Lea Michele Addresses Bullying Claims Ahead of 'Funny Girl' Debut

Lea Michele Addresses Bullying Claims Ahead of 'Funny Girl' Debut

Lea Michele is one of pop culture's most polarizing figures. Looking past the imprint she left on a generation as Rachel Berry in the hit TV show Glee, allegations of Michele creating a toxic work environment on set caused many to reevaluate her legacy.

In a profile published in the New York Times, Michele once again tackles these accusations ahead of her first performance as the lead, Fanny Brice, in Funny Girl. After going through an "intense time of reflection" following the 2020 allegations, the actress believes that she is more equipped than ever to lead a Broadway company since leaving Spring Awakening in 2008.

“I really understand the importance and value now of being a leader,” she said. “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.”

While embodying the role of Brice was always Michele's dream, even making its way into her Glee character, her welcoming into the role was not without drama. Beanie Feldstein announced she was leaving the role two months earlier than expected, fueling rumors that Michele was taking her place. Many took to social media shortly after the announcement to voice their displeasure, citing Michele's alleged racism and bullying as reasons why she should not fill the role.

It all started in June 2020 when Michele posted a tweet in support of Black Lives Matter and former Glee co-star Samantha Marie Ware responded with claims that she directed microaggressions at her. Some of the show's other stars, including Amber Riley, Heather Morris and Alex Newell confirmed this behavior, although Riley disputed Michele's racism.

In response to the initial allegations, Michele posted an apology saying that they "have made me also focus specifically on how my own behavior towards fellow cast members was perceived by them." She further goes on to say, "I listened to these criticisms and I am learning and while I am very sorry, I will be better in the future from this experience." Upon the announcement of Michele's Funny Girl role, Ware reportedly tweeted "Yes, Broadway upholds whiteness" before making her account private.

With less than a week to go until Michele takes the stage as Fanny Brice, she reflected on her behavior once more, telling The Times, "I have an edge to me. I work really hard. I leave no room for mistakes."

Interest has been piqued for Michele's highly anticipated Broadway performance of a role she has spent her whole life working up to. According to the profile, the most expensive ticket for her first night is currently on sale for $2,600. It seems that Michele has since learned a lot about how to conduct herself on set and onstage, telling The Times, "Everyone here has been through a lot, and I just have to come in and be prepared and do a good job and be respectful of the fact that this is their space."

And don't worry, Michele also addressed the long-running conspiracy theory that she is illiterate. "It’s sad. It really is," she remarked. "I think often if I were a man, a lot of this wouldn’t be the case." The rumors were sparked by TikTok users who believed that her Broadway childhood prevented her from learning how to read and everything written by her, such as Instagram captions and her own book, were done by an assistant.

"I went to ‘Glee’ every single day; I knew my lines every single day,” she explains. It would be pretty hard to be on six seasons of a popular TV show without knowing how to read.

Michele is set to take the stage as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl on Tuesday, September 6.

Photo by Rupert Ramsay/BFA