Hands up who remembers their favourite primary school teacher? At the age of 44, I still do – a Miss Murtagh from third class, and how she made us laugh and instilled a love of writing which exists for me to this day.
I was reminded of her this week when speaking to Kayleigh Trappe, who is known to hundreds of thousands on social media as a comical lipsyncing genius, having mimicked celebrities from Peter Crouch and Abbey Clancy to Patrick Kielty and Simon Cowell.
However, for a swathe of little six and seven-year-olds in Monaghan town, this 28-year-old beauty is Miss Trappe, their senior infant teacher. Although Kayleigh made the difficult decision to take a career break from teaching this summer to concentrate on her passion for performance, I can only imagine how much her little pupils loved her, driven as she was to ‘entertaining’ them.
‘That was huge for me, making them laugh,’ she says, in her soft Monaghan lilt. ‘I was that teacher who loved to get kids out of their comfort zone and get creative and free. I think we expect a lot of serious stuff from children today and I just wanted to get their fun side showing,’ she says. ‘I loved to get them involved in plays and panto and I’d be the kids favourite characters; they loved that.’
Of course while the kids were enthralled by impressions of Cinderella and Elf, their parents were in stitches at Kayleigh’s wry impersonations of everyone from Roy Keane to Coleen Rooney and Charlotte Tilbury.
‘It was a tricky one to manage,’ she laughs, on keeping her online content family-friendly. ‘I was trying to figure out the line between being professional in teaching and not using bad language and that then obviously being an online personality, and I learned I was able to do both,’ she says, crediting the support from her school to give her the space to chase her dreams. ‘I was honestly so lucky.’
The word influencer conjures up both positive and negative connotations but for Kayleigh, carving her own social media path, her priority was to be a role model that her little pupils – and indeed any of her followers – could aspire to.
Kayleigh’s focus on being a meaningful inspiration for tomorrow’s generation has deep roots. Being a performer has been a long-held dream since she was a little girl who loved to entertain her family and friends. But, as she heartbreakingly reveals, this was ‘always behind closed doors’.
As a child struggling with her weight into adolescence and her college years, Kayleigh says she was plagued with self doubt and as a result pursued teaching as an alternative career to a deep desire to act and perform. She recalls an incident when she did manage to summon the courage to audition for a part of Fame at the age of ten.
‘It was all going ok until I started dancing and I remember a couple of girls poking their head under the curtain and pointing and me and laughing, I ran for the hills,’ she says. But 13 years later, she bravely returned to the same stage which she had fled to audition for a role.
‘The director just stared at me open-mouthed and said: “Where have you been?” and I said to her, “Let me tell you a story”,’ says Kayleigh, smiling. ‘I had no confidence in myself, and didn’t believe that performing would be an option for me because of how I looked and, more importantly, felt,’ says Kayleigh frankly.
She is candid about the turning point that came in her life five years ago, when she developed a love for exercise and making healthy eating choices, and lost 6st. ‘I used to get angry at other people for the way they treated me and that they won’t give me opportunities because I’m fat,’ she says.
‘I literally had a lightbulb moment one day when I realised that the only person who could do anything about it was me. I knew I had to change my life myself. So when I did, it was honestly as simple as a balanced diet and discovering exercise. I never moved my body at all before that, and now I’m a passionate advocate for exercise,’ she says, adding that she joined her local football club this year and started playing GAA.
Kayleigh says her early experience of being mocked was so devastating she ‘probably wasted a good 13 years of shows and performances’ but deduces that it just wasn’t the time for her to shine.
That came during lockdown, when she truly discovered her groove, experimenting initially with nothing but her phone, lipsyncing on TikTok, and this time afforded her the opportunity to practice and be in control of her performing future.
It was when she posted a hilarious clip of herself parodying Joanne McNally in a clip from popular podcast My Therapist Ghosted Me that she essentially became an overnight sensation.
‘That was the big one,’ she remembers of the iconic ‘Dubarry’ skit. ‘I had about 13,000 followers and I went to bed and all I could hear was my phone pinging. Joanne had posted it on her page and I when I woke up the next day I had over 60,000 followers, it was mad.’
@kayleightrappe “Dubarrys” …My Therapist Ghosted me Podcast 🙌🏻 #fyp #foryou #comedу @voguewilliams @joannemcnallycomedy ♬ original sound – Vogue Williams
These days, any insecurities Kayleigh might have had in the past have gone, and this confident young woman is thriving – in her personal life too, having met her boyfriend around lockdown (‘he’s a wonderful support’).
Kayleigh is currently training with Louise Kiely, a leading casting director, on how to position herself for a presenting or acting role. She had the best fun recently on the Two Johnnies podcast. You can expect her to pop up for some Late Late Toy Show action next Friday too.
With her down-to-earth, warm and empathic nature, Kayleigh is a beacon in what can often be a toxic social media world. She doesn’t mind being called an influencer – in fact, it’s a job she takes very seriously.
‘We are called influencers but I take the title literally as I really want to be the best influence to kids that I can,’ she says. ‘Obviously, we’re all going to make mistakes in this world. But I think things through very carefully before I take them on, because I want to make sure that I am influencing in the right way. Young people nowadays don’t need any more pressure on them. I want to bring a laugh but I also want to share my story and show them anything is possible.’