Lea Michele Sarfati was born in The Bronx, New York to parents Edith and Marc Sarfati. Her mother, a nurse, is Italian American and Roman Catholic, while her father, a delicatessen owner, is of Spanish-Sephardic Jewish ancestry. Even though she was born in New York, Lea was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey where she eventually attended and graduated from Tenafly High School.
At the age of eight years old, Lea went with a friend to an open casting call for an up-and-coming musical. After spontaneously deciding to audition, she was offered the role and two weeks later, she was starring on Broadway. Lea debuted on Broadway in 1995 as a replacement for the role of Young Cosette in the original New York production of Les MisÚrables. Following her theatrical debut in Les MisÚrables, Lea was cast in the role of Tateh's daughter, the Little Girl, in the 1998 original Broadway cast of Ragtime and in 2004, Lea portrayed "Shprintze" and "Chava" in the Broadway revival of the musical Fiddler on the Roof.
When she was fourteen years old, Lea was given the role of Wendla in Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik's musical version of Spring Awakening, starring in early workshops to Off-Broadway and finally originating the role in the Broadway production at the age of twenty. Around the same time that the show was set to go to Broadway, Lea was offered the role of Eponine in the Broadway revival of Les MisÚrables. However, she chose to remain with Spring Awakening, which debuted on Broadway in December 2006. Lea was later nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her performance in Spring Awakening in the category of Outstanding Actress in a Musical. After two years of starring in Spring Awakening, Lea left the show with co-star and good friend, Jonathan Groff, to pursue more performing opportunities.
In early 2009, Lea won the role of Rachel Berry on the FOX television smash hit, "Glee" (2009) and since the show's premiere on May 19, 2009, Lea has since received worldwide critical and public acclaim for her performance on the show. She received the 2009 Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical and later won a Screen Actors Guild Award as well. Along with her award wins, Lea has also received Golden Globe, Emmy, and Teen Choice Award nominations. It has quickly been established by this young woman's impressive and gifted talent, as well as her natural poise and grace, that this is only the beginning of a beautiful and successful career.