After dominating the charts with hits like 2017’s “Meant to Be” and 2018’s “I’m a Mess,” the 32-year-old musician is set to make her acting debut in the comedy film “Queenpins,” starring Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste.
“Music has always been my first love,” says Rexha, who got her start writing songs for Selena Gomez, Eminem and other artists before charting her own singing career. “But I read the script — it kind of fell into my lap — and I loved it.”
In “Queenpins,” the bubbly pop star transforms into the no-nonsense Tempe Tina, an Arizona-based identity thief who schools Connie (Bell) and Jojo (Howell-Baptiste) in the art of launching a multimillion-dollar coupon scam. This marks Rexha’s first on-camera film role (she previously voiced a character in the 2019 animated movie “UglyDolls”).
Ahead of the film’s Friday release, Rexha got candid with USA TODAY about her nerves before shooting, the sugary acting advice she got from Bell and her advocacy for body positivity.
Question: Congrats on your acting debut! Did you have any nerves going into filming?
Bebe Rexha: The night before I really couldn’t sleep, and I kind of felt a little sick to my stomach. It’s like before you take a big test in school or an interview. Everyone was so kind and wanted to make me feel comfortable.
Q: “Queenpins” follows two coupon enthusiasts who get caught up in a criminal coupon scheme. Have you ever been on the coupon hustle?
Rexha: Oh yeah, I’ve definitely found some promo codes off some websites, but for some reason, 95% of them never work. But I love a good buy one, get one free. That’s kind of my vibe. I love saving at the supermarket. I’m not an avid couponer where I’m a psycho about it, but who doesn’t like saving money?
Q: Did Bell or Howell-Baptiste give you any tips on set?
Rexha: I was super nervous, but they made me feel so calm. They were like, “We are not going to leave you here. Let’s get the take that you’re happy with. We’ll be here.” They were so patient with me, and it was not what I was expecting. I mean, I wasn’t expecting them to be divas, but they’re movie stars. They gave me some funny advice. We were like eight hours (into filming one day), and Kristen told me to have something sweet to spike up my blood sugar and get my energy going. I don’t know how many Raisinets and M&M’s I had.
Q: Wow, I’ll keep that tip in mind for my next interview.
Rexha: Yeah, it really works! Like, five, three minutes before, you get just a little something sugary, like a Jolly Rancher. It really helps.
Q: You’ve been open on TikTok about getting dropped from a record label earlier in your career. How do you navigate the ups and downs of the music industry?
Rexha: You have to look at life as a roller coaster. When there’s highs and lows, I think you got to step away from it and enjoy what it is and not be on the ride and losing yourself. Now, is it OK to feel sad if something doesn’t work out? Yes. I’ve put out songs that didn’t do well. I put out songs that were number one for 50 weeks on the country charts. But it’s about knowing how to ride these highs and lows and not letting them define you, even if it is a hit. It’s just part of your journey and a blessing.
Q: What inspired you to be so vocal about body positivity on TikTok and how do you hope to influence your fans?
Rexha: What inspired me is an overwhelming sense of negativity, not only from people on the internet but from myself. Everybody has a story. Everybody has struggles. Everybody’s going through something we don’t know about. What’s the point of making yourself feel bad and making others feel bad? To me, that’s just a waste of life, and we only have one life to live, so we might as well live it and enjoy what we have in the moment.
Q: Sometimes you’ll respond to someone who leaves a negative comment about your body, like you did in one TikTok about the dark circles under your eyes. How do you decide when to respond to negativity and when to let it go?
Rexha: It’s honestly always better to let it go and not let it affect you, but I am human, and it’s hard for me to keep my tongue to myself. Sometimes I do like a good “(expletive) you, back off” comment, but it really doesn’t go anywhere. With that comment, I just responded with a video saying, “I think (my dark circles) are beautiful, and they’re a part of me.” I think when people see that they go, “Oh my God, she sees this comment. It’s part of who she is, and she is unapologetic about it.” That’s what I think we need to see more of.
Q: What can the entertainment industry, and specifically the music industry, do to be more body positive?
Rexha: Just celebrate and push artists of all shapes, sizes, colors — every type of background. That’s why I think it’s really cool that we have the wave of K-Pop coming into the United States. But it’s about gatekeepers really opening the doors, not just because something is a hot trend of the moment. People really want to see all people win and not just artists of the same mold, because that’s, number one, unhealthy, and, number two, it’s just not real. People want real.
Q: Do you have any music plans you can tease for your fans?
Rexha: I’ve honestly just been traveling a lot and working on a lot of other artist’s projects. It’s all just writing. I’ve just been trying to get back into my roots and doing what I love and why I got into this industry. And to me, I’m just writing to find my love for it. I’m going back to my basics right now.
Q: Any chance we’ll see you on the big screen again?
Rexha: If the right script, the right role, comes my way, and I feel like I’m aligned with it, I’m so down.