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Lea Michele Blames ‘Funny Girl’ Casting Backlash on Sexism, Admits to Having ‘an Edge’

The "Glee" alum underwent an "intense time of reflection" after multiple allegations of racist bullying behavior came to light in 2020.

Lea Michele Spring Awakening revival

Lea Michele

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Lea Michele promises she is more ready than ever to finally be Fanny Brice in Broadway’s “Funny Girl.”

The “Glee” and “Spring Awakening” alum stepped into the lead role made famous by Barbra Streisand as “Booksmart” actress Beanie Feldstein exited the Broadway production. Michele joins the production September 6, and Feldstein issued a statement addressing the show moving in a “different direction.”

“I feel more ready than I ever have before, both personally and professionally,” Michele told The New York Times about taking over the part.

“Funny Girl” reunites Michele with “Spring Awakening” helmer Michael Mayer, who produces and directs “Funny Girl.”

Yet Michele’s casting caused online backlash due to multiple allegations from Michele’s former “Glee” co-stars Samantha Marie Ware and Heather Morris over racist “microaggressions” and bullying tactics. Michele apologized in 2020 for her actions “perceived as insensitive or inappropriate” coming from her “privileged position” as a lead star on the Fox high school musical series.

Now, Michele opened up that the allegations led to an “intense time of reflection” about her behavior on set, where in the past she admitted she was in a “semi-robotic state” in pursuit of perfection.

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

She added, “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.”

For “Funny Girl,” Michele is starting with a fresh outlook. “Everyone here has been through a lot,” she shared, “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.”

As for the rumors surrounding her casting, Michele pointed to an outrageous claim that she is illiterate as part of the personal backlash.

“I went to ‘Glee’ every single day; I knew my lines every single day,” Michele stated. “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.”

But Michele is trying to stay the “Funny Girl” she has always dreamed of being.

“You might think that’s the biggest piece of bull that I’m going to say to you all day, but I really don’t care about that at this point. It’s just about being able to play this part,” Michele said. “[But] I will never be as good as Barbra Streisand.”

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