Dressed in a simple button down, Lea Michele belted out a Les Miserables favorite for her first musical number on Glee back in 2009. From then on, Michele as been a force, keeping her character Rachel Berry in the spotlight of Fox's most-watched and talked about show, earning dozens of awards and millions of fans along the way.
The fervor surrounding Glee may have quieted down over the seasons--and the show transformed into a well-choreographed cliche of its former self--but the committed Gleeks still tune in each week. Utilizing an undeniable theatrical wit, the leading lady has taken charge of this devoted fanbase to build a fame and career all her own. Now Michele plans to release her first solo album, a pop-vocal venture titled Louder, on March 3.
"You know, I'm really thankful to get to be on my television show and also have the opportunity to get to work on other things, you know dreams and goals of mind," Michele recently said by phone during a quick interview that she managed to squeeze into her afternoon break from recording. Her morning started with a green juice and hike, an excursion she tweeted pictures of to her over 4.25 million-plus Twitter followers.
Lasting just over 42 minutes, her album mixes the prevailing sounds of Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus with Michele's capable vocals. Electronic sounds and beats common to today's pop music overwhelm many of the songs, but Michele's skilled singing and theatrics ground the venture.
"The album--every word, every phrase, every lyric on this album--is something that I've experienced," Michele added. "It's a part of me. It's a little scary but I'm a very honest person and that's how I want to be as a recording artist."
The latest single, "You're Mine," presents an agreeable pop ballet that touches upon Michele's own experiences. The repeated lines--"We are entwined. You're mine, for life. Hold me until we go, oh yes, and you will love"--gives fans just enough of a glimpse into her relationship with Cory Monteith, Glee's former lead actor who died last July from a heroin and alcohol overdose. Michele recorded the song prior to his death, while the two dated both on and off screen.
"I listen to it now, and obviously life is different now, but still brings me such joy, and it makes me so happy and it just reminds me of a such a beautiful time in my life," Michele said. "People often don't get to experience real, wonderful love, and I've had a pretty intense and horrendous 2013, but I listen to that song and it reminds me that I had the amazing pleasure of experiencing real love."
Clear emotions run through the song, yet Michele leaves out the intimate details regarding her relationship and tragedy. "It does really open up a lot of personal stuff, but I share what I want to share and what I feel ready to share, and what I feel is appropriate," said Michele, "what you hear on this record is really just what the past few years of my life were like."
"But I'm still really kind of careful and I put some thought into what I want to open up to people," she continued. As with her music, Michele controlled the conversation, disclosing the perfect amount of detail and nothing more. Nevertheless, each response came with a politeness and charm. Laughing along with silly small talk, Michele makes you like her, and vice-versa, you hope she likes you.
For this reason, media surrounds Michele. Tabloids and Gleeks crave insight into her life. "But you know I think that's part of this business," said Michele. "People really want to know more and they think that they know a lot, so you kind of have to get a little used to that." Her success stems from overseeing this frenzy.
Following Monteith's death, Michele made one of her first appearances at the Teen Choice Awards to accept the award for, "Choice TV Actress - Comedy." Her speech limited itself to discussing the talent and heart of her late boyfriend, yet her appreciation and heartbreak was evident. Recently, she flaunted her body in steamy photos shot by Terry Richardson for V Magazine. Even within these constricted glimpses, Michele provides moments that make fans both respect and crave her stardom.
Her next adventures capitalized on this intrigue. Her first book, Brunette Ambition, comes out this spring, and promises to be part memoir, part how-to-guide. The animated movie Legends of Oz: Dorthy's Return will be released that same month, and Michele, of course, voices the legendary Dorothy Gale, an opportunity her character on Glee would die for.
These budding opportunities do not distract Michele from her role on the television. Her newest ventures demonstrate her talents extend beyond Glee, but for now the phenomena still founds her fame. "I think certain people are focusing right now on the fact that Season 6 could potentially be the last year," Michele admitted. "What people don't understand is we are still in the middle of shooting Season 5, we still have an entire season, 22 episodes, to film next year. So I think everyone is getting a little ahead of themselves."