When we look at the music industry today, we’re often shown the expensive clothes, glamorous jewelry, homes way too big for one person to live in and large amounts of cash the average person will probably never make in their lifetime. But who is the artist without the material things? Who is the person without the stage name, fake accent and colorful wigs.
In the hit ABC show Queens, this is the life of Lauren “Lil Muffin” Rice, an up-and-coming rapper who has it all; the fame, the entourage, the money, the wigs and persona that screams “look at me, I have it all.” However, we soon learn all the music industry glitters in front of us is not always gold. Lauren “Lil Muffin” Rice is facade, an image carefully curated by a team of men who decide everything from her look to her sound to even the hospital they force her out of when she overdoses.
In and out of rehab, she gravitates to The Nasty Bitches who see a reflection of their own highs and lows at her age. But who is Lil Muffin really and what happened to the young woman formerly known as Lauren Rice? The character of Lauren “Lil Muffin” Rice’s is a powerful statement and representation of what the industry and fame does to women and the impact women can make when they find the strength within themselves and with each other.
The Koalition spoke to the superb actress Pepi Sonuga about portraying Lauren “Lil Muffin” Rice; asking who is Lauren Rice when Lil Muffin is stripped away, what was really going on in the character’s mind during that overdose scene, the relationship with the Nasty Bitches (now known as Queens) and more.
“Lauren Rice is an onion that we’re going to just keep unraveling and unraveling and she’s so many different things. She’s going to be someone you relate to, someone who is strong in some instances, someone who needs help; she’s all of us. As much as I love playing Lil Muffin, I’m really excited for people to see the girl behind the mask.”
“Muffin didn’t grow up being the cool girl, she definitely was bullied a lot in school, she doesn’t have a lot of those close friendship and that’s where Muffin stems from, that’s where this splash colorful person stems from. Sometimes when we don’t feel comfortable in who we actually are we go so hard in the other direction. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t have close people around her. I think she might be afraid of being found out. Like she said in the second episode, she doesn’t want to talk to them about who Lauren is, it’s almost like a fear. If you get to know Lauren are you still going to love me.”
“I think her gravitating towards the Queens, at first she was really nervous and she doesn’t want anyone getting close because, ‘If you get close are you still going to think I’m cool? I’m not as cool as you guys. You guys are legends even though I wasn’t there for your legendary things, but I’ve heard about it, you’re going to think I’m weak and I’m lame.’ That’s how she feels but eventually she does want that connection, especially with women. She never had that.”
Creating the persona of Lil Muffin is more than just fitting the mold to become a great artist; it’s about escapism from a life Lauren Rice never wants to experience again. Muffin is a character created from pain, a past Lauren is always running away from and hoping to erase. But what has this life cost Lil Muffin? She has no real friends. She doesn’t talk about her family and because of the weight of becoming someone else she’s losing who she once; denying Lauren the abilty to grow into her authentic self.
“Muffin is 100% running away from Lauren. I think Lauren represents someone who never got attention, someone who was bullied, someone who didn’t leave an impact in the world, that never showed up for herself and Muffin is completely opposite of that. Muffin is someone who is at the top of her game, she’s the hottest rapper out right now and no one can tell Muffin anything. I think Muffin does not ever want to be in the position where she doesn’t feel good enough, and that’s who Lauren always was and that’s lame to Muffin.”
Fortunately, with this new stint in rehab, things might not be so bleak for Lauren. Given the right tools to face down her demons, Lauren’s voice could become the most powerful and build a proper foundation in what Lil Muffin has to say about her life and how this industry treats women like her and the Queens.
“I think Lauren has a lot to say lyrically. We haven’t established that Muffin is a good singer or any of that. Maybe Lauren even started off being an incredible poet, maybe when she was bullied she stayed up at night writing poems and I think that just wasn’t cool enough and she didn’t feel confident enough but she found that when can make it Harajuku and talk in funny voices like Nicki Minaj, she thought ‘wow, that’s really cool.’ I think eventually we’re going to get to see that Lauren maybe has even more to offer to the music.”
To learn more about Pepi Sonuga, the music behind Queens, what’s next for Lauren “Lil Muffin” Rice and her thought about who she thinks the mysterious gun-person is after check out our full interview below.