Student spotlight: sophomore Jacob Reiger, real-life Troy Bolton

Jacob Reiger in the midst of creating a TikTok on Baylor's campus. Kenneth Prabhakar | Photographer

By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer

Houston sophomore Jacob Reiger is a student straight from the Disney movie “High School Musical.” A lifelong football player and the son of a star quarterback and a cheerleader, Reiger had a self-proclaimed “Troy Bolton moment” when he skipped a football game to watch a school play his senior year of high school. He never looked back.

Two years later, Reiger has acted at Silent House Theatre in Waco, has chartered a sketch and standup comedy organization at Baylor and boasts nearly 53,000 followers on his TikTok account @jacobiouss, where he posts satirical videos and his firecrackers of controversial opinions.

As a pre-business major, Reiger defies the expectations of someone so heavily involved in the performing arts. He is passionate about his love for the arts, but making it his major would mean overextending himself.

Reiger played Reverend Hale in a Silent House Theatre production of Arthur Miller’s iconic play, “The Crucible,” a story about the Salem Witch Trials. His castmate, Baylor Theatre student and McKinney junior Aedin Waldorf, played alongside him as Abigail Williams, a teenage accuser of witches.

“Right off the bat, he’s super charismatic, super funny and quick-witted and always knows what to say to make everybody in the room laugh,” Waldorf said. “He’s one of the smartest actors I’ve worked with in a while.”

Waldorf said Reiger was an adept performer, able to think on his feet and carry the team. It surprised her to know that prior to this production, he only acted twice in high school.

“He was teaching me things,” Waldorf said. “He’s very devoted, always backstage listening, always reading his lines and working on everything, able to have so much fun but also zero in.”

Reiger knew he wanted to act when he came to Baylor, but it took a while to find the right place to do it.

“The second I got here, I looked for local theater,” Reiger said. “I was just so excited to start doing theater again. It was nice to do a show here in Waco and see the community come out.”

Jacob Reiger in the midst of creating a TikTok on Baylor Campus
Kenneth Prabhakar | Photographer
Jacob Reiger in the midst of creating a TikTok on Baylor's Campus.
Kenneth Prabhakar | Photographer

Reiger’s TikTok success was swift and viral when he began making content with mass appeal. Now he says he’s been trying to make content that speaks more to who he is, and he hopes his audience will follow along.

“Very quickly, I was like, ‘I need to just make videos that I want to make,’” Reiger said. “I only want to do things on my terms. Even when I do brand deals, I did one and I tried to make as many inappropriate jokes as possible.”

In one of Reiger’s most popular TikToks, with more than one million views, he experiments with how fast he could fall down what is referred to as the “alt-right pipeline,” an algorithmic way that social media platforms begin to suggest a specific type of content, primarily to young men.

Reiger made a new TikTok account and set the age and sex to a 12-year-old male. Within hours, Reiger said the content pushed by the algorithm went from back-to-school videos to right-wing politics. Reiger said he was interested in the topic because he finds it important to “punch up” and question the people in power and the way social media has been affecting this generation.

Reiger talked about Andrew Tate, Ben Shapiro and the stereotype of the “bro” podcaster — the “dude with a microphone” stereotype he said is exactly what he doesn’t want to be. Although he’s bold with his opinions, Reiger said he is not out to be offensive.

“That’s one thing about not caring about the numbers,” Reiger said. “In one TikTok, I accidentally misgendered Ezra Miler, and I was like, I’m just not going to post it. I have transgender friends in real life. We have so much freedom to post whatever on there. It’s scary.”

Reiger said his advice to students who aspire to get involved in the performing arts is to keep their eyes peeled for opportunities to put themselves out there.

“Stay on your toes, ready for your chance,” Reiger said. “In the meantime, there’s still things you can do every day to make yourself better.”