She started her career as a child actress on Broadway before she became the belting superstar of the smash-hit series “Glee.” While spectators have seen Lea Michele play a variety of different roles, there’s one thing they haven’t seen her do: read. An internet conspiracy theory about Lea Michele being illiterate blew up after Jaye Hunt and Robert Ackerman from the podcast “One More Thing” posted a 45 minute Facebook livestream with “evidence” that Michele can’t read or write. The theory is far-fetched, as Michele is a 33-year-old woman with an impressive resume, but it’s witty and clever at least.
In the live stream, Hunt and Ackerman say their theory was sparked from Michele’s comments about former “Glee” castmate Naya Rivera’s book. In her book, Rivera mentioned an incident in which Michele refused to improvise with a guest star in an episode of “Glee.” Michele declined to comment her feelings on the issue, only responding with “read the book.” This led the duo to question Michele’s literacy, as they wondered if she couldn’t read the book herself. Further investigation provided them with more evidence to back up their claims.
Their sources of justification come from videos of Lea Michele in which it looks like she’s posing with her signature already written. There are almost no photographs or videos of her actually writing her name at book signings. There are also a few clips of her presenting at awards shows in which she echoes whoever she’s presenting with, making it seem like she can’t read the names. The pair also cites Michele’s Instagram captions, which use mostly emojis instead of real words. They speculated that “Glee” producer Ryan Murphy taught Michele her lines because she couldn’t read them.
A big part of their theory of why Michele would be illiterate is because she missed out on school as a child due to her early success. Michele made her Broadway debut at the age of 8 as Little Cosette in “Les Miserables” and later went on to perform in “Ragtime,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Spring Awakening.” However, it would’ve been impossible for Michele to fall that far behind, as New York law regulates schooling for child performers. The law posits that an on-site teacher must be provided “from the first day of missed educational instruction through the remainder of the child’s employment in the production if the child was guaranteed three or more consecutive days of employment.” That’s without mentioning that most children begin reading at age 6 or 7, which would’ve been before her Broadway debut.
Lea Michele has since shut down the rumors both on Twitter and on “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen.” She told Cohen that the theory was “bizarre” and tweeted that she “loved READING” all of the tweets about the conspiracy. She appears to be in good spirits surrounding the situation, finding it funny instead of getting defensive. If she were truly illiterate, she likely would’ve gone to greater lengths to hide it, being more adamant about shutting down the conspiracy theorists.
Lea Michele did, however, cite her acceptance into NYU. The university requires the submission of some kind of standardized test to be considered for undergraduate admissions. While it accepts a variety of different tests, it’s safe to say those tests would be difficult to pass for an illiterate person. However, in 2019, one can’t fully trust this as proof that she can read. She could’ve taken advantage of unauthorized assistance like Lori Loughlin or Felicity Huffman. Lea Michele probably had enough money and influence to slip the dean of admissions a chunk of change to let her in.
The conspiracy theory that Lea Michele can’t read is proof that people on the Internet will truly jump to the most outrageous conclusions at the sight of the slightest oddities or strange coincidences. It’s highly doubtful that Lea Michele is illiterate, but as Roman playwright Plautus once said, “One eye-witness weighs more than 10 hearsays. Seeing is believing, all the world over.” Until spectators watch Lea Michele read and write in person, there may always be a tiny bit of uncertainty.
Diana Witt is a sophomore theatre and media arts and design double major. Contact Diana at firstname.lastname@example.org.