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Kristin Chenoweth - Women's Health Magazine

A Conversation with
Kristin Chenoweth

The petite actress with a wicked set of pipes discusses the drawbacks of being a busty blonde, her aunt Ginger's dating advice, and the death of a costar

Sitting by a sparkling pool at a Beverly Hills hotel, Kristin Chenoweth should be sipping bubbly and working on her tan. Instead she's making calls and gearing up for a photo shoot. Originally from Oklahoma, the 38-year-old actress and singer didn't get to where she is by drinking at lunch. This year alone she's managed to steal scenes as Annabeth Schott in The West Wing show; off her

Kristin Chenoweth - Women's Health Magazine

comedic chops in five films, including The Pink Panther and Running with Scissors; and belt out opera alongside Placido Domingo like a diva 10 times her size. Currently she's starring in the Christmas flick Deck the Halls and appearing on Broadway in The Apple Tree. Did I mention that she's working on her third CD?

But there have been rough spots, too. Midseason, Chenoweth's friend and West Wing costar John Spencer passed away unexpectedly. Being a Christian and a supporter of the gay community has caused controversy—she was criticized by gay fans for an April 2005 performance on The 700 Club, a Christian talk show, then disinvited from a Women of Faith conference later that year for being too politically "divisive." On top of that, her on-again-off-again relationship with screenwriter and West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin came to an end. But, rest assured, she can handle it. Chenoweth may be 4'11" and 98 pounds, but you won't find a tougher Southern girl in all of Hollywood.

As a petite, big-chested blonde with a Betty Boop voice, are you routinely underestimated?
I love this question—because it's not just with men, it's women too. It's hilarious when people realize that I actually have a brain. I have a Master's and graduated with high honors. But I go to the bank and they treat me like I'm 16. I mean, once, I was working on Broadway, helping with something, and the dance captain said, "You're so smart!" I was, like, "It's shocking, isn't it? Shocking!"

Did people say you would never make it in show business?
I had so many friends and family members—people who love me—say, "You're so talented, but it's probably not gonna work out. You're tiny, you have this unique speaking voice, you're not what they're looking for."

How did you learn to stand up for yourself?
One of my challenges in life is not to keep it in when someone offends me. I've had to learn to assert myself and to do it in a way I'm never ashamed of. Now I'm learning to say, "Ya know what? That's not cool." I find that respect comes by saying, "Don't treat me like that."

That's one of the themes of Wicked, the Broadway musical you helped make a hit in 2003. Can you believe your role as Glinda inspired a fan club called Glitter?
You know, if you'd told me 10 years ago that I'd be a role model, I'd have laughed in your face. But I love the fact that young women look up to me—I love it! It's the highest compliment of all because women can be tricky; we can be hard on each other. Not that I haven't been guilty of that too, by saying, like, "That outfit is not what I would put on her!"

What about men? Are they intimidated by you?
If you make more money than them, that's an issue. And I have so much going on that I need a lot of compromise. I truly want to be able to give someone everything, but I don't want to feel guilty for having to rehearse.

Are you involved with someone now?
Single. I broke up with a guy last December, went back for more, and broke up again. Although it's the right thing, it's sad. Women mourn breakups. We call our best friends, our moms—we get it out. That's one reason I love my girlfriends—they listen, they offer advice, they care. They're like, "If you're in a relationship and you have to go back 20 times, we still love you."

Any love advice to pass on?
My aunt Ginger gave me a piece of advice that I've lived by my whole life. She said, "Marry somebody with your head, not with your heart." And that sounds harsh. But for a lasting relationship, yeah, the heart will be there—obviously, you have to be attracted to them—but marry somebody with your head because that's the person you're going to be with as you grow old. I didn't understand that when I was 17. Now, at my age, I get it.

Your current film is Deck the Halls. So, Christmaslove it or hate it?
It's my favorite holiday, my favorite time of year. There's no place better than New York City at Christmas. And I'm such a cheese-meister, I have to do it all: go see the Rockettes, the parade, the tree at Rockefeller Center, the music. I get very protective—and this is probably gonna make some people mad—when I hear that some want to change "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays." The Coca-Cola can doesn't even have Santa anymore; it has a polar bear. I mean, if you want to put out a Coke that says "Happy Hannukah," go for it—I love that! But let us say "Merry Christmas," for goodness' sake.

You've described yourself as a controversial Christian. Why is that?
It's very true. I was actually fired from a job for my beliefs on gay rights. Also, my ex-boyfriend is Jewish, and my best friend is gay. And the FHM pictures [a shot of her in a pink bikini graced the cover of the men's magazine in March] sent people through the roof! But I made a decision, I backed that decision, and I'm not ashamed one bit. I'm very proud of the interview and those pictures—they weren't nude, I wasn't crawling toward the camera with my tongue out, and most of the bikinis were mine! Just because you're a Christian doesn't mean you can't feel sexy. But there are going to be Christians who think, "You can't call yourself a Christian and believe A, B, and C." Well, I do, I am. I can't be Hester Prynne.

So how do you deal with stress?
Working out is a big one, because it releases all that crap! Three times a week my trainer, Mike Alexander—who got Jessica Simpson in shape—has me circuit training and doing cardio. I have boobs and a short torso, so I have to keep my core as thin as possible. But, even at my thinnest, I always have a little bit of a belly, so we work on that a lot. He's also a sounding board—I find myself telling him things I wouldn't even tell a boyfriend or a parent.

How did you handle the loss of John Spencer?
We were really close, so it smacked me hard. But it was a reminder that no matter how great things are going...we're here such a short time. John's death taught me to live each day as if it's your last.

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