Age & Hometown: 25; Lawrenceville, New Jersey
Current Role: Serving teenage angst and bringing down the house as the young know-it-all Tamika in the off-Broadway musical Sistas.
Catching Up in College: An ardent Paula Abdul fan, young Lexi dreamed of growing up to be a dancer, but her family couldn't afford lessons. It was not until her junior year of high school, when a choir teacher nurtured her natural singing ability, that Rhoades began to consider a career in theater. “If you asked me who Patti LuPone was? I had no idea,” she says with a laugh. "The iconic musical theater stars—people I should be following like Audra McDonald, LaChanze—I had no idea who those people were going into Penn State. I had no idea you could do this for a living! I was one of the most under-informed people about musical theater, but through my four years in college, I learned all that, thank God.”
The One That We Want: A former high school Sandy in Grease, Rhoades made the top 24 in the 2007 reality show You're the One That I Want alongside Laura Osnes, Max Crumm and Ashley Spencer. The whole thing was a fluke: “I was supposed to be driving my college mentor to New York to audition, then I said, ‘I’ll audition too. Why not? They’re not going to call me back.’” But they did, and Rhoades competed in the high-stakes Grease Academy for the chance to play Sandy on Broadway. “There were a bunch of cuts that week and it was really emotional,” she recalls. “I hung out with Laura, Max and Steve Calakos. We were super-duper tight. I stayed with the grounded people and we had a great time.” Though Rhoades didn't make the final 12, she has kept up with her TV pals. “I’m still good friends with them. Laura is so amazing—the sweetest and humblest and so damn talented.”
Stormy Weather: Sistas was the job that almost got away. After pleading with her agent to get her an audition for the show, which uses iconic songs to chart the history of African-American women, Rhoades found herself stranded in Pennsylvania when Hurricane Irene hit. “I was freaking out being stuck in PA; I was like, ‘THIS IS MY ROLE! I have to get back!’” she says with a laugh. “I remember e-mailing my agents begging, ‘Please please make them see me. They have to.’” Asked why her character provoked such a strong response, Rhoades explains, “I’ve never done a role quite like this. Tamika is 18 and fiery and full of life, but she’s a teenager, so she’s rebellious. Not only does she have all these great moments, but she has this urban background, which I have, as well. She is just so much fun!”