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Actress Breaks Down What Lea Michele Is Like To Work With—And If Those Illiteracy Rumors Are True

Photo: lev radin / Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock, @lauraeletel / TikTok via Canva Pro
Lea Michelle, Laura Eletel TikTok

It's the internet rumor that just won't die — Lea Michele can't read

After first surfacing in 2018, the rumor has gone on to become a full-blown conspiracy theory and internet in-joke, appearing in gazillions of memes and TikTok videos.

And now yet another former colleague of Michele's says she thinks the rumors just might be true.

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Laura Eletel says she saw proof of the accusations that Lea Michele can't read.

Actress Laura Eletel worked on Michele's former television series "The Mayor" back in 2017 and 2018, beginning as a recurring extra, or "background" performer in Hollywood parlance.

In a recent TikTok, she shared that she not only dealt with Michele's infamous on-set bullying firsthand, but she also noticed things that, in hindsight, seem to corroborate those illiteracy rumors.

Eletel said Michele's "Glee" reputation had gotten Michele mostly blacklisted in Hollywood, and she did little to redeem herself on "The Mayor," either.

According to Eletel, just three episodes into the series' run the producers were considering firing Michele because she "kept throwing tantrums" and refusing to leave her trailer, delaying production sometimes by days.



Eletel said her own experience working on "The Mayor" was great — she became friends with the crew and even others stars of the show like David Spade and Yvette Nicole Brown.

But things quickly took a turn when she got promoted to Michele's stand-in.

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Laura Eletel was asked to work with Lea Michele as her stand-in for an episode of 'The Mayor,' and said she was rude and dismissive.

Stand-ins are actors with similar looks and stature to big-name stars who literally "stand in" for them during camera and lighting set-ups so that they can rest, eat, or prepare for the next scene.

They're a vital part of shooting film and TV shows—especially since they are often the ones notating the star's directions and filling the star in on what they need to do in the scene.

But Eletel says Michele was not only unappreciative of this work, but actively uninterested in the information she provided.

She says that when "finally the princess [came] out of her trailer 45 minutes too late," she would not even acknowledge Eletel or make eye contact.

And when Eletel described Michele's direction for the scene — which marks to hit, which lines would be close-ups, etc. — Michele ignored her, finally interrupting her to scold, "You're still talking?"

Michele then glared at her for an uncomfortable amount of time before adding, "I need it to stop."

Eletel went on to say that Michele's on-set behavior was so "deplorable" that a cameraman "cursed her out" on the last day of filming. 

And she says "The Mayor" costar Yvette Nicole Brown couldn't stand Michele either.

Brown has since publicly addressed Michele's behavior and corroborated "Glee" stars like Samantha Ware, Amber Riley and Heather Morris' accusations against Michele of racist bullying on set.

So can Lea Michele read?

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Eletel says looking back, she thinks the rumors that Lea Michele is illiterate could be true based on what she witnessed on the set of 'The Mayor.'

The conspiracy theory that Lea Michele can't read began as a joke among a group of podcasters that inspired a hilarious viral 2018 Powerpoint presentation that aired on Facebook Live. 

The Powerpoint has since been scrubbed entirely from the internet — many believe by Michele's team.



But that hasn't stopped it from becoming an ever-circulating meme, especially since the 2022 casting of Beanie Feldstein in the Broadway revival of "Funny Girl" rather than Michele.

That casting was rumored to be because of the allegations against Michele, and the internet soon linked the illiteracy rumors to the decision as well — Michele has since replaced Feldstein in the cast.

Since then, the rumors have become so ubiquitous that even Michele herself addressed it in a TikTok in which she pretended to call her best friend and "Spring Awakening" costar Jonathan Groff so he could read internet comments to her.



But while there's not really any hard evidence Michele is illiterate, Eletel did notice things on set that make the rumor seem plausible. 

She said she never saw Michele look at her script — which corroborates a rumor that Michele had to have her lines dictated to her on "Glee" and "Scream Queens" by Ryan Murphy himself.

And she says that while Michele was "always on her phone," she never saw Michele actually typing anything.

We may never get to the bottom of the rumor that Lea Michele can't read, but one thing seems certain.

As long as her reputation as a bully precedes her, there will never be a shortage of people willing to believe it.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.