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GA Voice - - Outspoken -

a ca­reer choice the singer-ac­tress ad­mits has ruf­fled the feath­ers of her loyal queer fol­low­ing. Men­zel talked about one gay fan’s tweet that led to her al­most back­ing out of the film al­to­gether, how LGBT sup­port so­lid­i­fied her suc­cess and why she’s “ex­cited” that “Frozen” fans are pulling for a les­bian Elsa.

When were you first aware of your gay fol­low­ing?

The first mo­ment was prob­a­bly when I’d go to the Ned­er­lan­der Theatre when I was in “Rent” (in the mid ’90s), and I’d get all these amaz­ing let­ters from young kids strug­gling with their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and who they were and how they wanted to come out. I’d get a lot of let­ters about that and how I was help­ing them be hon­est with them­selves and be brave about com­ing out, so it started then and that was even… that was stronger than I had even an­tic­i­pated or ever re­ally had dreamed. Just on a much deeper, much more im­por­tant level than singing a high note with a lot of bravado and peo­ple clap­ping.

And it’s con­tin­ued to be like that, re­ally, with “Wicked” and “Frozen,” with Elsa. There are al­ways these char­ac­ters who are lit­er­ally try­ing to come out of the closet – they’re hid­ing some­thing within them that they’re afraid to let peo­ple see, and then fi­nally they em­brace it and change the world around them.

There’s a lot of pres­sure on you and Dis­ney to make Elsa gay. Are you sur­prised by the #GiveEl­saAGirl­friend move­ment?

Am I sur­prised? (Sighs) Maybe at first I was a lit­tle sur­prised be­cause it’s Dis­ney, but I can say that I’m ex­cited that the con­ver­sa­tion is happening. I can’t prom­ise any­body that that’s what’s gonna hap­pen. I’m just a ser­vant at a big com­pany called Dis­ney and I’m happy to have a role and a job. But deep down am I re­ally happy that it’s caus­ing peo­ple to talk about it and have these kinds of con­ver­sa­tions? Yeah, I am.

Do you think the world is ready for a les­bian Dis­ney princess?

Umm… I don’t know about that, con­sid­er­ing we’re hav­ing a hard time even get­ting Don­ald Trump out of the way. Some­times it’s a lit­tle dis­cour­ag­ing. But you never know. We keep mak­ing all these strides. We’ve made a lot of strides in the last cou­ple of years, and then all of a sud­den the hate and the vit­riol within our coun­try is ex­posed and you’re like, “What hap­pened? We’re in the an­cient times again.”

What does it mean to you to know that so many LGBT peo­ple in­ter­preted “Let It Go” as a com­ing out an­them? And did you when you first read the lyrics?

Yeah, umm... prob­a­bly not right at first be­cause I’m an ac­tor first, and so I’m think­ing, what is it for this char­ac­ter and this young girl? Hav­ing had the “Wicked” ex­pe­ri­ence, I bring those themes to it as well. But then I quickly saw all of the par­al­lels and the uni­ver­sal­ity of the song and how it could speak to so many peo­ple in so many dif­fer­ent ways.

You’ve had three other stu­dio al­bums– why self-ti­tle this one, and what’s the sig­nif­i­cance of the pe­riod?

It’s very per­sonal. I went through the hard­est time in my life while writ­ing this al­bum (Men­zel and her former “Rent” co-star Taye Diggs di­vorced in late 2014 af­ter 10 years of mar­riage)–a beau­ti­ful, suc­cess­ful time, and also a very tu­mul­tuous, com­pli­cated time in my per­sonal life, and so it’s very in­ti­mate. It’s my way of say­ing, “Hey, this is me and my bare­bones.” And the pe­riod is… what’s the word?... just a lit­tle nudge, like, “This is me,” with a lit­tle at­ti­tude in there, whether it’s how you pro­nounce my name or (di­rected to­ward) any­body who has tried to keep me down.

Gay men are very de­voted to “Beaches”. Have you con­sulted any of them for the role of CC Bloom orig­i­nally played by Bette Mi­dler?

By ac­ci­dent I went on my Twit­ter feed and saw some­body who wrote, “Id­ina, I love you, but it’s sac­ri­lege that you’re do­ing this!” I called my agent and I was like, “Tell them I can’t do it. All these gay men are mad at me and they’re gonna hate me!” But it’s just such a great role for me and the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing on set and work­ing ev­ery day on this beau­ti­ful woman that is funny and tal­ented and she gets to do drama and com­edy–it was such a great ex­pe­ri­ence for me and it was just hard to turn down. So I hope they’ll for­give me! I un­der­stand if they can­not. But you know, come on, Judy Gar­land re­did “A Star is Born” and then Bar­bra re­did Judy Gar­land! So some­times these things hap­pen. I’m not say­ing I’m any of those women, but you know, some­times we redo these movies.

Are you go­ing to be okay if “Wicked” gets made into a film with ac­tresses other than you and Kristin Chenoweth?

No, I’m gonna–no! I’m gonna have a hard time with that. (Laughs) Let’s be hon­est… you want me to be hon­est? Or do you want me to say, “Oh, sure, can’t wait for who­ever looks 20 years younger than me but can’t sing as good as me gets the role?”

They bet­ter not fuck it up, right?

They bet­ter not fuck it up! I’m lob­by­ing to do it like “Ben­jamin But­ton.” A lit­tle CGI on a beau­ti­ful, green face. I could look gor­geous! Like, who cares – just take out a cou­ple wrin­kles. Green and ex­otic. I still have a girly in­no­cence about me. And here I am

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