IDINA MENZEL: Actress talks success, divorce, Frozen

Courtesy of INSP News Service / The Big Issue

By Steven MacKenzie

Not every fairy tale has its happily-ever-after ending. Menzel’s marriage to Taye Diggs, who she met while starring in Rent, ended after ten years as her career soared to new heights.

“It’s been a real personally trying time for me—professionally astounding—but I’ve been getting divorced this year,” she says. “It’s interesting how serendipitous things are. The things you need to learn in your life are mirrored in the work you are given to do. And I like that. I feel like I’m able to learn through my art.

“There’s universality in specificity,” Menzel continues. “Everybody has their own journeys of starting over and taking a new path and trying new things. In the details of our daily lives is authenticity that then reaches out to so many people beyond. You realize you’re speaking for others in a way you never even thought.”

Perhaps that is the secret of any great show or song—that people can relate even if the singer may be a snow queen or a not-so-wicked witch. Elsa and Elphaba specifically have been embraced by the LGBT community, which relates to the characters’ stories.

“I’m very proud of that,” Menzel says. “It’s coming out of the closet. They’ve hidden something or felt that they’ve had to compromise who they are in order to be accepted. They finally decide to throw caution to the wind, tell everyone to screw off. The world opens up to them in a whole new way and they find happiness and contentment.

“I love that [in the characters I play] there’s a pattern of young people trying to find their way. The older I get the more I still need to be reminded of my own self-esteem and my own empowerment as a woman.”

Do you still have problems with other people trying to bring you down or with letting go?

“Yeah, of course,” she says. “To connect with your audience you have to remain vulnerable. You have to let them see who you really are even if you’re hiding behind green makeup or an animated character.

“Performers are the most hypocritical people. We’re terrified, we’re insecure, we have all of these demons inside of us and yet we’re the first to get up on stage and expose ourselves in front of hundreds or thousands or millions of people. I’m constantly having to fight my own insecurities, but I’m also finding ways to celebrate who I am.

“I’m comfortable being myself with no makeup to hide behind,” Menzel concludes. “I’m a pretty cool chick.”