Actress and singer Lea Michele rose to fame in 2009 on Fox’s musical drama, Glee. For six seasons, she played Rachel Berry, a Lima, Ohio teen with Broadway ambitions. Throughout Rachel’s run, fans watched her obsess over her career, her relationship with Finn Hudson (played by her real-life boyfriend at the time, Cory Monteith), and Barbra Streisand.
In the show, Rachel wanted to play one of the music legend’s most memorable roles: Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. In Glee’s final season, Rachel finally achieved her dream of playing Fanny on Broadway. Like Rachel, Lea dreamed of portraying Fanny Brice. Then, in July 2022, her dream also came true, as it was announced that she would take over the role from Beanie Feldstein.
Needless to say, drama ensued, and stories of her old behavior toward her co-stars on Glee were thrust back into the spotlight.
Now, a new three-part documentary, The Price of Glee, explores the plagued production and behind-the-scenes tensions that were stirring behind what was one of the hottest shows on TV when it aired. Here, we’re explaining why so many people hate Lea Michele.
Why do people hate Lea Michele? She received backlash for alleged racist and narcissistic behavior on 'Glee.'
Since leaving Glee, Lea has gained a significant following on her social media platforms. So, when the video of George Floyd’s murder by police surfaced online, she expressed her support for him and the Black Lives Matter movement. While the actress initially received praise for her statement, her former Glee co-star, Samantha Ware, didn’t appreciate the gesture. Samantha accused Lea of making her time on Glee “a living hell,” which she said almost made her quit acting.
According to Samantha, Lea made several “traumatic microaggressions,” including telling another castmate she wanted to “s--t” in Samantha’s wig.
Following Samantha’s claims, several more Glee actors accused Lea of referring to the Black background dancers as “roaches.” Additionally, Heather Morris, who played Brittney S. Pierce on the show, deemed her "unpleasant to work with.”
In June 2020, Lea released a statement saying she never met to offend anyone on Glee’s set and apologized to her co-stars. However, for some, the damage was already done.
Soon, plans to cancel Lea surfaced, and she lost multiple brand endorsements. Following her June 2020 apology, Lea seemingly kept a low profile. That August, she gave birth to her first child with her husband, Zandy Reich — a son named Ever. She also frequently posts on Instagram but now limits her comments after the Glee controversy.
In The Price of Glee, the late Naya Rivera's father claims that Lea Michele and his daughter "hated each other." Actor Dabier Snell, who appeared in one episode of the show, claims that when he tried to sit with the cast at lunch on set, he was told by someone on set that a cast member didn't want him to sit with them because they didn't feel like he "belonged with the rest of the group." He guessed (correctly) that it was Lea who made that request.
Lea Michele’s 'Glee' co-stars reacted to ‘Funny Girl’ casting.
Lea’s name made headlines after Beanie Feldstein landed the role of Fanny Brice on Broadway. Many were aware it was a dream role for Lea but felt she didn’t deserve to play her dream character after what she reportedly did to Samantha and her other co-stars.
However, in July 2022, Beanie released a statement explaining her decision to step down as Fanny, and the show’s team hired Lea to take her place beginning on Sept. 6, 2022.
“A dream come true is an understatement,” Lea wrote about the opportunity on Instagram. “I’m so incredibly honored to join this amazing cast and production and return to the stage playing Fanny Brice on Broadway. See you September 6th.”
Lea’s announcement received praise from multiple celebrities on Instagram, including Julianne Hough and Brad Goreski. Samantha, however, slammed the casting choice. Samantha took to Twitter and accused Broadway of overlooking Lea’s alleged bullying and racism.
On Sept. 6, Lea Michele made her Funny Girl debut in NYC. However, only one of her Glee co-stars, Jonathan Groff, went to see her perform. While Lea's take on the role has received praise since her debut, it's clear her former cast members are still traumatized by their experiences with her.
In October 2022, Chris Colfer appeared on Sirius XM’s “The Michelle Collins Show.” When Michelle asked Chris if he would support Lea on Funny Girl while in New York, he replied, “Oh, my day just suddenly got so full,” confirming that he never had plans to see Lea. Then, Chris added more shade against his former on-screen frenemy.
“No, I could be triggered at home,” he declared.
The Price of Glee has been characterized by at least one pop culture writer as a "hit piece" focusing mostly on Lea Michele, and some, including cast member Kevin McHale, have expressed skepticism about the doc, which doesn't interview any main cast members. Do with that information what you will!
Either way, Lea Michele is and likely will forever be a fairly contentious figure, especially for those who have worked with her.