Lea Michele Sarfati (born August 29, 1986), known professionally as Lea Michele, is an American singer, actress, and author. She is known for her role as Rachel Berry on the Fox television series Glee (2009–15). Michele’s performance received critical praise, earning her a Satellite Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, three consecutive People’s Choice Awards, and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. In 2015, she began portraying Hester Ulrich in Fox’s Scream Queens.
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 role of Wendla Bergmann in the Broadway rock musical Spring Awakening. Its soundtrack, on which she was a featured solo artist, won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 2008. Michele made her film debut in 2011, starring in the romantic comedy New Year’s Eve. In 2014, she voiced Dorothy Gale in the animated film Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.
Michele, with her label Columbia Records, began her solo music career in 2012. Her first single, “Cannonball”, was released on December 10, 2013. Her debut album, Louder, was released on March 4, 2014, debuting at number 4 on the Billboard 200. Michele released her first book, Brunette Ambition, on May 20, 2014, which debuted on The New York Times Best Seller list. Her follow-up book, You First: Journal Your Way To Your Best Life, was released on September 22, 2015.
Lea Michele Sarfati was born on August 29, 1986, in The Bronx, New York. She is the only child of Edith T. Sarfati (born October 19, 1960), a retired nurse, and Mark D. Sarfati (born September 1, 1958), a real estate agent and former delicatessen owner. Her parents met on the playground when her mother was 13 years old. Her mother is Italian American and Roman Catholic, while her father is a Sephardic Jew (his family emigrated from Spain and Turkey). Michele was raised Catholic, and has stated that her father “gladly” attends church with her and her mother. Michele spent the first four years of her life living in the Bronx, until her parents decided to move to the more suburban area of Tenafly in the state of New Jersey. Her parents also had a rented apartment in Manhattan, where they would live when Michele was performing on Broadway.
Michele was educated at Rockland Country Day School for elementary school in Congers, New York. Michele adopted her stage name at an early age; when she went on her first audition, for Les Misérables, 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. On her first musical theatre audition, she sang the song “Angel of Music” from The Phantom of the Opera, the only musical she knew at the time. Michele had gone to the audition to support a friend, but ended up landing the part herself. Michele was homeschooled for one year (1997) while she lived and worked in Toronto, Ontario, performing in the Canadian production of Ragtime.
For her high school education, she attended Tenafly High School in New Jersey Michele said that in high school she was “the least cool of the cool kids” but that she was “actually friends with everyone.” During her time there, Michele was on the volleyball team, the debate team, and participated in choir. She was a varsity debater in Bergen County. She refrained from auditioning for Broadway roles during her freshman, sophomore and junior years so she could focus on her education. Michele stated: “I worked from when I was 8 until I was 14, so I wanted to have a little break. I didn’t want to accept a role that wasn’t perfect. And I wanted to get a good education. And I think I did…I think it was because I gave myself the time to just be a student.” During her high school career, Michele felt pressure from her peers to get a nose job, she has stated: “I was one of the only girls in my high school that didn’t get one. And if anybody needed it, I probably did. But my mom always told me growing up, ‘Barbra Streisand didn’t get a nose job. You’re not getting a nose job.’ And I didn’t.” She told Harper’s Bazaar in 2011 that multiple talent managers told her that she needed to have rhinoplasty because she “wasn’t pretty enough.”
In the summers from 2000 to 2002, Michele attended Stagedoor Manor in the Catskills, a center for performing arts training. At Stagedoor, she was part of the touring troupe Our Time Cabaret, and performed in productions of Side by Side by Sondheim and The Who’s Tommy. For The Who’s Tommy, Michele sang the “Pinball Wizard” solo. In her final summer at the camp, Michele was to perform in a production of Sweet Charity, but instead booked the role of Wendla in a Spring Awakening workshop, which forced her to drop out 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 star Some of Michele’s role models during her childhood were Barbra Streisand and Natalie Wood; she has said that her mother would always play old films like Funny Girl and West Side Story when she was younger. In her teens, when she wasn’t working on the stage, Michele had a part-time job at a bat mitzvah dress shop. She has said that she was “the Cinderella of the shop” because her role was to clean and vacuum Prior to this, she worked at her father’s deli. When Michele was 19 years old, her mother Edith was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Edith received treatment from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. In her book Brunette Ambition, Michele wrote that her mother lost three of her six siblings during her childhood.
In June 2015, Michele bought a four-bedroom home in Brentwood for $2.9 million, and sold her two-bedroom Los Angeles cottage for $1.8 million, which she purchased in 2012 for $1.4 million. Prior to buying her Hollywood home, Michele lived in an apartment in New York City’s West village. She moved into the apartment after graduating from high school.
Prior to co-starring together on Glee, Michele briefly dated actor Matthew Morrison. From 2006 to 2008, she was in a relationship with stage actor Landon Beard. She dated actor/singer John Lloyd Young from summer 2008 to spring 2009, after being cast as Éponine and Marius Pontmercy in Les Misérables at the Hollywood Bowl. She then dated Broadway actor Theo Stockman from November 2009 to September 2011. Michele began dating her Glee co-star Cory Monteith in November 2011. They remained a couple until Monteith’s death on July 13, 2013. Following his death, Michele co-wrote a song with singer-songwriter Sia Furler about Monteith (“If You Say So”) which is featured on her debut album Louder. Michele has been in a relationship with Matthew Paetz, a dating and lifestyle coach, since June 2014. They met in April 2014 on the set of Michele’s music video for her single “On My way, The couple reportedly began living together in September 2014.