Allegations that Michele was a diva on the set of the popular teen musical series have existed for a long time, especially coming from her Black costars. In her book Sorry Not Sorry, the late Naya Rivera complained that Michele treated her like she was lesser and even refused to talk to her for part of the series.
When Michele was accused of racism in 2020 by Glee costar Samantha Ware, who said Michele threatened to "sh*t in her wig," she offered an apology.
"While I don't remember ever making this specific statement and I have never judged others by their background or color of their skin, that's not really the point," Michele said. "What matters is that I clearly acted in ways which hurt other people. Whether it was my privileged position and perspective that caused me to be perceived as insensitive or inappropriate at times or whether it was just my immaturity and me just being unnecessarily difficult, I apologize for my behavior and for any pain which I have caused."
Now the Funny Girl star has offered her form of an explanation for the behavior, saying that the accusations prompted an "intense time of reflection."
"I have an edge to me. I work really hard. I leave no room for mistakes," Michele said to the New York Times about her behavior on Glee. "That level of perfectionism, or that pressure of perfectionism, left me with a lot of blind spots."
"I really understand the importance and value now of being a leader," she added. "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."
Michele also told the newspaper that she isn't a fan of the rumor that she can't read.
"I went to Glee every single day; I knew my lines every single day," Michele said about the rumor. "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."
The rumor does address the fact that she was on Glee, saying that the show's creator Ryan Murphy knew Michele's secret and fed her lines to her.
While Michele says the rumor arose because she's a woman, others say that it was taking a jab at the high-maintenance and career-focused actress who has been in the industry since she was a child because she was often described as acting as though she was better than everyone else on set, alienating other cast members and developing a reputation for demanding special treatment and treating costars (especially Black ones) poorly.
Michele is currently starring in her dream role as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl on Broadway.