Rita is the ringleader of a group of rowdy teenagers who attend St. Francis School. She comes across unruly and rude like her friends, and butts heads with her tutors, especially with Deloris AKA Sister Mary Clarence. However, she is discovered to have a hidden talent for singing, which her strict, yet well-meaning, mother disapproves, as she believes a musical career is a dead end after her husband died trying to make a name for himself. Because of this, Rita keeps her musical talent in the dark and never attempts to pursue a musical career. That is until Mary Clarance encourages her to embrace what she loves doing.
Role in the Film
On Mary Clarence's first day of teaching music class, Rita and her friends start giving her hard time, especially when they glue her to her chair. When Mary Clarence starts introducing a firmer hand the following day, Rita walks out of class. Her friends, however choose to stay to avoid failure. She watches from afar Mary Clarence and her friends practicing choir, showing an interest in participating
When Rita's singing is overheard, Mary Clarence convinces her to embrace her it and return to music class. The next day, Rita returns to class and starts practicing in the choir with her friends, becoming the lead singer alongside Ahmal. When the nuns discover numerous trophies, revealing the school's long history of winning the All-Star Choir Championship, they decide to enter the choir once again. However, Rita's mother refuses to let her attend. So, she forges her mother's signature to go on the trip, but leaves here an apology note, prompting her to drive to Hollywood to see the competition for herself.
At the competition, Rita performs a solo before the choir takes to the stage and performs an urban contemporary gospel rendition of "Joyful, Joyful" with hip hop-inspired choreography. The choir wins the competition, which saves St. Francis School from closure. Afterwards, Rita is confronted by her mother, who now has a change of heart. She tells her she is proud of her performance and the two hug each other. At the same time, Rita and her friends learn of Mary Clarence's true identity as Deloris Van Cartier.