not so funny, girl

Lea Michele addresses toxic diva behavior and illiteracy rumors ahead of ‘Funny Girl’ debut

Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on Lea Michele’s parade because she’s just under a week away from her debut as Fanny Brice in the Broadway revival of Funny Girl.

And Twitter has been abuzz this morning as The New York Times has published an interview with the star, one which touches everything from the show’s casting drama (Michele is stepping in for Beanie Feldstein, who made a highly scrutinized departure from the show earlier this summer) to the ongoing rumors and jokes that Michele doesn’t know how to read. So, yeah, it’s a doozy.

Of course, Fanny Brice is a role that’s been on Michele’s vision board for a while now, though she admits, “I will never be as good as Barbra Streisand.”

Related: ‘Who are you now?’ ‘Funny Girl’ and a Broadway revival’s identity crisis

On Glee, her character Rachel Berry—a role Ryan Murphy wrote specifically for Michele, which feels pretty obvious—eventually nabbed the part in the fictional revival of the musical, closing a circle from season one, when Berry performed “Don’t Rain On My Parade” at Sectionals.

Murphy even had the rights to to a Funny Girl revival for a period of time, and wanted Michele for the part. Thus sufficiently blurring the line between the real person and the character. “It all kind of morphed together a little bit,” she admits.

But it’s impossible to discuss those parallels or Michele’s time on Glee without also addressing the storm of criticism and allegations against her that came to a head in 2020. Samantha Marie Ware (who had a recurring arc on the show’s sixth season) famously accused her of “traumatic microaggressions” as well as other threatening and demeaning behavior. Even Longtime co-star Heather Morris called her out for being disrespectful to her co-stars.

She was, by many accounts, a diva. And not the fun, glamorous kind.

Related: 5 celebrities who totally won’t be at Lea Michele’s ‘Funny Girl’ premiere

Michele, who published an apology to her Instagram in 2020, spoke vaguely with the Times about the claims, acknowledging that her intense working style has its faults:

“I have an edge to me,” she shared. “I work really hard. I leave no room for mistakes. That level of perfectionism, or that pressure of perfectionism, left me with a lot of blind spots.”

Blind spots! Well, sure, that’s one way to put it. Apparently this controlling, demanding, Rachel Berry-esque approach to her work was borne out of a childhood in the theater world, which pushed her to perform at exceedingly high levels and left her in a “semi-robotic state.”

In any event, the public reckoning certainly had an impact on Michele. After taking a break from acting to raise her son, she claims to come to Funny Girl with a better understanding of what it means to be the star: “I really understand the importance and value now of being a leader. It means not only going and doing a good job when the camera’s rolling, but also when it’s not. And that wasn’t always the most important thing for me.”

Thrust back into the center of attention, Michele also took the time to respond to another rumor that’s been swirling around the internet for the past few years: That she can’t read.

“I went to Glee every single day; I knew my lines every single day. And then there’s a rumor online that I can’t read or write? It’s sad. It really is. I think often if I were a man, a lot of this wouldn’t be the case.”

So there you have it! She showed up to set every day with her lines memorized and therefore she can read. No further explanation needed, we guess.

As is their wont, folks on Twitter have had a ball digging into every little detail of the Times feature. Here are just a few of our favorite reactions: