Dara Reneé Hopes Her HSMTMTS Song Helps People Struggling with Anxiety Know 'They Are Not Alone'

·3 min read
DARA RENEÉ, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES - “The Woman in the Woods“
DARA RENEÉ, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES - “The Woman in the Woods“

Anne Marie Fox/Disney

Dara Reneé is raising her voice on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

In the latest season 3 episode, Reneé's Kourtney grapples with her anxiety through a powerful ballad titled "Here I Come," which was penned by the actress.

After watching her costars Joshua Bassett and Olivia Rodrigo write original songs for the series, Reneé, 21, tells PEOPLE she was inspired to create her own music for her character.

"Seeing Olivia and Josh write their songs, I was like, 'I didn't even know we had a ball in the court. Hold on.' They made such beautiful music and I was joking with [creator Tim Federle] like, 'Hey if you ever need somebody to write for Kourtney or need a little hip-hop or some choir stuff up in there, holler at me.'" To her surprise, he took her up on her offer.

"He just gave me such an amazing opportunity and put me with great people," she says. "We just created something that was so true to not only Kourtney's storyline, but my real-life personal storyline that I deal with on the daily."

JOSHUA BASSETT, JULIA LESTER, DARA RENEÉ, FRANKIE A. RODRIGUEZ, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES - “Into the Unknown”
JOSHUA BASSETT, JULIA LESTER, DARA RENEÉ, FRANKIE A. RODRIGUEZ, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES - “Into the Unknown”

Anne Marie Fox/Disney

Dealing with anxiety herself, Reneé notes that Kourtney's song was inspired by her own personal struggles in high school and how she dealt with the "pressures of having to be perfect" and trying to fit in.

"The song is for those who are struggling mentally, emotionally and physically. I want them to know that they are not alone and that it's going to be okay," she says.

"I know how cliché it sounds, but if you continue to see yourself and do it for yourself, it may take a minute, but as long as you start that journey towards wellness, everything is going to turn up. I just wanted to say, 'Here I come. This is not going to hurt me. I'm doing it for myself. I'm going to make it. I'm going get through it because I was born to be brave and I was born to not be scared and be strong.'"

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In portraying Kourtney on screen, especially as her character plays Elsa in Frozen this season, one of Reneé's biggest goals is to be the representation for young girls of color that she didn't have growing up.

"To be that person and to actually have people be like, 'Oh my gosh, you look like me. Your hair is like mine,' it just makes my heart so happy. To be able to be that person and to play the first televised black Elsa is wild. It's so funny, my little cousins' favorite princess is Elsa and they would always be sad because they were like, 'I'll never look like Elsa' and now that I'm Elsa, they're like, 'I can be Elsa.'"

DARA RENEÉ, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES - "No Drama"
DARA RENEÉ, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES - "No Drama"

Anne Marie Fox/Disney

As Reneé adds "songwriter" to her already impressive résumé, she teases that she has even more new music coming very soon. "As I say in the song, I've only just begun," she adds. "I really am excited for people to see me in that light and to see that I do love to write music."

Looking even further toward the future, Reneé hopes to continue to establish herself not only as a musician but as a creator. "I have so many inspirations like Issa Rae, Ava DuVernay and Oprah [Winfrey]. So I really want to have my hand in everything. I would love to write a book or write a script, or I'd love to design fashion, do some makeup products or hair products. So I'm just dipping my toes in and I can't wait to put a whole leg in. It's only the beginning."

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New episodes of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series drop Wednesdays on Disney+.