Lea Michele Sarfati (born August 29, 1986), known professionally as Lea Michele, is an American actress and singer, best known for her performance as Rachel Berry on the Fox television series Glee. Michele's portrayal of Rachel has received much critical praise and has earned her two Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy nomination. Michele began working professionally as a child actress on Broadway in productions such as Les Misérables, Ragtime, and Fiddler on the Roof. In 2006, she originated the lead role of Wendla in the Broadway musical Spring Awakening. On film, Michele has starred alongside Ashton Kutcher, Robert De Niro and Hillary Swank in Garry Marshall's 2011 romantic comedy movie New Year's Eve, and has voiced the character of Dorothy Gale in the upcoming animated movie Dorothy of Oz. Michele signed to Columbia Records as a solo recording artist in 2012. Her first single Cannonball was released on December 10, 2013. Her debut album Louder is set to be released on March 4, 2014.
1 Early life,
2.1 Stage roles,
2.3 Other ventures,
4 Personal life
4.2 Public image,
5.2 Readings and workshops,
5.3 Concerts and events,
5.4 Other projects,
7.1 Studio Albums,
8 Awards and nominations,
10 External links,
Michele was born in the Bronx, New York City. She is the only child of Edith, a nurse, and Marc Sarfati, a delicatessen owner. Her mother is Italian American and Roman Catholic, while her father is a Spanish Sephardic Jew. Michele was raised Catholic, and has stated that her father "gladly" attends church with her and her mother. She grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey. She attended Rockland Country Day School for elementary school in New York and then Tenafly High School. Michele was home schooled one year while working in Toronto, Ontario on Ragtime. She attended Stagedoor Manor in the Catskills, a center for performing arts training. She was then later accepted to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, but opted instead to continue working professionally on the stage.
Michele adopted her stage name at an early age; when she went on her first audition, she gave her name as "Lea Michele," and has used it ever since. She has stated that she changed it because she was teased about the pronunciation of her last name.
Michele has the vocal range of a soprano. She made her Broadway debut in 1995, as a replacement in the role of Young Cosette in Les Misérables. This was followed by the role of Tateh's daughter, the Little Girl, in the 1998 original Broadway cast of Ragtime. In 2004 (during her senior year of high school), Michele played Shprintze in the Broadway revival of the musical Fiddler on the Roof. She also sang on the 2004 Broadway revival cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof.
She played the role of Wendla Bergmann in Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik's musical version of Spring Awakening, starring in early workshops and Off-Broadway and finally originating the role in the Broadway production in 2006 at the age of 20. Around the same time that the show was set to go to Broadway, she was offered the role of Éponine in the Broadway revival of Les Misérables. She elected to remain with Spring Awakening, which debuted on Broadway in December 2006. She was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her performance in Spring Awakening in the category of Outstanding Actress in a Musical.
On May 18, 2008, Michele left Spring Awakening with her co-star Jonathan Groff, where they were both replaced the next day by Michele's understudy Alexandra Socha and newcomer Kyle Riabko. She performed in a reading of Sheik and Sater's new musical, Nero, in July 2008 at Vassar College. She portrayed Éponine in the Hollywood Bowl's Les Misérables concert in August 2008.
Michele stars in the Fox musical comedy-drama series Glee as Rachel Berry, the show's female lead and star singer. In casting Glee, series creator Ryan Murphy sought out actors who could identify with the rush of starring in theatrical roles. Instead of using traditional network casting calls, he spent three months on Broadway, where he found Michele. The role of Rachel was written specifically for Michele. In an interview with The Washington Post, Michele commented on her casting, saying: "I was kind of just thrown into this--this is one of the first television jobs I've ever had. Of course being able to sing helps bring a sense of comfort. The character I'm playing is really outgoing--she performs in her everyday life as though she's performing in front of a huge audience." She took the role because of Rachel's characterization, and explained: "Not only is she a singer, but she has so much heart--I think it's what we need on TV. A show that is filled with heart and love that is funny. It sends an amazing message to kids about the arts and being who you are."Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan wrote that Michele "not only has an amazing voice but manages to make her character, spoiled diva Rachel Berry, more than a humorless stereotype." Denise Martin of The Los Angeles Times commented in her review of the episode "The Rhodes Not Taken": "If there's any justice in the world, Lea Michele will win a Golden Globe and an Emmy for playing Rachel."
Michele has won a number of awards for her portrayal of Rachel. At the 2009 Satellite Awards, she won the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical or Comedy Television Series. In 2010, Michele won the NewNowNext Awards for Brink of Fame: Actor. In 2009, she was nominated for a Teen Choice Award in the category "Choice TV Breakout Star". That same year, Michele was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category Best Actress- Television Series Musical or Comedy, and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She received another Teen Choice Award nomination in 2010 for "Choice TV Actress: Comedy". Michele was included in Time magazine's 2010 list of the 100 Most Influential People In the World. She won the 2012 People's Choice Award for Favorite TV Comedy Actress. Several songs performed by Michele as Rachel have been released as singles, available for digital download. In December 2010, Michele received Billboard's First-Ever Triple Threat Award. Her cover of The All-American Rejects' "Gives You Hell" reached the top 40 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Michele is featured as lead singer in 14 of the top 20 selling Glee Cast songs as of 2010. Michele was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2011. The first for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals ("Don't Stop Believin'"), the second for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media (Glee: The Music, Volume 1). Michele said of the first Grammy nomination: "I like that it's for 'Don't Stop Believin'', which is for the whole cast, so that we all get to go. That's just awesome." She was nominated again for Best Actress - Television Series Musical or Comedy at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards.
In 2010, Michele joined the cast of the animated film Dorothy of Oz, voicing the lead role of Dorothy Gale. She filmed a role in Garry Marshall's romantic comedy New Year's Eve, which was released in 2011. Before Super Bowl XLV, on February 6, 2011, she performed "America the Beautiful" with the Air Force Tops In Blue. On September 18, 2012, it was announced that Michele would be working on her first solo album. She started recording for the album soon after on October 1, 2012. She has stated that it is a 'pretty slow process' but she wants the album to be more 'pop/rock driven' instead of Broadway influenced. Michele was a presenter at the 2013 Golden Globes, co-presenting the award for Best Actress in a TV Series with Nathan Fillion. In May 2013, it was announced that Michele had signed a deal with Harmony Books, Random House Inc. to pen a part memoir, part how-to book entitled Brunette Ambition. The book is set for release on May 13, 2014. On November 27, 2013, Michele announced via her Twitter page that the first single from her debut album Louder will be Cannonball, out on December 10, 2013.
Michele is active in charities for gay rights and animal rights. In 2008, Michele was a part of the PETA ad campaign "Buck Cruelty! Say No to Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides". In April 2010, Michele appeared in a PSA for PETA speaking out against fur clothing. In September 2010, Michele was honored by PETA for her work for animals.
In the support of gay rights, Michele performed at the Human Rights Campaign Dinner in November 2009. In the same month, Michele and Jonathan Groff performed for True Colors Cabaret, a fundraiser in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. In 2008, Michele performed at a benefit concert, "Alive in the World", to aid the Twin Towers Orphan Fund. Michele has also been active with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. For Broadway Cares, Michele has participated in Broadway Barks, Broadway Bares, The Easter Bonnet Competition and The Flea Market and Grand Auction.
In October 2010, Michele performed at a benefit concert for The Painted Turtle. The concert celebrated the 35th anniversary of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with Michele playing the lead role of Janet Weiss for the benefit. In February 2011, she performed for The Grammys' MusiCares Benefit in Los Angeles, CA. In April 2012, Michele performed for The Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation (JCCF)'s 17th annual signature fundraiser, Taste for a Cure, at UCLA with her Glee co-star, Darren Criss. In October 2012, Michele and Criss also performed together at the Big Brother & Big Sisters Of Greater Los Angeles 2012 Stars Gala.
In July 2012, Michele hosted the launch of Valspar Hands for Habitat charity auction and donated a signed hand print to be auctioned off along with many other celebrity hand-prints. Money raised from the auction benefits Habitat for Humanity's disaster response programs, which provide immediate and long-term response and solutions to natural disasters such as the recent tornados in the Midwest and Southeast which damaged and destroyed the homes of thousands. In June 2013, Michele co-hosted the launch of Feed America for Target stores. Proceeds from the lifestyle collection will benefit Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic-hunger relief charity. In August 2013, Michele once again donated a hand print to Valspar Hands for Habitat charity auction.
Michele dated Broadway actor Theo Stockman for nearly two years before breaking up in September 2011.
Michele began working alongside Canadian actor Cory Monteith in 2009, when they were cast as love interests on Glee. They became an official couple in late 2011. They remained a couple until his death in July 2013.
Michele was named to People magazine's Best Dressed List of 2010 as "The Newbie" and she was voted "2010 Most Stylish Star" by E! Online. In June 2010, AfterEllen ranked Michele 16th on their annual Hot 100 list for 2010, voted for by lesbian and bisexual readers. In 2011, the British popular men's magazine FHM ranked her 47th on their annual 100 Sexiest Women list. In May 2011, Michele ranked 28th on the Maxim 2011 Hot 100. Michele placed at number 10 on Glamour's 50 Best Dressed Women of 2011. She appeared on AfterEllen's Hot 100 list of 2011, placing at number 10. The following year, she ranked number 11 on the AfterEllen Hot 100 for 2012.Women's Health magazine placed Lea Michele as the 3rd Best 2012 Summer Bodies.Candie's announced in 2012 that Michele will be the new spokesperson for their clothing/footwear brand. Later that same year, it was announced that Michele had signed a deal to be the newest spokesperson for the L'Oreal Paris hair and make-up brand. In April 2012, she placed at number 37 on Glamour Magazine's 50 Best Dressed Women of 2012 list. Michele ranked 14th on the Maxim 2012 Hot 100, and placed at number 39 the following year on the Maxim 2013 Hot 100. She ranked number 42 on the AfterEllen Hot 100 list of 2013. She placed at number 76 in FHM's 100 Sexiest Women list of 2013.Glamour ranked Michele number 19 in their 50 Best Dressed Women of 2013 list.
Les Misérables as Young Cosette (1995-96),
Ragtime as the Little Girl (1998-99),
Fiddler on the Roof as Shprintze and Chava (2004-05),
Spring Awakening as Wendla Bergmann (2006-08),
Readings and workshops:
Burt Bacharach and Steven Sater collaboration (November 2009),
Nero as Octavia (July 2008),
Samson and Delilah as Delilah,
King as Anisette,
Wuthering Heights as Lucy,
Hot and Sweet as Naleen (September 2006),
Spring Awakening as Wendla - Roundabout Theatre Company (2000 and June 2001),
Concerts and events:
"Broadway Eastern Bonnet" 2004 benefit performance as Sphrintze (with casts of Avenue Q and Fiddler on the Roof),
Spring Awakening as Wendla - Lincoln Center (February 2005),
Unsung 2007: 'Tis The Season To Be Naughty - Lucille Lortel Theater, New York (December 2007),
Alive in the World, benefit concert - as Phoebe (January 2008),
"Broadway Eastern Bonnet" 2008 benefit performance as Wendla (with cast of Spring Awakening),
Feinstein's (February, April and June 2008),
Flopz n' Cutz Concert with Landon Beard - Joe's Pub (April 2008),
Les Misérables Concert as Éponine at the Hollywood Bowl (August 2008),
Upright Cabaret (August 2008),
Broadway Chance Style: Up Close & Personal (September 2008),
Spring Awakening Holiday Benefit Concert - Joe's Pub (December 2008),
Human Rights Campaign Dinner - as performer (November 2009),
True Colors Benefit with Jonathan Groff (November 2009),
Glee Live! In Concert! as Rachel Berry; Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City (May 2010),
Glee TV Academy Event at the Music Box Theater, Los Angeles (July 27, 2010),
Rocky Horror Picture Show 35th Anniversary To Benefit The Painted Turtle, as Janet Weiss, Los Angeles (October 2010),
Super Bowl XLV - as performer ("America the Beautiful") Dallas, Texas (February 2011),
MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Barbra Streisand - as performer, Los Angeles (February 2011),
Glee Live! In Concert! as Rachel Berry; 22 cities, 40 shows, 4 countries: US, Canada, England, Ireland (May-July 2011),
The Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation (JCCF) at UCLA, 17th annual signature fundraiser, Taste for a Cure. (April 2012),
Big Brothers Big Sisters Of Greater Los Angeles 2012 Rising Stars Gala (October 2012),
L'Oreal Paris USA Women of Worth event - as ambassador, New York City (December 2013),
Ragtime as Little Girl, Toronto Centre for the Arts, Toronto, Ontario (1997),
The Diary of Anne Frank as Anne Frank, Washington, D.C. (2005),
Spring Awakening as Wendla, Atlantic Theatre Company, off Broadway (May-August 2006),
Dove commercials as spokesperson (2010),
Chevrolet commercial, as Rachel Berry: Glee Super Bowl commercial (February 2011),
Nike workout application as spokesperson (2011),
HP TouchPad commercial (2011),
Candie's as spokesperson (2012),
L'Oreal Paris as spokesperson (2012),
Buster & Chauncey's Silent Night
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie
New Year's Eve
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Lead role, Voice
"Spring Forward Fall Back" (Season 1, episode 19)
Around the Block
"Elementary School Musical" (Season 22, episode 1)
The Cleveland Show
Rachel Berry (voice)
"How Do You Solve a Problem Like Roberta?" (Season 2, episode 11)
The Glee Project
Guest Star (Season 2, episode 1 "Individuality")
Guest Judge (Season 11, episode 5 "Lea Michele's Halloween Bash")