If you don’t yet know Idina by name, I guarantee you know her voice. It practically explodes with power and raw emotion, rooting you to the spot and demanding your full attention. Idina’s aptitude for storytelling has landed her Broadway roles in productions like “Rent,” “Wicked,” “Hair” and “Aida,” international acclaim and a massive fan base composed of toddlers and theater critics alike.
As an ex-drama club kid, I was lucky enough to see the Tony winner star in “If/Then” when it first debuted on Broadway a few years back. I recall bursting into literal tears when she stepped onstage to utter the very first line of the show: “Hello, it’s me.” “Me,” of course, being Maureen Johnson, Elphaba Thropp and the Snow Queen of “Frozen,” Elsa — among many other iconic (and often painfully misunderstood) characters from both stage and screen.
So whether you’re an OG “fanzel,” a Disney enthusiast hoping to put a face to the voice you’ve heard sing “Let it Go” one too many times or John Travolta just trying to jog your memory, here are 18 things to know about Idina Menzel!
1. Idina’s a New Yorker through and through! Born in Manhattan in 1971, the Broadway legend was raised in a Jewish family and grew up in Long Island.
Here is baby Idina dressed up as Dorothy Gale:
2. Menzel isn’t her given last name! Idina changed the spelling of her original surname “Mentzel” to better reflect the pronunciation her family had adopted after emigrating to the US from Russia, and because she “wanted this cool sounding name… I took the ‘t’ out, which didn’t help anybody say it right.”
3. Idina got her start singing at weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs! She began performing at sixteen and continued to do so throughout her time at NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts.
Here she is talking on Live with Kelly and Ryan about risking arrest just to perform at one of her first-ever gigs at Temple Beth Shalom:
Can we take a sec to appreciate that killer choreography demonstration? And she claims she’s “a singer, not a dancer.”
Sure, Idina, sure.
4. Idina proudly identifies as a feminist. She says, “I love that I play all of these strong women. But they’re not just strong—they’re women who have a really deep vulnerability and need to go through a journey in order to harness their power.”
Take a look at this old headshot that’s truly giving “divine feminine”:
5. Idina is a Barbra Streisand stan! She refers to Babs as one of her primary musical influences and is often compared to her, with many critics deeming Idina “the Streisand of her generation.”
Watch Idina serenade Barbra during the Kennedy Center’s tribute to the star:
🎶 “Hey Babs and Idinaaaaa, we’re your biggest faaaaaaans!” 🎶
6. She once broke a bone during a show! During her second-to-last “Wicked” performance (a musical that, FYI, is the brainchild of fellow Jews Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman), Idina fell through a trapdoor during her melting scene and cracked her lower rib.
While the injury meant she couldn’t perform the next day, Idina, being the badass bitch (er, witch) she is, still made a surprise appearance to sing her final number before leaving the role of Elphaba in the capable hands of Jewish queen Shoshana Bean.
Please appreciate Idina rocking this Adidas tracksuit onstage before earning a five-minute standing ovation:
Defying gravity and doctor’s orders, probably.
7. Speaking of fashion, Idina recently launched her own clothing line, Encore By Idina! Here she is modeling some of her fits:
It’s pretty affordable and inclusive, too, with sizes ranging from XS-3X! You can shop the entire line here.
8. Idina has a sister, Cara Mentzel! Cara is the author of the memoir “Voice Lessons,” a real-life Anna and Elsa story centered around her experience “growing up in the shadow of a larger-than-life older sister.”
The siblings have also co-authored a children’s book based on their relationship, “Loud Mouse,” and occasionally even sing together!
You can watch their duet here:
Y’all are too cute and talented.
9. She also has a celeb lookalike! Contrary to popular belief, Idina’s not actually related to actress and singer Lea Michele. Idina was cast as the mother of Lea’s “Glee” character Rachel Berry after hordes of Gleeks pointed out their striking resemblance.
10. Idina is super supportive of her “Wicked” fam! Here she is on the Kelly Clarkson show surprising Jewish actress and Broadway’s newest green gal, Talia Suskauer:
We’re not crying, you’re crying.
11. Idina’s a Eurovision winner (sort of)! In a 2017 interview, Irish New York–based songwriter Jimmy Walsh revealed that, in the early 90s, Menzel recorded a demo for him of the song “In Your Eyes,” which eventually went on to win the Eurovision Song Contest 1993.
Menzel was only paid $75 for the recording (which sounds like a total rip-off, if you ask us).
12. She’s a firm believer in tikkun olam! In 2010, Idina founded and helped run A BroaderWay Foundation with then-husband Taye Diggs to support young people in the arts through scholarships and drama camps.
She’s also a longtime supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and AIDS advocacy, and has frequently partnered with the Trevor Project and the NOH8 campaign.
Just call her Mitzvah Menzel!
13. Idina didn’t actually have any beef with John Travolta after the infamous 86th Academy Awards debacle. Theater geeks can recall where they were when John mispronounced Idina’s name so atrociously on live TV that the clip became *the* viral meme of 2014 (all together now, folks: “The wickedly talented, one and only, Adele Dazeem!”).
Idina, having a killer sense of humor, reportedly responded by printing up satirical playbills with references to her new name and past work in “Nert” (“Rent”), “Wicked-ly” (“Wicked”) and “Farfignugen” (a play on the word Fahrvergnügen, referring to “Frozen”).
14. Idina makes a fantastic Shabbat dinner guest!
You can watch her discuss a variety of topics related to antisemitism and Jewish pride alongside Ilana Glazer, Skylar Astin, Hannah Einbinder, Michael Zegen and many more in the star-studded Youtube special “Recipe for Change.”
15. Idina has a son named Walker who clearly has a talent for basketball:
And stage makeup:
16. Idina’s released six studio albums, fifteen singles and two live albums! Her rendition of “Let It Go” became the fifth biggest-selling song of 2014, selling 10.9 million copies across the globe.
17. Her latest project is “You Are SO Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah,” a Netflix comedy based on of the same name. Idina will be reuniting with “Uncut Gems” costar Adam Sandler, and we are counting down the days until its release.
18. She’ll also be reprising her role as Nancy Tremaine in “Disenchanted,” the sequel to Disney’s 2007 film “Enchanted,” with Jewish comedian Maya Rudolph! Looking forward to catching up with Nancy, especially since the last time we saw her, she was newly married and newly, um, animated.
We also have a feeling she might finally get a song this time!