Lea Michele has been called a mean girl by Hollywood gossips ever since finding fame on “Glee.” But now, at seven months pregnant and caught up in a storm of incredibly damning headlines over her behavior, Michele, 33, has spent the past few days desperately trying to make amends.
“She’s had a real wake-up call,” a Michele friend told The Post. “It’s never easy to hear people speak about you this way. It’s a total shock.”
“Lea was a bitch to a lot of people who are now taking the opportunity to come forward,” said one industry source who has worked with her. “She may not be the nicest person, but she’s not racist, sexist or transphobic. I would say she has behavioral issues that she’s dealing with.
“She is listening, she hears what everyone says and wants to apologize. This is her past and she wants to handle things responsibly.”
On Monday, “Glee” co-star Samantha Ware, who is black, tweeted of Michele: “Remember when you made my first television gig a living hell?!?! Cause I’ll never forget. I believe you told everyone that if you had the opportunity you would ‘s–t in my wig!’ amongst other traumatic microaggressions that made me question a career in Hollywood.”
The post came after Michele used social media to lend support to the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and promptly blew up online — prompting a glut of former co-stars to come forward with their own stories.
Gerard Canonico branded Michele a “nightmare” behind the scenes of the 2006 Broadway show “Spring Awakening,” while Heather Morris called her “very unpleasant” to work with on “Glee,” and Elizabeth Aldrich — Michele’s understudy for “Ragtime” on Broadway all the way back in 1998 — said: “I used to cry every night from the mean and manipulative things she would do. She was 12. She was terrifying.”
“Glee” co-star Melissa Benoist liked Ware’s post, while Amber Riley posted a GIF of herself sipping tea — a sign someone is ready for gossip — amidst the drama.
The Post is told that Michele reached out to “Glee” castmates, including Ware and Riley, as well as co-stars from “Spring Awakening.”
But some say it may be too late. Meal kit company HelloFresh has already dropped Michele as a spokesperson. And her public apology after Ware’s remarks was trashed by many online, including Ware.
Actor Dabier Snell, who won a guest spot on “Glee,” told The Post how she had him banished from lunch on set. “I was invited to sit down with the rest of the cast members by Darren Criss, and made to feel welcome. I also knew Chris Colfer as well, so he was like, ‘Go ahead, come sit with us and chat!’ . . . Five to 10 minutes after we sat down and had a conversation, I was pulled [aside by an assistant director] and told one of the cast members did not want me to sit there, because she felt I don’t belong.
“It’s, ‘I’m big time, I have the power to say anything I want.’”
– Actor Dabian Snell on why he thinks ‘Glee’ co-star Lea Michele was so mean
“I later found out it was [Michele] who said that. Everybody else was cool. I couldn’t tell Darren or Chris because they work with her and she has a lot of power. It felt like . . . if I said something, I probably wasn’t going to be on the show. I just zipped my mouth. I went back to my trailer and cried a bit, I won’t lie.”
Asked whether Michele’s behavior was racially motivated or just plain rude, Snell, who is black, replied: “I feel like it’s both, I feel like it’s status, too, somebody who’s like ‘I’m a lead, I’m big time, I have the power to say anything I want to my other cast members.’”
Others who have worked with Michele say she’s just not nice.
Riley spoke out on the “Real Quick With Danielle Young” podcast: “I am not going to say that Lea Michele’s racist. That’s not what I’m saying.”
Asked how Michele, who’s holed up in her Los Angeles home with husband Zandy Reich, is handling all this, a second Michele friend told The Post, “She’s emotional and I know there have been tears. It’s a lot of stress. Sets are volatile places, but there’s no excuses for her behavior and she knows that.”
Michele has been ambitious pretty much since she came out of the womb. Born in the Bronx to mom Edith and dad Marc Safarti — she uses her middle name as her professional last name — Michele hit Broadway at age 8, playing Cosette in “Les Miserables.”
In 2009, she found fame on “Glee,” helmed by producer Ryan Murphy, starring as Rachel for six seasons before the show ended in 2015.
But stardom went to her head, insiders say. A guest at the Time 100 gala in 2010, where Michele was feted, told The Post: “Lea was such a brat!” When society photographer Patrick McMullan approached her to take a photo and asked her name, Michele allegedly rolled her eyes and replied: “Sarah Palin.”
Laughing, McMullan said: “No, really, tell me your name.” to which Michele said, “Taylor Swift.” McMullan, according to New York magazine, told her: “F–k you.”
While on “Glee,” she signed a solo deal with Columbia records. Sources recall how, during one trip to London for the label, she demanded to stay in a particular five-star hotel of her choosing despite being told there wasn’t a budget for that.
A source who worked on the “Glee” hair and make-up team told The Post, “What I saw was that [Michele] was mean, unfriendly. She was rude, in a general sense. She would come in late all the time, she was not approachable.”
MORE FORMER CO-STARS WHO CALLED MICHELE OUT THIS WEEK
But Michele was said to be a favorite of producer Murphy, who later officiated her wedding. When he was making the 2017 series “Feud,” about Hollywood legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, he spoke to E! about a rumored rivalry between Michele and “Glee” co-star Naya Rivera.
“I have always been a person who’s been surrounded by feuds, many of my own making,” he said. “[“Glee”] was just a s–tstorm of difficulty, largely because, what do you do when you’re 18 years old or 19 years old and you wake up one day and you’re world famous?”
In her 2016 memoir, “Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes and Growing Up,” Rivera, who played Santana Lopez, wrote: “As Santana moved from a background character to one with bigger plot lines and more screen time . . . Lea didn’t like sharing the spotlight . . . it got to the point where she didn’t say a word to me for all of season 6.”
However, Rivera told Andy Cohen in January 2019 there was “no beef” between them.
Not that Michele’s life was always easy. Her “Glee” co-star and real-life boyfriend Corey Monteith died of a drug overdose in 2013.
And Murphy has said, “There were many boys on our show that didn’t get along. And you never hear about that. You never hear about that in our culture.”
As for Michele’s next step, the second friend said, “She’s having a lot of anxiety, but she knows that she has to be held accountable for her behavior. She is listening, she hears what everyone says and wants to apologize. She wants to handle things responsibly.
“Let’s just hope she learns from her mistakes.”
— Additional reporting by Lauren Sarner