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In fact, like her soon to be newest sibling, she was destined to be so. As the only daughter of media personality, Toya Wright and rapper, Lil’ Wayne, the 18 year old holds an important legacy in the world of entertainment but she’s trying to give it an honest to goodness go as a regular ol’ college freshman at Clark Atlanta University. This is why I find myself in the middle of Georgia on a weekend, organizing a rack of plaid clothing. Reginae shows up right on time to our shoot. If you ask me, that’s a lot to expect for a college student since it’s 9 am on a Saturday and we’re, at present, at least 40 minutes outside of the city. The location is a high school in the suburban South, which provides the most picturesque educational experience for students Monday through Friday but for this Saturday, it’s been cast in a supporting role to the real star of the show, Miss Reginae Carter.
The super petite, Gen-Zer tells me proudly that she stands at 4 feet, 11 inches with a friendly giggle when I am wide eyed about how tiny she is in person. Immediately, she’s relaxed and a lot more open than I expect, skillfully switching between various social media apps while holding polite conversation in the makeup chair. By this time, Reginae has been enrolled in traditional college for roughly three months and her every move is chronicled tirelessly by the cameras that follow her and her off-campus roommate, Zonnique Harris for the WEtv reality show, Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta. Subsequently, her activity on the aforementioned apps magnify her press coverage because it would seem that the public, including the very readers of this website, have an insatiable curiosity for just about everything she does. When I ask her what it’s like to try to find her way under a publicized microscope, she gives a natural laugh, “I never was scared of cameras. I always loved cameras, so yeah I like that attention.”
I never was scared of cameras. I always loved cameras, so yeah I like that attention.
But of course, attention, like everything, comes with a price and judging by the way that Reginae arrived on set, in a cropped hoodie, sweatpants and Fenty Puma slide sandals, she is making a concerted effort to not draw attention to herself. Similarly, the way Reginae handles campus life is incognito. She has silver screen ambitions, but, for the moment, she does not want a spotlight on her that she does not control. She’s unfortunately witnessed the negative affects of fame more often that someone her age should. “Lately, especially because of the show, a lot of people are calling me all type of names and like they’ve been calling me grown because I take up for my parents and I’ll check anybody. When they saw me on the show they just think, ‘Oh yeah she’s so stuck up’. I just be like, ‘Ugh that’s not me’, but at the end of the day I don’t really care what people say about me.” Reginae knows that people talk, that people stare. They have for her entire life but when she arrives at school, she’s there to learn. When she arrives on set, she’s there to work and she makes the line clearly known.
Reginae has a residence off-campus, a decision she made on her own and very early. She counts living independently amongst one of the many ways that college is making her a more responsible adult. “The first of the month, I got my money ready. It’s just, you know, teaching me about life and I always told my mom, ‘I’m moving out when I’m eighteen.’ That’s what’s I did because I don’t wanna be handicapped in life. I wanna know about the real world. I wanna get out there. I’m not trying to rush my age but I gotta grow up one day so you know it’s better to just start when you’re in college and you’re already on your own, nobody making you go to classes, nobody’s making you do the work.” The mass media major doesn’t just have a degree in her sights, though. “I wanna act, of course”, she says when I ask her what the end game is and when the photographer starts clicking, it is clear to see that she was not exaggerating about her love for the camera. She lights up. She smiles in almost every frame, a big toothy grin that is welcoming and endearing and not something I see when I am typically styling people in runway fashion. But while her disposition is sunny staring down the barrel of the camera lens, she is serious about her desire to act. “I’ve been in out of acting classes but now, I’m ready. I really want to build a career in acting, so that’s what. I’m just looking forward to auditioning and you know, getting turned down. I’m looking for all of that cuz that’s only going to get me stronger and ready for the real world.” Now I smile because Reginae is forcefully and adorably insistent on this concept of the “real world” partly because it is really easy to see that in spite of her best efforts, her life will always contain a degree of the surreal.
“Lately, especially because of the show, a lot of people are calling me all type of names and like they’ve been calling me grown because I take up for my parents and I’ll check anybody."
In terms of college freshmen, only the likes of Malia Obama and Yara Shahidi dominate the headlines like Reginae. Though she’s not the only one, it is still a fairly singular experience, one that alienates her from her peer group. She has a stylist. She’s had one since high school. She has hair and makeup readily available. She has security with her at all times, a precautionary measure stemming from an armed robbery incident that happened to her at age 11. On that, she says, “I’m still paranoid I don’t like waiting in cars. I don’t like being around a lot of people. If I do concerts, I have to have backstage. You know how some performers don’t have backstage and I hate it. I can’t be with too many people.” As one can imagine, this kind of lifestyle does not allow for a ton of frat parties. This doesn’t bother Reginae, though. She is emphatic about the fact that she is a good girl. She does not party and she doesn’t even want to. “I just feel like I’ve always been different, I don’t see things how people see it, I don’t try to make people like me because that’s the new wave or that’s what’s going on, so let me do it. I never followed the crowd.” It’s a refreshing confession considering that 10 years ago, the girls getting the most press were also the ones getting the most drunk, flashing their genitals and toting around DUIs like a badge of honor. Yes, 2007 was fun. But now, girls with goals are the new role models but it is important, I think, to acknowledge the fact that while Reginae is a legal adult, she is still also just a kid. “I feel like I do have a lot of pressure but I don’t let it pressure me, if you know what I mean. I feel like people put pressure on me for no reason. They don’t look at me like this little girl growing up, they look at me as Lil Wayne’s daughter and Toya’s daughter growing up. I still make mistakes. I still do things, like I’m growing up. I have to learn from my mistakes. I feel like people think that since you have fame and money, you’re different. They put pressure on me but I don’t give up and I’m a hard worker when I put my mind into something that I really want. So Imma be cool and I have great supporters: my parents.”
Speaking of her parents, it is hard to talk to Reginae without them coming up so I am relieved she is bringing them to the conversation and not I. But I do ask a pointed question about her adolescent romances. It couldn’t have been easy to bring a regular kid into that fold. She laughs easily when she tells me about her first boyfriend. “My dad did the whole nine and talked to him and then called me back and was like, ‘Yeah baby you can’t have no boyfriend.’” Ok so a boyfriend was out of the question, but it didn’t exactly put a damper on her social life. “In middle school and high school, I mean I’ve always been like the popular kid. Like everybody always knew like oh she’s Lil Wayne’s daughter, she’s Toya’s daughter blah blah. So they’ve always did the most, so I never really got bullied or anything. My father was already a star when I was born, so I was raised into this and that’s what people don’t understand.” And now, the whole family is made up of stars. The BET reality show, Tiny and Toya, made Toya Wright a household name. And now Toya, who had Reginae at age 16, is now 36 and has a new baby on the way. “I always say that me and my mom grew up together because I saw her like growing as well. Like my mom has grown so much and that’s why I respect my mother as a woman. Because though I was young, I did see like dramatic changes. Not like she was like a bad mother or anything, but it’s like growth maturity and it’s amazing how great my mother is through the things that she’s been through. It’s crazy. I can’t wait to see her again as a mother. That baby will be satisfied.” Reginae is taking her job as a big sis super seriously and plans on raising the baby with her mother. Several times she says “we”, like a new couple expecting. And while she had a generally very happy childhood, I think people would be surprised to know that she didn’t live some sort of elaborate fantasy life. “Well one thing about [spoiling me] though my parents didn’t; they still kept me humble at the same time. It wasn’t like to the point where it was like, ‘Okay Nae want it, she gotta get it.’ Like no it’s like, ‘Why do you want this? Like whatchu gon’ do? Like honestly. I always had good grades. I always did my stuff. The only thing my momma had a problem with was cleaning up. I’m not messy I’m not up to par to her standards. No her standards, it’s like she’s crazy. But now, because all of that nagging she did about me cleaning up, my house and my room stay clean so...” She trails off, letting the idea that good parenting pays off ruminate.
In the past year, she’s found herself on the receiving end of a lot of criticism for speaking up on behalf of her parents on social media. In particular, she found herself in some hot water over social media beef between Tamar Braxton, Tiny Harris and her own mother. But Reginae is not without self-reflection and she understands her personality traits that might get her into trouble. “I have a flip mouth. I’m not gon’ lie I do. I mean I’m getting better with my mouth. My mouth used to be bad when I was younger .You know I’m a Sag. Look up some Sagittarius [traits]. We be real smart at the mouth.” Even still, with a birthday coming up, she is excited to move on from that negativity and is always looking up and to the future. She asks me if I’ve seen the show Gossip Girl. Um yes, I’m young too, thanks. She says, “I want to have a royal sleepover. You know, Blair? She had a royal sleepover, I wanna do that, I wanna have a royal sleepover. I wanna go to the thrift store or something and get like a whole bunch of crazy, cute clothes and have like my stylist come and dress us and style us like you know cute, and have a photographer. I just want like a royal sleepover, have little mattress beds. I just really like that scene and so I want that. I don’t want anything big, I have had a big big party like every year and I’m getting older so just chill till I’m twenty-one.” This reminds me that Reginae is indeed just 18. It’s a sweet idea for a party and even sweeter that she is borrowing the idea from her favorite TV show. She tells me that she watches this one in particular over and over again. But when Reginae watches shows, she doesn’t do so purely for entertainment. She is studying (and getting birthday party inspiration). She wants to know how to become a better actress.
Since she is already famous, it would of course, be a very natural transition to end up in Hollywood but she lets me know that she is not in a rush on that front. She really does want to finish school and that’s a major priority for her, stressing that she is doing this because her parents never had the opportunity to. But the level of scrutiny that she is under doesn’t exactly make anything easy. She is still un-phased by it, however, which I guess you have to be. “Yeah I’ve had a lot of people say things about me. If you didn’t know when I was eight-years old I died in a car accident. It was everywhere. My dad called my momma crying and everything. It was just a rumor. It’s crazy. I had to get on the radio, [to say] like you guys, no I’m here. Like it’s just people go crazy for some money and for news, for any type of drama or any type of thing in the news and the tabloids. That’s how it happens.” At the same time, it is not all negative. Because of her enormous following, Reginae has several different types of endorsement deals, which undoubtedly help her pay her rent in that off campus apartment. And of course, there are her fans. Reginae is charmingly a fan herself, so she doesn’t hold it against those who want photos with her. She confesses, “It’s not weird because I really feel like I know Rihanna. And like I know her, like I met her plenty of times and stuff but it’s like I just feel like she my sister.”
Rihanna is literally the background image on Reginae’s phone and she is currently sitting across from me wearing shoes that the singer designed so I know this is not an exaggeration. She continues, “So I don’t really think it’s weird. Like I had someone come to me and cry like I just feel like, ‘Wow, like what did I do?’. That’s just so great, so you know? If I could just have that, that’s cool like that’s some real fans, real fans that support you.”
I have a flip mouth. I’m not gon’ lie I do. I mean I’m getting better with my mouth. My mouth used to be bad when I was younger .You know I’m a Sag. Look up some Sagittarius [traits]. We be real smart at the mouth.
So far, it seems like her real fans do support her, and like her parents, that’s pretty much all she needs. I ask her about her dating life and she’s, for the first time, shy. “I remember my first time that The Shade Room ever posted something of me and my personal relationship with my ex. Like the girl I D-Med her or whatever and she posted [it]. She sent it to The Shade Room and it was everywhere.” That’s not exactly an answer but I understand why she would be hesitant. She smiles coyly, “I have a friend but you know, no one would ever know about him because with my last relationship, I felt like once you put something out into the world, that’s when people start to have ulterior motives and some people don’t really want you to be happy. Once you put a relationship out, you know girls want your man and boys liking the attention so they wanna follow this and it’s just too much.” This is perhaps the same reasoning behind the fact that Toya Wright’s baby daddy is a also mystery. But it’s not just a fear of the press that keeps her guarded on this particular subject. Reginae tells me that she’s been betrayed by friends before and has no interest in putting herself out there just to be openly attacked. “I got played twice, when I turned sixteen by my best friend, and I started meeting some opportunists and people that wear masks. That taught me to really not let no one in, cuz they were my real close friends.” It seems sad but it’s ultimately a lesson we all learn one way or another. She’s just more careful now. Not that much older, but certainly wiser. “That’s why like growing up I had to really be careful with everything that I do. Say for instance the thing that happened at Clark, the um little fight or whatever that they had. I was not a part of that. But since I was there, my name, it got bigger than what it was supposed to be. Since that person knew who I was, they wanted to start to drama so it’s like I just gotta look out for things like that. I know how to turn the cheek.”
That probably means you can expect more silence from Reginae in the future as she starts to protect her privacy and herself more. She’s learned the hard way that a screenshot is forever, that friends can become enemies and that being famous doesn’t mean you’re untouchable. Still, what I admire most about her is her unwavering resilience. She knows this characteristic will not only help her on her quest to finish school, but also on her mission to jumpstart a career on the big (or silver) screen. “I don’t give up. So as many times [as I get knocked down], they gonna be like, ‘You back again?’ Yup, let me show you how I do it now.” That, and her optimism. That smile is a constant and while most teens are prone to moody brooding, Reginae flashes those pearly whites frequently. Maybe that’s a carryover from her cheerleading days, a sport she competitively participated in for much of her youth, like a ballerina who never loses her perfect posture, Reginae’s smile will be perma-plastered. But having spent a full day with her, I can tell she really tries to look on the bright side. She says, “My family and my friends, I love hard. I really care for people and love hard and just basically where I wanna be in life, I think about that all the time. How I wanna better myself as a person, I’m a great person but I feel like, you know, nothing wrong with changing yourself. I feel like as I grow up, I can kind of control how I react to things. Like I don’t react to things real good, especially if I feel tried, so I try you know I’m getting better with that.” This amount of self-awareness is so rare in someone her age that it stuns me when she says it. How many 18 year olds do you know that want to better themselves as a person? Well, for me it’s one. For that and so many other reasons, Reginae Carter is more than a model student.