Creating a Mash Up of the Life That She Craves

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As a musician and songwriter, Lani Renaldo fuses rock, pop, jazz and electronica to create a unique sound. She lives her life with the same collaborative energy, mashing up interests from every corner.

Just one year into college at the University of Southern California, Lani has released an EP, written for The Huffington Post, and had an article she penned featured on Good Morning America.

We sat down with this budding journalist and musician to learn about what a professor told her that inspired her to pursue writing. She also shares with us the experience that deepened her commitment to combatting teen issues like suicide, bullying and eating disorders.

What’s something unique about your story?

My story is unique because I never set out to be a journalist, or a musician for that matter.

For the longest time, I thought I would move to the East Coast and live life trying to be an actress. When the opportunity came to write for HuffPost Teen, I jumped at it because I thought it would be something fun to do on the side. As it turned out, it became a huge part of my life and has continued to open several doors for me and my endeavors.

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What’s something that not many people know about you that has defined who you are?

For a year, I volunteered at an organization called Teen Line. At Teen Line, teens give support to teens in crisis, answering texts, emails and phone calls. The work I did their shaped me into a more empathetic human being and developed and deepened my commitment to combat issues like suicide, bullying, and eating disorders.

During high school you participated in a program at Harvard. Tell us about that experience.

I applied to Harvard’s Secondary School Program for high school sophomores and juniors on a whim. My time there served as a definite period of growth. I was the only 17-year-old in my journalism class.

While there, I studied journalism with Ya’akov Katz. He compared me to Penny Lane from Cameron Crowe’s film, “Almost Famous”. That moment was such a huge click for me because it felt true. His words allowed me to develop my skills as a writer and a deep thinker. It was in that moment that I decided I would try out journalism on a more serious level. I threw myself into my assignments with greater energy and focus. I continued to write for HuffPost Teen and I’m so happy I did.

What’s been your favorite experience at the University of Southern California thus far?

My favorite experience of college thus far has definitely been living with seven other people. Dorm life is truly unique in that you have a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world who have had completely different experiences than your own.

The thought of living with seven girls scared me at first, but now I say the more the merrier! My room has been a haven of safety and fun, because of the close bonds I’ve developed with my suitemates and friends that always seem to stop by.

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What will make college worth it for you?

I’m mostly concerned about living my life to the fullest and taking advantage of all the opportunities around me. It may sound cliche, but coming out of college and expecting a job is nice, but not the only expectation of mine. I hope to have grown as a person and learned to live a more positive lifestyle and to inspire and contribute to that in others.

We know that you’d love to have Amy Poehler at your dream dinner party. Who else would make the cut?

  1. Ilana Glazer – She’s incredibly funny on Comedy Central’s Broad City, but I also admire her ability to create a web show and turn it into a cable phenomenon. She would make dinner super funny.
  2. Este Haim – She’s got a great bass face and makes rad tunes. She would bring a great playlist to the dinner party. Enough said.
  3. Chimamanda Ngozi-Adiche – Beyond being an incredibly insightful person, I think Chimamanda raises awareness to issues among gender and culture that serve to educate the masses. She would provide a great conversation for the dinner.
  4. President Barack Obama – Because who wouldn’t want to dine with the president?


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