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How Lea Michele learned to shut down critics who said her look was 'too unique' for TV

The actress talked to Know Your Value about her biggest career challenge, the importance of speaking up for yourself, her road to wellness and more.
Image: Lea Michele arrives for a premiere in Los Angeles on Sept. 24, 2018.
Lea Michele arrives for a premiere in Los Angeles on Sept. 24, 2018.Mario Anzuoni / Reuters file

Lea Michele has found ultimate success as an actress, singer and author. So, you might be surprised to learn that she was initially criticized for her appearance and had to overcome many naysayers to get where she is today.

“I think for me the biggest challenge that I’ve had to face professionally was, prior to ‘Glee,’ I had so many people telling me that I would never make it on television or that my look was too unique,” Michele, 33, told NBC News’ Know Your Value. “It was then up to me to tune out those voices and believe in myself and know that I had what it takes to achieve all of my dreams. Once I tuned all of those voices out, I succeeded.”

The show, of course, was a huge success and landed Michele both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations — as well a spot on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010. But while these accomplishments are monumental, Michele has also learned valuable lessons about how to prioritize her own health — even if that means slowing down.

“I think for me because I’ve always been such a hard worker, it’s always hard for me to stop whenever I’m not feeling well or listen to my body and not push too hard,” said Michele. “I always have to remind myself that when I’m feeling my best, that’s when I can do my best. Even if that means slowing down sometimes.”

Michele recently opened up about being diagnosed in her 20s with polycystic ovarian syndrome . She has learned to manage the condition, but her road to wellness hasn’t always been easy.

She said she’s since learned that focusing on wellness can be the ultimate life upgrade.

“Wellness to me means putting your mind, body, and spirit first by making the best possible decisions for you — no matter how busy your schedule may be,” said Michele. “I always try to honor my body by eating fresh and nutritious food to which keeps me feeling balanced and refreshed. HelloFresh has been really helpful in reducing the stress of meal planning since I can just pick my meals and then they send all of the fresh ingredients right to my door,” added Michele, who recently teamed up with the company.

Michele said that her favorite treat in life right now is a getaway or adventure with her family, including husband, Zandy Reich. That’s where her focus lies: on her family and her health.

She’s also quick to note that her time in the entertainment business has taught her how to speak up for herself — and she wants other women to know that they should do the same.

“I think it’s so important that we as women use our voices and always make sure to stand up for ourselves and not be dominated by fear or insecurity,” said Michele. "It can be a challenge but we have to do what feels best for us and trust our instincts and gut, always.”