Lea Michele Sarfati (born August 29, 1986) is an American actor, singer, and author. She was born in the Bronx. She started acting at the tender age of eight as Young Cosette in a production of Les Misérables, which she admits she tried out for on a whim. She then continued on to play the Little Girl in the original Broadway cast of Ragtime, Shprintze on Fiddler on the Roof, and several parts in various musicals, concerts, and plays, reaping in a bunch of awards and accolades while she was at it. She also played Wendla in the musical and the original Broadway run of Spring Awakening.
Then she auditioned for the part of the obnoxious, talented diva Rachel Berry on Glee (with a rendition of "On My Own" from Les Miserables. Interviews say, though, that it was in fact good friend and ''Spring Awakening'' co-star Jonathan Groff who introduced her to series creator Ryan Murphy, and that the part of Rachel was written with her in mind.) And to say that playing Rachel made her famous is a huge understatement.
She made her film debut in New Year's Eve and has lent her voice to the titular character in Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return.
Michele is a vegan and a very strong advocate for gay rights, as well as for PETA and has campaigned very openly against animal cruelty.
In early 2014, she released her debut musical album, Louder.
In 2020, Lea was accused by actor Samantha Ware of "constant micro aggressions" as well as having made the set of Glee a "living hell" for her and others. Soon afterwards several people - including Heather Morris, Alex Newell, Dabier Snell, Monica Maskatow, Willam and Amber Riley - stepped up to add their own stories of Lea's alleged bad behaviour, prompting Lea to issue an apology "for any harm caused", and she was dropped as a spokesperson for "HelloFresh" as a result. She would later delete her twitter account following non-stop trolling from people demanding she make a comment about her former costar Naya Rivera's disappearance and death (Rivera had also spoken previously about their conflicts on set), and also set her Instagram to semi-private.
On March 24, 2021, it was announced Michele - as well as Chord Overstreet and Dianna Agron - would not be taking part in the GLAAD cast reunion/tribute performance to Rivera.
Michele is married to businessman Zandy Reich and one child, a son named Ever Leo who was born in August 2020.
Tropes commonly used in her roles
- Actor-Inspired Element: After Cory Monteith died in real life, Ryan Murphy asked her what they should do with Finn on the show. She said they should have him die on the show as well.
- Approval of God: Natalie Imbruglia stated that she loved Lea's cover of "Torn".
- Casting Gag: She plays one of Jon Bon Jovi's back-up dancers in New Year's Eve. She had once almost hit him with her car.
- I Am Not Spock: She'll always be Rachel to most television-watching people. But of course, theater circles will always remember her for her performance in Spring Awakening. She seems determined to avoid this though, going heavily against type in Scream Queens (2015) - as a death-obsessed freak who is also a manipulative serial killer.
- Romance on the Set: With her Glee co-star Cory Monteith until his death in 2013. She even received a tattoo to remember him forever.
- Separated-at-Birth Casting: She and Idina Menzel look as if they could be mother and daughter.
- She Really Can Act: Her singing voice tends to overshadow her acting talents, and she's more often thought of as a voice. In Scream Queens she not only doesn't sing at all on the show but also goes radically against type from her perceived "wholesome good girl" image, impressing fans.
- What Could Have Been: She was originally cast as Kate Upton's friend/rival in The Layover - because of a scheduling conflict, she was replaced by Alexandra Daddario.