The Untold Truth Of Lea Michele

Lea Michele came to fame as part of the ensemble cast of "Glee," which made its debut on the Fox network in 2009 and ran for six seasons until its cancellation in 2015. Michele made a big impression with viewers in the role of tightly wound but wildly talented high school student Rachel Berry in the mega-hit series. 

As Michele's fans can attest, her instant stardom from "Glee" arrived after more than a decade of paying her dues on the Great White Way, performing in Broadway shows since she was a child. Not surprisingly, Michele proved to be a standout in a show that combined musical numbers with comedic drama, a rare TV show that allowed Michele to utilize all the various performance muscles she'd been honing onstage for all those years. 

While there's no denying the immense talent housed within Michele's diminutive frame, Michele's bright star has occasionally been tarnished by controversy. To find out more, read on to learn the untold truth of Lea Michele.

Lea Michele made her Broadway debut at age 8

The phrase "Broadway baby" has been part of the lexicon for years, but in the case of Lea Michele it's something that can be taken literally. As a Women's Health profile on the actor recounted, Michele was a "precocious 8-year-old" when she asked her parents if they'd allow her to accompany a friend who was auditioning for a role in the Broadway production of "Les Miserables." Her mother, particularly, was incredulous, reminding her daughter "that she didn't know how to sing." 

Michele ignored that parental advice and auditioned — and wound up winning the role of Young Cosette. Suddenly, the youngster was a full-fledged Broadway performer, which propelled her into subsequent roles in such productions as "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Ragtime." Michele was just 14 when she first workshopped the role that would make her a star: sexually naive Wendla in provocative musical "Spring Awakening," which opened on Broadway in 2006 after an off-Broadway run and extensive workshopping.

After playing Wendla for awhile, Michele told Playbill when she was 21, she'd come to have a better understanding of the character. "Being an adult now, I'm understanding more about her and I'm learning more from her," she said.

She nearly missed her 'Glee' audition because of a huge car crash

Hot off the success of "Spring Awakening," Lea Michele headed to Hollywood. She was supremely hopeful about her audition for a new series following a high school glee club, which would allow her to showcase her Broadway-earned singing and dancing skills as well as her acting abilities. 

Disaster struck on the way to audition for "Glee," when Michele wound up having a nasty car accident. "I got into a massive car crash outside of the Fox lot — completely totaling my car," she recounted in a featurette for a "Glee" DVD release, via Us Weekly. "When I get into the room for my audition, I literally was still pulling pieces of glass out of my hair. They're like, 'Are you okay?' I'm like, 'I'm fine!'"

Of course, Michele did have an advantage, given that "Glee" co-creator Ryan Murphy reportedly wrote the part for specifically for Michele after seeing her in "Spring Awakening" on Broadway. Still, Michele admitted that landing the role filled her with a sense of disbelief. "I come from a world of musical theater," she explained, "so I never really thought I would be on a television show!"

Lea Michele's 'Glee' co-stars were 'very scared' of her

While "Glee" went on to become a monster hit for Fox, the show also proved to be a goldmine for the supermarket tabloids that reported on alleged friction among the cast. While Michele assured Marie Claire that rumors she was a difficult diva "aren't real," her co-stars later claimed otherwise; in her 2016 memoir "Sorry Not Sorry," for example, the late Naya Rivera wrote that "Rachel — erm, I mean Lea — didn't like sharing the spotlight."

However, the floodgates opened when former "Glee" cast member Samantha Ware issued a scorched-earth, all-caps tweet (since deleted, but documented by Us Weekly) accusing Michele of making "my first television gig a living hell." Ware, who is Black, also pointed to Michele's "traumatic microaggressions," such as the time Michele allegedly told Ware "that if [Michele] had the opportunity [she] would 's**t in my wig!'" 

Heather Morris later revealed on the "Everything Iconic with Danny Pellegrino" podcast that nobody spoke out about their alleged problems with Michele at the time because "I think many people were very scared...".

But there were even more accusations of bullying against Lea Michele

Samantha Ware issued more allegations about Lea Michele, telling Variety that Michele had once tried to get her fired. Meanwhile, Ware's comments led to other "Glee" cast members sharing their stories. This was particularly true of actors of color, who made various claims of Michele's alleged racist behavior. A number of these accusations were detailed by The Scotsman, including "Glee" guest star Dabier Snell, who is Black, claiming she refused to let him sit at a table with other members of the cast. Meanwhile, actor Keith Powell, who is Black, tweeted that "Lea Michele is a terrible human and has said terrible things to many types of people, including racist microaggressions to/about Black people" (via The Scotsman).

"Glee" star Heather Morris, however, tweeted that she felt calling Michele a racist might be going too far. "With [that] said, was she unpleasant to work with? Very much so; for Lea to treat other with the disrespect that she did for as long as she did, I believe she SHOULD be called out."

The controversy led to backlash, with Michele dropped from a lucrative brand partnership. She subsequently issued a statement of apology, acknowledging that "I clearly acted in ways which hurt other people."

She allegedly made 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld cry

Allegations of Lea Michele's mean-girl behavior weren't confined to the "Glee" set, and reportedly extended to other areas of the Paramount lot, where the series was shot. Actor-singer Hailee Steinfeld shared her own unpleasant encounter with Michele. As Steinfeld told J-14, she was on the Paramount lot, auditioning for the role she would eventually get in "True Grit," when she happened to spy Michele. "I was wearing clothes from the 1800s that were big and uncomfortable," she said of the costume she was wearing at the time. 

"I saw Lea Michele just walking to her trailer and I was like, "That's the girl from 'Glee.' I've got to go ask for her autograph!' So I walked up to her and asked for her autograph, but she walked by and a guy came and said, 'Sorry, now's not a good time!'" Steinfeld recalled.

According to Steinfeld, the story did not have a happy ending. "So I had to walk all the way back to the car wearing what I was wearing. I was practically crying on the way home. I was so sad!" she added.

Corey Monteith wasn't the only 'Glee' co-star she dated

Throughout the run of "Glee," Lea Michele was dating co-star Cory Monteith. Sadly, their relationship came to a tragic end when Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room, his death subsequently ruled an accidental overdose

Prior to Michele's relationship with Monteith, however, she had a pre-"Glee" fling with co-star Matthew Morrison, who played her teacher, Will "Mr. Schue" Schuester. In her 2014 memoir "Brunette Ambition," as excerpted in Us Weekly, she recounted hooking up with Morrison in New York, where both were actors on Broadway, before coming to "Glee." "When we shot the pilot, I met Cory Monteith, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley, and Chris Colfer for the first time," she wrote. "I had worked on Broadway with Jenna Ushkowitz and Matthew Morrison before. Matt had been a friend of mine for years, and in fact we'd actually dated back in the day for a Broadway beat."

Meanwhile, anyone pondering the creepiness of Mr. Shue dating Rachel should be aware that actors aren't as far apart in age as their "Glee" characters might indicate. Morrison was born in 1978, while Michele entered the world in 1986. Basic math indicates thats Morrison is a mere eight years older — a number that's not nearly as creepy as whatever folks were probably imagining.

She once swiped a roll of toilet paper from the White House

Lea Michele was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the White House during the Obama administration, and couldn't stop herself from walking away with a purloined memento. As she related during an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" (as reported by Parade), there was a very specific piece of memorabilia that caught her eye. 

"At one point I went to bathroom and I noticed that the toilet paper has the White House seal on it, and I was like, 'I've gotta take this. I've gotta take it!'" she told Fallon. "And I just started taking the toilet paper and I stuffed it down my pants, and I still have it to this day!"

While her transgression thankfully didn't wind up with Michele tackled by Secret Service agents and locked up in Guantanamo Bay, that's kind of how the terrified actor envisioned things going down. "It was scary," she confessed. "Leaving with that toilet paper, it might as well have been, like, gold. I was so scared, I was sweating."

Lea Michele's 'Glee' feud with Naya Rivera was real, but 'blown out of proportion'

Throughout the run of "Glee," tabloids reported on Lea Michele's feud with co-star Naya Rivera, who died in July 2020. How deep that feud went varied with the report, but Rivera herself pulled no punches in her 2016 memoir "Sorry Not Sorry." 

"One of the 'Glee' writers once said that Lea and I were like two sides of the same battery and that about sums us up. We are both strong willed and competitive — not just with each other but with everyone — and that's not a good mixture," wrote Rivera of their relationship, in an excerpt shared by E! News. As the series continued, Rivera admitted she felt what friendship they'd established at the beginning star to deteriorate when her character, Santana, began getting bigger and juicier storylines, ascertaining that Michele "didn't like sharing the spotlight." 

Rivera also pointed to Michele's extreme sensitivity. "If I'd complained about anyone or anything, she'd assumed I was b*tching about her," she wrote. "Soon, she started to ignore me, and eventually it got to the point where she didn't say a word to me for all of Season 6," Rivera wrote, though she still insisted that "rumors of our 'feud' were blown out of proportion."

Lea Michele turned to Kate Hudson after boyfriend Corey Monteith's overdose

Cory Monteith's fatal 2013 drug overdose proved to be devastating to Lea Michele, who had been dating Monteith for several years. Overcome with grief and besieged by paparazzi, Michele reached out to Kate Hudson, whom she'd gotten to known when she played a recurring character on "Glee."

"I called [Kate Hudson] and said, 'I don't know where I'm going to go because my house is swarmed [with reporters].' She was like, 'Oh, you're going to stay at my house.' Like it was nothing," said Michele. "No one knew I was there," Michele revealed in an interview with Elle. "I'll never really be able to thank her, truly, for what she did for me."

Ultimately, Michele said she came to find solace by opening up about her grieving process, in hopes of helping those experiencing similar loss. "It's very hard," she told the magazine. "And you have to be very strong to come out of this alive, but I think by doing the best for myself, by showing that you don't have to lose yourself, maybe someone else will feel some sort of strength or comfort."

Her favorite childhood pet will surprise you

When it comes to pets, Lea Michele isn't particularly mainstream. She demonstrated that in an interview with Us Weekly, in which she shared "25 Things That You Don't Know About Me." A standout of the 25 was No. 7: "Growing up, hermit crabs were my favorite pet. I had about 20," she said.

While pondering the "Glee" star cavorting with all those crabs, consider some of her other responses for the interview, which were similarly enlightening. For example, while hermit crabs may be her go-to pet, when she grew older she had "a cat named Sheila that I found with her litter under a bush on the Paramount lot." Other interesting revelations include the fact that Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" was the first album she ever purchased, she has a scar on her forehead from when a kid in her preschool hurled a tap shoe at her, and her confession of keeping "Gummi bears in the freezer" so she can "eat them in bed at night."

Other random facts: she's "afraid of sharks," and one of her "most cherished possessions" is a moon necklace given to her by Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks.

She's 'shocked' that people are 'shocked' that she watches old episode of 'Glee'

When Lea Michele has some down time and kicks back in front of the tube, she's likely to watch herself in an old episode of "Glee." She divulged that particular factoid during a Facebook Live chat with former co-star Darren Criss (as documented by Yahoo! Life).

"I still watch 'Glee' all the time," Michele said, with Criss filling in some crucial information. "I think that is something the world should know — that Lea Michele watches 'Glee,' like, by herself," he said with a laugh. "I am Rachel Berry," Michele declared. When that revelation was hit with backlash, Michele responded with bewilderment, as in why wouldn't anyone want to watch themselves in "Glee?" "I think that everyone is so shocked when I say that," she told PrideSource. "I'm shocked at people being shocked."

Michele, however, proved to be refreshingly self-aware. "And I get that some people would be embarrassed to watch their own material. I understand that. But sometimes it's so fun," she admitted. "It's just to remind myself, 'You did that. You did that! And that's incredible. And you should be proud of it.' It's sort of inspiring for me."

She battled postpartum hair loss

After the death of Cory Monteith, Lea Michele eventually found love again. In 2019, People reported that Michele had wed longtime boyfriend, Zandy Reich, who works in the fashion industry.

"We are so excited to be married and grateful to be surrounded by our friends and family," the newlyweds said in a statement. Just over a year later, The Hollywood Reporter was among the first to report that the couple were expecting their first child. 

In August 2020, the couple revealed they welcomed son Ever, sharing the joyful news on Instagram. For Michele, however, becoming a mother had some physical side effects that she wasn't expecting, revealing her postpartum hair loss on Instagram Story, as chronicled by Us Weekly. "I'm so grateful for all of the support and advice from moms and friends," she wrote. "It seems there are also a lot of other new moms asking for any tips to help resolve this, so I'm sharing what I've learned. I hope this helps!"

This is how Lea Michele responded to this bizarre conspiracy about her

Conspiracy theories aren't typically something that are associated with "Glee," yet Lea Michele has proven to be the exception to that rule. In 2018, a couple of folks posted a YouTube video that made the wild (and wildly unfounded) claim that Lea Michele was illiterate, and could neither read nor write. As Distractify noted, the whole thing started from a passage in Naya Rivera's book recounting how Michele refused to improvise her lines. Rivera's claim was then ridiculously taken out of context for that video, which is clearly intended to be satirical.

However, the conspiracy theory wasn't received with the level of silliness that had been intended. The video was quickly picked up by Twitter users, some of whom got the joke, some of whom didn't. Michele eventually issued a tweet (since deleted, but immortalized via DIstractify) to confirm that she was among the camp who got the joke, and though it was hilarious. "Love READING this tweet and wanted to WRITE you back," Michele wrote, admitting she was "literally laughing out loud at all this." 

Gwyneth Paltrow gave her the best advice ever

Most people have those trusted friends they can turn to for advice. When Lea Michele finds herself at a crossroads in need of sage advice, there's one person and only one she can turn to. "I am obsessed with Gwyneth Paltrow," Michele said in an interview with Harper's Bazaar

According to Harper's, Michele and Paltrow met for the first time on the set of "Glee," when Paltrow was a guest star and the cast was rehearing a number from the acclaimed stage musical "Chicago." "I was nervous and said, 'I don't think I can do that dance move.' She said, 'You can do it.' She wasn't afraid of anything. I love talking with Gwyneth."

According to Michele, Paltrow "just gives good advice." In fact, she recounted one key piece of advice from the "Goop" founder that really stood out, and has continued to guide Michele on her journey. "She said, 'Don't ever read anything about you,'" Michele noted.