Q&A With Idina Menzel

The actress and singer talks about her new movie, 'Frozen,' plus food, fitness, and family.

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on September 13, 2013

With credits in stage, film, television, and music, Idina Menzel, 42, has won a Tony Award for her green-girl portrayal of Elphaba in the musical Wicked, and garnered a Tony nomination for her character Maureen in Rent. On television, she's played Rachel's biological mother, Shelby Corcoran, on Fox's hit series Glee. Also a songwriter, Menzel, who's known for her strong and emotional performances, has recorded four of her own albums. She's toured since 2012, singing classic pop and musical-theater favorites in venues such as New York's Carnegie Hall and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. This month she voices her first Disney animated film, Frozen. Early next spring, she reunites with the stellar theatrical creative team she's worked with previously in a new musical, If/Then. Menzel has been married to actor Taye Diggs for 10 years and the couple has a little boy, Walker.

How do you nurture yourself?

"Along with enough sleep and taking proper supplements, I steam -- in my steam shower. I find it's very healing, more than just your typical "tea and honey." I let the steam get into my throat and I can even warm up my voice and vocalize. And I steam my skin, which is great for getting all that stuff off of my face. When I was playing the Green Witch in Wicked, I had so much makeup to get off -- it was an ordeal. The steam really helped, and my skin looked good.

How do manage your health?

"I think it's about staying in front of any illness. If I feel anything, I run to the doctor."

What's your go-to tip for great skin care?

"In addition to steam, I like Kate Somerville's Purify Clarifying Cleanser."

When you're overworked and stressed out, how do you reset and unwind?

"Ever since I've become a mom, my priorities and perspective on things have changed. Sometimes when things are feeling a little chaotic, I try to focus on my son and what he needs. That really makes me understand the insignificance of things that I'm stressing about.

"For instance, if I get on stage and get nervous, I form this image of him in my mind, and I think, 'None of this matters -- if I screw up, or someone doesn't like me out there -- that's nothing in comparison to what I need to be a great mother.'"

What's your go-to healthy snack and why?

"Blueberries. Also, I'm trying to be gluten-free, so I enjoy the bars from Pure."

What's your healthy dinner?

"I love sushi. I eat lots of chicken, or a piece of grilled fish like tilapia, with spinach and Brussels sprouts."

What three ingredients are always in your refrigerator and/or pantry?

"I use Earth Balance spread instead of butter, and I always have almond milk. I keep plenty of fresh fruit like those blueberries, plus raspberries and watermelon."

What about when you're on set -- what do you stash in your set trailer?

"I'm not very disciplined, and if I don't bring my own snacks, I might eat the wrong things. I keep apples and almond butter."

What does a perfect day look like for you, when you have no place to be and no calls to return? How do you define me-time?

"It includes a lot of sleep -- I'm a big sleeper, and love a yummy, warm afternoon nap with my son and husband on the weekend. The three of us might play in our backyard or go to the park, if we're in Los Angeles. In New York, we go to the Museum of Natural History or sometimes we just walk. When we go out with Walker, we explore the city in a new way, through his eyes."

What's your workout regimen like?

"I do Bikram yoga. I also like to box and I have a trainer. I take the art of boxing seriously, but make sure I don't get punched in the face. I do get to punch big, tough guys, and they practice their defense. It's a great workout for the core. I'm not so great with Pilates, because I find it too boring and slow, especially when I'm feeling really athletic."

What do you like best and least about your fitness routine?

"Boxing is great when I have a lot of aggression, but I know something slow -- like Pilates -- would help give me the body I really want, like a dancer's body."

What three makeup items do you never leave home without when you're traveling?

"I don't wear a lot of makeup when I'm not working. When I do, I use L'Oreal Voluminous mascara in black, plus a concealer and moisturizer from Laura Mercier."

If you could visit any one place on earth, where would you go and why?

"I just went to Fiji, but I'd also like to see Tahiti or Bora Bora, also in the South Pacific. I think it's about the beauty of the water, ocean, sand, and the people -- so warm and friendly. Plus, that area feels really far away -- it takes me days to relax on vacation, so the further away a place is, the more I can escape. That part of the world is really romantic."

What do you always keep in your purse?

"I have Stevia extract, to use in place of sugar, plus deodorant and a toothbrush and toothpaste."

What's the best life/skin care/fitness/health advice you ever got?

"You eat those M&M'S, you'll see them on your derriere."

When you're trying to lose 5 pounds, what's the first thing that goes and why?

"First is soda like Diet Coke or ginger ale. I want to avoid sugar, too, so even though I try to have natural sodas, they're not really that much better when made with cane sugar."

What's the first thing you add and why?


What cause is near and dear to you?

"It's the foundation and performing arts camp I created in 2010, A BroaderWay. My husband and I started it with close friends from college. We invite inner-city girls to the Berkshire Mountains in the country, and they sing and dance and swim for 10 days. Then we have a concert that includes their poetry, lyrics, thoughts, and feelings. It's held in New York City for their friends and family.

"This is our third summer, and we want to expand and grow, even though we've gotten great advice about 'going slowly.' We're having the same 30 girls who started with us when they were 12 and they're turning 14, plus we're bringing in 15 10-year-old girls this year. We want this to be a 4-year program. The emphasis is on building self-esteem, developing leadership qualities, and striving for personal and social achievement."

Tell us more about the new movie and the show.

"I'm so excited about playing a Walt Disney Animation Studios character for the first time in Frozen. Her name is Elsa, the Snow Queen, and she's blond. The release date is Nov. 27.

"Then we're putting up a new Broadway show that's been developed for me during the past couple of years.  It's called, If/Then. We open Nov. 5 in Washington, D.C., without all the critics. Then we begin previews on March 4 in New York. I'm playing Elizabeth, who's turning 40 and starting over, moving back to New York City and making new choices as she experiences a collision of chance and choice -- it's about fate.

"I love the process of being in the room with composers when they're developing a show. I'm reuniting with my director from Rent, Michael Greif, my producer from Wicked, David Stone,and composer Tom Kitt and lyricist and book writer Brian Yorkey, both from the musical Next to Normal. It's so nice when they write a character around you, so a part of you is as organic as can be on stage."

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