OK, so 27 is a young age to write your memoirs. But Lea Michele’s Brunette Ambition (Crown Archetype, $21) isn’t meant to be an autobiography. Rather, it’s designed as a how-to book for fans of the actress and singer, couched with personal insights about the life which brought this wisdom.
Liberally illustrated and an easy read, Brunette Ambition offers lengthy looks at Michele’s approach to food, fashion, fitness and beauty, and how her health-centered, professional approach has empowered her rise from Broadway performer at age 8 to TV star, recording artist and now author at 27.
Those wanting an expansive view of her personal life may be disappointed. The book is personal, but not confessional or soul-baring. Boyfriend Cory Monteith, who died last year, is mentioned – and shown in photos — but briefly, and with respect and love, not gut-wrenching dramatic exploitation.
Besides, Michele has so many others to adore and thank, from her supportive parents to her BFF, actor Jonathan Groff, to her Glee cast and crew to her equally grounded and career-driven girlfriends.
As for the book’s superb title: While the brunette part is self-evident at a glance, the ambition part is deeply ingrained. But it’s ambition, Lea-style. That is to say, it’s ambition in a positive way for a young woman who always wanted to be a Broadway “diva” without the negative connotations, but instead with a take-charge professionalism that Michele learned long ago should be a cornerstone of her life.
Look, I covered show business professionally for decades at major daily newspapers, and I say without arrogance that I have an eye not just for talent, but for what it takes to prevail, even with talent. When Glee first burst on the national scene, I recognized in Michele a special talent, not only as an actress and a singer (can anyone today belt it better?), but as a show-biz professional in a world of wacky, flighty excess and hype.
I may not agree with all her style choices or savor her many tattoos, but I believe in her approach. She’s a pro and a gamer, and as I’ve said for years (this is the innate producer in me talking) I wish I was the one who had her under contract. In a world of show-biz posers, wannabes, reality “stars” and hangers-on, Lea Michele is the real deal.
I think that comes through in this book, but without blatant self-aggrandizement. That’s because Michele gratefully thanks those who have helped her (starting with her parents) and inspired her (including idol Barbra Streisand, whose quotes launch each chapter). She also showers adoration on other people who have supported and loved her over the years – including some whom the tabs would claim are her enemies (Kate Hudson).
And though the book isn’t humor-heaped, it does have wry self-effacement, as when Michele relates how Groff made her laugh so hard before her White House performance that she peed in her pants and had to quickly shower and change. It’s also clear that she’s grounded enough to steer clear of the Hollywood party scene and stay tight with close friends — keepin’ it real.
So take this book for what it is and what works for you. If Michele’s healthy recipes and fitness routines help you, adopt them. For me, I’m content learning more about a woman who, like her Glee character of Rachel Berry, is driven – ambitious – but unlike her seems to have a centered sense of self-awareness and an appreciation for life that makes her – dare I say – truly lovable.
Indeed, ambition never looked so good.
— Bruce Westbrook