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Rena Riffel is an American actress, singer, model, writer, producer, and director. She is best known for her supporting roles in films such as Showgirls, Striptease, and Mulholland Drive.

Childhood and Early Career

Rena Riffel was born March 5, 1969 in Inglewood, Californiamarker. When she was two years old her family moved from Playa Del Reymarker to Atascaderomarker. Her father’s side of the family came from the music business and vaudeville in South Bend, Indianamarker and included a father who studed tap dancing and acrobatic ballet, a grandmother who was an accomplished singer, and a great grandmother who was a professional opera singer. Her mother is an accomplished accordion player and has performed with Myron Floran and Lawrence Welk.

From an early age, Riffel enjoyed horseback riding, competing in rodeo barrel racing, and acting in home productions with her brother Todd. By age five, Riffel knew she was going to be an actress. Performing in her first dance recital at age four, Riffel continued to study ballet, jazz, and tap. She also began taking vocal lessons and sang in a children’s all-girl group who performed locally at church events.

At age 11, she landed her first acting and dance part in a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I at the Paso Robles Playhouse. Riffel’s parents began driving her down to Los Angeles at age 15 to take acting classes for commercials and to attend acting seminars. Riffel also excelled as a cheerleader and was appointed head song leader and choreographer for Atascadero High School during her senior year.

In 1987, the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce chose Riffel as Miss Atascadero to compete in the San Luis Obispo Mid-State Fair Pageant where she was crowned Princess of the Mid-State Fair.After graduating high school, Riffel briefly enrolled in college where she was a pre-med major, but left early on in order to pursue an acting career. She moved to Los Angeles where she auditioned for dance parts, modeled for Catalina Swimwear, and landed a handful of minor roles in movies and television. Riffel began studying acting with Floyd Levine and dance with Marguerite Derricks. She auditioned at the Rodunsky School of Dance where she earned a scholarship.

While at a restaurant, she was spotted by a scout for Elite Model Agency and was signed immediately. She then began modeling for major brands such as Joe Boxer, Avon, and Joico hair products.

Riffel landed her first film role in the horror thriller film Satan’s Princess (1990) with Academy Award nominated Robert Forster. During this time, Riffel also pursued her dream of being a recording artist. Determined to get a record deal, she recorded a demo and was signed to Mercury/Polygram records by Ed Eckstein. Her record was unreleased due to the company merger.

Riffel was cast in a one-time role on the television series “Freshman Dorm” opposite a young Casper Van Dien and in the film Batman Returns as one of the Penguin’s Girls with Danny DeVito. She landed her first featured role opposite Patrick Stewart in the 1994 action movie Gunmen. She was also featured in the made for TV movie Sinatra playing May Britt, the wife of Sammy Davis, Jr. as well as the television series Quantum Leap. Riffel also began modeling for Robinsons-May and appeared in a Clio Award and Telly Award winning Fantastic Sams commercial, both of which contributed to her recognition.

Riffel then began studying the Meisner Technique at Playhouse West, where she was a classmate of Ashley Judd.

While working on her music, Riffel was asked to sing a song called “Spaceeba” for the 1992 film Back in the USSR starring Roman Polanski and Frank Whaley. She was invited to visit the set in Moscow, Russiamarker where she played the song to the Russian audience and received a standing ovation.

Riffel booked her first lead role as twins Meg/Julie Hudson in the 1994 independent film Art Deco Detective directed by Phillippe Mora and attended the 1994 Cannes Film Festivalmarker screening of the film, where it was very well received. She also landed the role of Rain in the 1995 thriller Undercover Heat, which opened at #1 in the U.K.


Riffel landed her breakthrough role in the 1995 film Showgirls starring Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon, and Kyle McLachlan. Initially reading for the lead role of Cristal Connors, Riffel was cast in the supporting role of Penny/Hope after director Paul Verhoeven decided that she was too young to play an aging showgirl.

While on the set of Showgirls, Riffel approached the music supervisor with a song she recorded, “Deep Kiss.” The music supervisor tested the song on the production office (without telling them it had been written by one of the actresses) to determine if it was suitable for the film. Director Paul Verhoeven listened to the song and decided to include it in the lap dance scene at the Cheetah strip club.

Although an initial box office failure, Showgirls enjoyed success in the home video market, generating more than $100 million in video rentals and became one of MGM’s top 20 all-time best sellers.

For the 2004 re-release as a DVD Limited Edition Box Set, Riffel, along with cast members Lin Tucci and Patrick Bristow, had their hand prints and names put in cement in front of the Hollywood Vista Theater at the red carpet event where they were also interviewed by Access Hollywood. Riffel and Bristow were also special guests at Peaches Christ's Midnight Mass midnight screening of Showgirls in 2008 in San Francisco, California. They were interviewed on stage after the live performance of the Goddess volcano dance performed by drag queens in gold lamé and featuring Peaches Christ as Goddess.

When asked if she expected Showgirls to produce a cult legacy, Riffel replied, “No. I went into it thinking it would be a really erotic, serious, shocking expose. People would be sitting on the edge of their seats. Maybe it’s Verhoeven? Have you seen Basic Instinct lately? Even that seems campy now…I think it’s something with European filmmakers. I think – and this is my theory – …that there’s something that European filmmakers have, a punched-up, extreme vibe. Everything’s extreme.”

She is also quoted as saying, “Showgirls just keeps getting more and more popular, it’s a total phenomenon. I don't think a film could even try to have this afterlife happen to it. This cult status and celebration is all created by the fans and the people who saw something special in the film. I seem to be one of the only actors that represents and gets involved with the cult status. I think Elizabeth (Berkley) is still upset about how the film was received initially. I think she is brilliant in her role and she should have won best actress at some film festivals, and I think Joe Eszterhas's writing is remarkably brilliant. I suspect because the way they marketed the film, that is what led to the backlash. The marketing campaign was misleading. But at the end of the day, it all worked out for the best.”


Following her role in Showgirls, Riffel was cast in Striptease starring Demi Moore and Burt Reynolds. Showgirls was generally disliked and the filmmakers feared people would pre-judge Striptease on this basis. To avoid any association between the two films, advertisements were designed to make Striptease look more comedic than Showgirls, which was marketed as a drama. Besides the subject matter, Striptease and Showgirls did have two notable connections: the choreography in these films were by the same person, Marguerite Derricks; and both also featured performances by Rena Riffel.

Widely considered a box office failure, Striptease lacked the momentum that Showgirls gained in its cult status and has subsequently been referred to as one of the worst movies ever made.

Mulholland Drive

In 2001, Riffel appeared in the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive. The film was highly acclaimed by many critics and earned Lynch the Prix de la mise en scène (Best Director Award) at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Director. Mulholland Drive also launched the careers of Naomi Watts and Lara Elena Harring and was the last feature film to star veteran Hollywood actress Ann Miller. The film is widely regarded as one of Lynch's finest works, alongside Eraserhead (1977) and Blue Velvet (1986).

When interviewed about the film and if she “got it”, Riffel replied, “See…I can’t remember. No, I guess it still doesn’t make sense to me. It’s been a while – I’d like to watch it again….one website put a lot of clarity on it with their theories.”

Czechsploitation, Erotica, Horror, and Cult Sensation

After Striptease, Riffel accepted minor roles on the television series Married…with Children in 1997, and Clueless as well as the HBO movie Breast Men before making a string of films with European director Lloyd Simandl. These movies, referred to by some as “Czechsploitation” films, include Dark Confessions, Bound Cargo, Caligula’s Spawn, and No Escape. These films, coupled with Riffel’s roles in Showgirls and Striptease opened the door for her to be cast in a handful of erotic/thriller films such as The Pornographer and Scandalous Behavior (with Shannon Tweed).

When asked in an interview about being nude on screen, Riffel replied, “I’m actually not comfortable…I can do it, but honestly, every time I have to do nudity, I’m actually uncomfortable….It is a challenge….some people look down on it. Some people think, ‘well she must not be a very good actress because she’s doing nudity.’ But A-listers do it all the time. But violence…it’s really crazy when you think about it. They won’t let you get naked on screen without censoring so much, especially on television, but they can blow someone’s head off. I don’t understand that at all.”

In 1999, Riffel appeared alongside cult-film legends Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, and Mink Stole in Citizens of Perpetual Indulgence, a gay-themed comedy/drama/art film.Riffel also appeared in several horror/thriller movies including Candyman III: Day of the Dead, Unstable Minds, and Dark Reel starring Edward Furlong and Tony Todd.

Musical Work and Current Projects

In 2004, Riffel’s song "Geisha Girl" was featured in Oliver Robbins film Wild Roomies. She also sang the theme song for 2007 E! Entertainment's series, "Billionaire Heiresses", called "Livin' In The Fast Lane". In 2008, She starred in Coheed And Cambria's music video for "Feathers" playing the 1950s character, Judy Feathers. Judy Feathers is the perfect housewife with a secret of being a cannibal, killing then serving the milkman, postman, sailor, and a boyscout for dinner. It won Best Video in 2008 in the UK for the Kerring Awards and Rena appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live March 5, 2008 with the band.

In 2008, Riffel directed/produced/wrote and starred in the movie Trasharella, a comedy/crime/fantasy musical. She edited the film herself and her production company, Rena Riffel Films, released the film on DVD through in 2009.

When asked to describe Trasharella, Riffel stated, “It is a satire on B-movie horror films…I have an amazing supporting cast, really colourful characters. Mary Carey, the reality tv star/ex-porn star has a role in it. She had that 'double D' Russ Meyer style look I was going for. I included every fetish and every sub-genre in the film, from zombies, vampires, pin up girls, an inspired Lolita lollipop scene, whips, ball gags, and more.. I am a huge fan of Betty Page's pin ups and burlesque films.

I’m influenced by directors like Ed Wood, Russ Meyer, Warhol's Factory, Fellini... I went against the grain and instead of trying to make this slick Hollywood film, I just let things be as they were and made it into a really bad grindhouse style exploitation film. It has the 60's and 70's art house film look to it. But, of course, because it is a parody, it's so bad that it is good.

It does have some very deep symbolism, though, so it's not a dumb film, it's just "bad"... in a good way. Mae West said: "When I'm good I'm good, but when I'm bad I'm better." and we – use her quote in Trasharella. I'm getting great reviews and people seem to find it very entertaining.”

She is currently working on a squel titled Trasharella in Space.

Additionally, Riffel has a role in the upcoming Robert Conway film Sickle. Riffel also has plans to sponsor a fundraiser to raise money to purchase a headstone for Vampira (who is buried in an unmarked grave in the Hollywood Forever Cemeterymarker) as well as producing a dance/burlesque workout video.



Year Film Role Notes
1990 Satan’s Princess Erica Dunn aka Malediction (UK: video title)
1992 Sinatra (TV) May Britt
1994 Art Deco Detective Julie/Meg Hudson
Gunmen Loomis’ Bride
1995 Undercover Heat Rain
Showgirls Penny/Hope
1996 Striptease Tiffany
1997 Breast Men (HBO) Swimming Pool Girl
1998 Dark Confessions Erica aka Chained Heat III: No Holds Barred (UK: video title)
Shark in a Bottle Receptionist
MP Da Last Don Dancer
1999 The Pornographer Tiffany
Candyman: Day of the Dead Lena aka Candyman 3: Day of the Dead
Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish Party Girl #2 aka Smiling Fish & Goat on Fire (USA: new title)
Singapore Sling Michelle Drake aka Scandalous Behavior (USA)
Citizens of Perpetual Indulgence Uncredited
2000 Between Christmas and New Year’s Blue
2001 Mulholland Drive Laney
2002 Unstable Minds Pamela
2003 Lady Killers Fantasy Girl (uncredited) aka Gold Diggers (USA); aka National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers (USA: new title); aka National Lampoon’s Lady Killers (USA: complete title)
Bound Cargo Widow aka White Slave Virgins
Welcome to the Real Hollywood Rena
2004 Roomies Female Caller aka Wild Roomies (USA: new title)
2008 One, Two, Many Tiffany
Caligula’s Spawn Druscilla
Dark Reel Detective LaRue
No Escape Brandt
2009 Trasharella Trasharella/Helena Beestrom
The Making of Gnome Killer 2 Detective LaRue/Gnome Queen
The Gertrude Stein Mystery Agent Agnes Goddard completed
2010 Sickle Penny post-production
Eerie, PA Condi pre-production
In Development Trasharella in Space
Untitled James Buster Douglas Story


  • Paradise (aka “Guns of Paradise”) episode "Childhood’s End" as Teenage Prostitute (1988)
  • Freshman Dorm episode "My Boyfriend’s Back" as Lisa (1992)
  • Land’s End episode “Land’s End: Part 1” as Taffi Bishop (1995)
  • Land’s End episode “Land’s End: Part 2” as Taffi Bishop (1995)
  • Minor Adjustments episode “The Model Wife” as Leslie (1996)
  • Married... with Children episode “How to Marry a Moron” as Stripper #1 (1997)
  • Clueless episode “Sharing Cher” as Second Masseuse (1997)
  • The Pretender episode “Cold Dick” as Mona Jeffries (2000)
  • The X Show episode dated 26 January 2000 as Herself (2000)
  • Spyder Games episode “Episode #1.56” as Lydia (2001)
  • Spyder Games episode “Episode #1.58” as Lydia (2001)
  • Dante’s Cove episode “In the Beginning” as Tina (2005)
  • Dante’s Cove episode “Then There Was Darkness” as Tina (2005)
  • Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew episode “New Arrival” as Herself (2008)
  • Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew episode “Sex and Trauma” as Herself (2008)


  • Between Christmas and New Year’s (2000) (associate producer)
  • Trasharella (2009) (producer)
  • The Making of Gnome Killer 2 (2009) (associate producer)
  • The Gertrude Stein Mystery (2009) (associate producer)


  • Back in the USSR (1992)
  • Showgirls (1995)
  • Bloodthirsty (1999)
  • Roomies (2004)
  • Trasharella (2009)


  • Showgirls (1995) (writer: “Deep Kiss”); (performer: “Deep Kiss”)
  • Roomies (2004) (performer: “Geisha Girl”
  • "Forbes 20 Billionaire Heiresses: Young, Fabulous and Incredibly Rich" (2007) (performer: “Livin’ In the Fast Lane” – theme song)
  • Trasharella (2009)


  • Trasharella (2009)


  • Trasharella (2009) (screenplay) (story)

Costume Designer

  • Life is Like a Short Train Ride (2009)

Costume and Wardrobe

  • Life is Like a Short Train Ride (2009)


  • Trasharella (2009)


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