On stage, in films and on TV, Kristin Chenoweth is a powerhouse performer with an ability to make audiences laugh, cry and stand up and cheer. It’s hard to believe that the star, who originated the role of Glinda the Good on Broadway in Wicked, appeared on The West Wing, Glee and most recently Schmigadoon!, spent decades living with chronic migraine headaches. “I was about 25 when they started for me,” Kristin tells Closer. “I was singing at a solo symphony concert, and at intermission, I was throwing up. It was like a tornado in my head.”
As Kristin’s migraines became more intense and more frequent, they threatened to destroy the Tony and Emmy winner’s career. “I was at my wit’s end. I was facing not being able to do what I love,” says Kristin, 54, who finally found relief through Botox injections. “It’s fantastic because I really was looking at an early retirement.”
How did your childhood prepare you for your career in show business?
“I was adopted, and my parents are chemical engineers — they got this alien child! I don’t do math or science, so it was fun actually to grow up with such different parents. They heard me singing in my bed in kindergarten. They were like, ‘Is it us or is she pretty good?’ They kind of didn’t know how to help me, but they let me have my dream. If I wanted to take piano lessons, ballet, they worked and saved and allowed me to do that.”
So, your family was always supportive?
“Yes. There was a time when my parents were willing to move to Los Angeles for me. I was 12 and they said, ‘Do you want to go to L.A. and do this thing? Or do you want to go to school, go to camp, be a cheerleader and be in choir?’ I listened to my inner voice. It said: ‘You’re going to have a long time to work and do all of that. Be a kid now.’ I was a pretty old soul. I went to college. My dad worked his butt off so I could have an education. I’m so grateful for that.”
You were one of the smart ones!
“Thank you. That time was spent not just getting better and honing my skill, but just growing up. I often look at younger people in the industry and I get worried for them.”
What do you think you would have done if you hadn’t gone down this path?
“I thought I was going to be a Christian singer. I also thought I was going to be a ballerina. All of those things that I studied have helped me do all the different things I do now. I’m a concert singer, I do Broadway, I do film and television. I get to sit here today and talk about something that affects my life in such a big way.”
Why was Botox the best solution for your migraines?
“I tried a lot of different treatments, and nothing was really helping prevent migraines. I finally went to a new doctor, and he said, ‘Lean back. We’re going to do a treatment with Botox.’ I said, ‘I have to be able to move my head because I’m an actress.’ He said, ‘No, I’m going to do it in different places all over your head.’ Now, I use Botox for other reasons that are apparent and it’s fantastic, but this really helped my migraines. Being able to share my story and get the awareness out about this invisible disease is a relief.”
Have you ever had a role model or mentor in show business?
“I’ve always looked at Carol Burnett, Dolly Parton and Patti LaBelle as three women who are trailblazers. They did their own thing and owned their own stuff. For them, it’s not just about show, it’s about business, too. Also, my mom is a three-time cancer survivor. She has fought hard in her life for different things. She’s been a great influence on me.”
How do you describe this chapter of your life?
“It’s funny. I never thought I would be this old! I’m able to enjoy the fruits of my labor now. I’m producing a show that I’m starring in on Broadway [The Queen of Versailles] in a year. To be on that side of the table is something that I’m loving. When I sing at my concerts, I’m the boss, so I get to pick what material I do and that’s very pleasing to me. People think, ‘Oh, she just wakes up and these things fall in her lap.’ No, I still work very hard. I still study. I still sing every day, and I work with my teacher. I still love it. I still feel lucky and blessed to be able to do what I love.”
What have been some of your favorite roles on stage so far?
“Everybody wants me to say Wicked, and Wicked was definitely up there, but my favorite role on stage was one I did with the New York City Philharmonic for PBS Great Performances. It’s an opera that Leonard Bernstein wrote called Candide. In the role of Cunégonde, I was allowed to sing my face off but also be a clown.”
What have been your favorite film or TV roles?
“I’ve done a lot of really fun movies, but the TV show Pushing Daisies was probably one of the more special ones. Olive Snook was a waitress who wasn’t so good at waitressing, which I could understand. It was a cult classic, and I’m just proud of that part of my DNA.”
Wicked is becoming a movie with Ariana Grande. Have you been to the set?
“I cannot confirm or deny!”
How are your wedding plans coming along?
“They’re going well. I’m excited, and I won’t be getting a migraine! I’m prepared!”
What makes your relationship with Josh work?
“He keeps me very calm, and he gives me a lot of encouragement, and I try to do the same for him. He’s just a really well-balanced person and therefore he balances me out, too.”
You recently released a book, I’m No Philosopher, but I Got Thoughts, where you share personal stories and advice. Can you share some advice about how you stay mentally healthy?
“I try to spend some time each day in prayer and also meditation, a tool that I recently picked up that I quite enjoy. Also, it’s easy to get so busy that you forget to have some downtime. Sometimes that’s as simple as watching the Housewives, but I do try to remember to treat myself.”