and are able to go through a lot. Others have moments of weakness. I can admit that I have moments of weakness sometimes. It’s hard to have your life under a microscope when you don’t have everything figured out yourself. I’m still learning, I’m still young. I only graduated high school in 2019, so I’m still figuring out how to handle things. For me, it was just keeping my family around me, and keeping really good friends around me—friends that I know love me and know me for me.

I also started therapy, and that is a tool for me to have an outlet and be able to speak my mind and get advice from someone who’s on the outside… I do it once a week right now. But sometimes I’ll do it twice a week if I’m having a rough time.”

How did you segue into acting after first breaking through on TikTok?

“In this industry, when you come in and get labeled as one thing… people like to keep you there. Which is understandable, and I get it, but what people don’t realize is I’ve always wanted to do acting, I’ve always wanted to do music. I’ve always wanted to do all these other things that they didn’t really get to see or know, because I just started being known when I was 19 years old. People haven’t really seen the background, or the classes I used to take and things like that. So I try to tell myself, ‘You have to work that much harder to get people to take you seriously.’”

addison rae hes all that netflix

Addison Rae and Tanner Buchanan in He’s All That.

KEVIN ESTRADANetflix

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

“My mom just tells me, ‘Remember who you are. You know who you are, and that’s all that matters.’ You can’t control anyone’s perception of you. That’s something I’ve had to accept. I’m not going to make everyone love me or like me. That is not possible—and then just not having that unrealistic expectation for myself and knowing that I’m human and if I make mistakes, I can learn from them and grow.”

You already have a beauty line, podcast, music career, and now a movie under your belt. What’s next?

“Hopefully I’ll be doing more films within the next few years and continuing to do music and growing my makeup line. All of these things are a big part of who I am. I’m super excited to continue growing and to find myself in this industry and do all the things I’m passionate about. So as long as I’m doing that, I’m super happy.”

A version of this story appears in the August 2021 issue of ELLE.

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