As a self-proclaimed Barbra Streisand worshiper, Lea Michele opens "Brunette Ambition" with a nod to her role models in the first chapter, "What Makes Me Me." While other girls were watching "90210," Michele was watching "Funny Girl," taking comfort that she looked more like Streisand than the girls projected on TV. She recounts the day that she met Streisand. After singing "My Man" (from Funny Girl) at the MusiCares benefit honoring Streisand — admitting she was "incredibly nervous" — she thought she missed her chance to chat with her idol. A few nights later, Streisand and Michele exited the Grammy Awards around the same time, and Streisand tapped Michele on the shoulder to ask, "Did I sound good tonight?" Michele replied, "You were incredible." The actress admits to always being nervous around the music icon and once passed on the chance to see Streisand backstage at the Hollywood Bowl. Weeks later, Streisand sent her a note asking her why she didn't come back to say hello — she wanted to give Michele a hug!
Michele also structures "Brunette Ambition" with a quote from Streisand or from Funny Girl (in which Streisand originated the iconic role of Fanny Brice — a part that Michele is eyeing for Broadway) preceding each chapter. Our favorite is "You have to discover you, what you do, and trust it."
|Photo by Joan Marcus|
Broadway and Spring Awakening
Michele dedicates a chapter to her Broadway beginnings in "The Biz." She chronicles her Broadway debut with Les Misérables and her journey with Ragtime — where she met five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, who taught her how to breathe properly, maintain good vocal health and the importance of drinking tea and water and refusing cigarettes. Michele explained that she took a Broadway hiatus to dedicate time to high school, but was encouraged to make a return in the revival of Fiddler on the Roof, although her role in the production was smaller than she was used to. She left Fiddler when she realized she was not benefiting "creatively."
Michele then delves into her time with Spring Awakening, which skyrocketed her to stardom when it opened on Broadway in 2006. She talks about private moments spent with the cast (in particular, best friend Jonathan Groff) and also revealed that a clause was written in her contract stating that she did not have to show her breasts when her father was in the audience.
Her advice on the "biz"? "Whether you're considering a career on the stage or a career at a desk, I hope that it's a path you're so passionate about that you'll fight for every opportunity. I hope it sings to every fiber of your being and that you can't imagine doing anything else."
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Michele writes a "Love Letter to Jonathan Groff" in a chapter about her friendships. In "Brunette Ambition," we learn that Michele helped Groff during his audition for Spring Awakening — he arrived in a "badly fitting outfit" with too much hair gel — that Groff took time before he came out as gay to Michele and that he had skin cancer from being overexposed to the sun. (Michele now encourages the use of sunscreen!) She also talks about their sex scene in Spring Awakening and how Groff essentially "got her the job" on "Glee."
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Before "Glee," Michele was going through a very bad breakup — although she does not divulge who the ex-boyfriend was. She also reveals that, before "Glee," she dated "Glee" co-star (who plays her teacher on television) Matthew Morrison. The two knew each other from Broadway!
|Photo by Tommy Garcia/FOX|
Although Michele does not talk too much about the sudden death of "Glee" co-star and boyfriend Cory Monteith, she does acknowledge him at the beginning and end of "Brunette Ambition." She thanks Monteith for proofreading the book and said that she made all of the corrections he offered. She mentions Monteith throughout and touches upon their trip to the White House and their time on television. Her favorite clothing items include Rachel's "Finn" necklace from "Glee" and shoes that Monteith bought her. The Pucci dress, featuring a sexy low back, that she wore to the Chrysalis Butterfly Ball in 2012 was one of her favorite red-carpet looks because she was excited for Monteith to see her in it.
Michele is a big foodie and provides her readers with delicious recipes in "Brunette Ambition." She gives advice on how to navigate Whole Foods and find food that is not only delicious, but healthy. She gives great recipes for kale chips, whole-wheat pizzas, frittatas, wraps, soups, veggie lentil burgers and more. Michele, who also doesn't eat meat, offers advice for traveling. She always packs for the airplane ride and looks up menus online before dining out. Michele also loves to have a glass of red wine while relaxing (yum!) and drinks four "huge" bottles of water whenever she is on set at "Glee."
Michele admits to having a tough time with her skin — suffering from breakouts if she doesn't take proper care of her face. She never uses other people's products, including face washes at hotels — she always packs her own. Aside from product advice, Michele also dedicates a chapter in "Brunette Ambition" to her different looks and explains her hair and makeup secrets — from the "Sunday Brunch" look to a "Red Carpet"-worthy appearance.
Michele encourages a "fit" lifestyle and enjoys hiking and outdoor exercises. In "Brunette Ambition," through a series of pictures, the actress shows off her workout routine, with various stretches and warm-ups.
Michele met her best girlfriend, Stephanie, on her final callback for "Glee." When she was on her way to the audition in Los Angeles, Michele got into a car accident, but insisted on going through with her audition for Rachel Berry. Stephanie, a Fox intern who worked in casting, took Michele into the bathroom, picked glass out of her hair, wiped the blood from the cuts on her face and became her new best friend.
|Photo by FOX|
After her final callback, Michele was asked back in the room and told immediately that she landed the part of Rachel Berry on "Glee" — even though she felt like she bombed the audition. In "Brunette Ambition," she answers fans' questions about the famed series, talks about her favorite moments and guest stars (Kristin Chenoweth, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jonathan Groff) and the time Ryan Murphy made her breakfast.
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)