Jenna Ushkowitz

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Jenna Ushkowitz
Jenna Ushkowitz Skidmore 2011 crop.jpg
Born Jenna Noelle Ushkowitz
(1986-04-28) April 28, 1986 (age 29)
Seoul, South Korea
Alma mater Marymount Manhattan College
Occupation Actress, singer, dancer
Years active 1989–present

Jenna Noelle Ushkowitz (/ˈʌʃkəwɪts/; born April 28, 1986)[1] is a South Korean-born American actress and singer. She is known for her performances in Broadway musicals and for her role as Tina Cohen-Chang on Glee.

Early life[edit]

Ushkowitz was born in Seoul, South Korea; she was adopted at the age of three months and raised in East Meadow, New York.[2][3][4] Ushkowitz was raised Catholic[5] (her surname originates from her adoptive paternal grandfather, who was of Russian Jewish descent).[6] She attended Parkway Elementary School and Holy Trinity Diocesan High School, a Catholic school in Hicksville, Long Island known for its strong theater department. During high school, Ushkowitz appeared in several musicals, including the first-ever high school production of Les Misérables. Her other roles included Penny in Honk!, Inez in The Baker's Wife, Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods, and Romaine Patterson in The Laramie Project. Ushkowitz graduated from high school in 2004 and moved on to attend Marymount Manhattan College, where she once again took the role of Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods.[7] She graduated from Marymount Manhattan in 2007 with a B.A. in Theatre Arts, with a concentration in Performance and a minor in Musical Theater.[citation needed]


Ushkowitz at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego

Ushkowitz has had a career in show business since the age of three. As a child, she appeared on Sesame Street and other children's television shows. Her first role in a Broadway musical was in the 1996 revival of The King and I.[7] Ushkowitz sang the American National Anthem at a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden when she was thirteen.[7] Ushkowitz understudied the roles of Anna, Martha, Thea and Ilse in the Broadway musical Spring Awakening[8] beginning in 2008.[9]

In 2009, Ushkowitz landed the role of Tina Cohen-Chang on Fox's musical high school show Glee.[10] In casting Glee, series creator Ryan Murphy sought out actors who could identify with the rush of starring in theatrical roles. Instead of using traditional network casting calls, he spent three months on Broadway, where he found Ushkowitz.[11] The Glee casting associate in New York had previously cast Ushkowitz in Spring Awakening.[12] Ushkowitz was initially given little information about Tina's back story, and believed that her stutter was real. She was pleased when the truth was revealed, however, explaining: "It would have been fun to keep it because that just gives her one more quirk, but this opens up a whole new set of doors for Tina."[13] Ushkowitz's solos have included the songs "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper, "I Follow Rivers" by Lykke Li, "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion, "Gangnam Style" by PSY, "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar, "Hung Up" by Madonna, and "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry.

Raymund Flandez of The Wall Street Journal hailed the "True Colors" cover as showcasing Ushkowitz's "strong crystalline voice".[14] Gerrick D. Kennedy, writing for the Los Angeles Times, wrote that the "poignant" rendition was one of his "feel-good, tearjerker moments".[15] The version charted at number 47 on the Australian Singles Chart, 38 on the Canadian Hot 100, 15 on the Irish Singles Chart, 35 on the UK Singles Chart, and 66 on the United States' Billboard Hot 100.[16] The series' version of "ABC" was singled out for demonstrating "what a lovely singer Tina is" by Billboard's Rae Votta, and BuddyTV editor John Kubicek said he enjoyed it "mostly because Tina deserves more singing time".[17][18] It entered the Hot 100 at number 88 and the Canadian Hot 100 at 93.[19][20] Rolling Stone journalist Erica Futterman wrote of "Because You Loved Me": "The richness of her voice removes some of the Lite FM softness embedded in the tune and it really is great to see Tina get a song that suits her vocal abilities".[21] Ushkowitz has performed live concert shows in the US, Canada, UK, and Ireland with her castmates from Glee.

The grayscale picture of three people, two women and a man, who dance and put their hands on their hips. The man wears a dark outfit, compound of a vest, a shirt and pants. The women wear similar leotards.
Ushkowitz, Chris Colfer and Heather Morris during a performance of "Single Ladies" on the tour Glee Live! In Concert! in 2011

In 2011, Ushkowitz appeared briefly in Lady Gaga's music video for "Marry the Night" playing Gaga's friend, Bo.[22] It was announced in July 2012 that Ushkowitz would be writing her first book, titled Choosing Glee.[23][24][25] According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ushkowitz's book will be an autobiography of sorts, documenting her childhood on Long Island, where she was raised after being adopted as a baby, her Broadway debut in The King and I in 1996, her stint in "Spring Awakening" with Glee costar Lea Michele, and her time on Glee. It also focuses on her "motivational approach toward life" and was released on May 14, 2013. During Glee's fifth season, Ushkowitz's character graduated and was accepted into Brown University, meaning her role on the series was diminished; she appeared in only one out of the last seven episodes. Later on that year, Ushkowitz was cast as Jeanie in the Hollywood Bowl production of Hair on August 1, 2 and 3, 2014.[26] It was confirmed during that time that she would have a recurring role in the last season of Glee.

In 2014, Ushkowitz was aproached by Samantha Futerman, also an adoptee, to found "Kindred: The Foundation for Adoption", a foundation created to provide international and domestic adoptees and their families (both adoptive and biological) with services such as travel, translation, and support for those who wish to reunite.[27] With the same spirit that made her create Kindred, Ushkowitz became the executive producer for Twinsters, a documentary that showed the story that connected Samantha (Kindred's co-founder) and Anaïs, identical twin sisters separated at birth. The documentary had a very positive reception, winning the "Best Documentary" award at the South by Southwest Film Awards and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.[28] On March 20, 2015, she was invited by The Hollywood Reporter to write a column talking about her experience on Glee.[29] During that year, she was cast as the lead character in a special edition of The Wedding Singer at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, making it one of the first times the lead character was played by an Asian woman. Although initially the play was supposed to last one week, the good response from the public and the critics made it last longer.

In early September, 2015, it was announced Ushkowitz had been cast as Ms. Guided in the upcoming movie Captain Underpants, based on the series of books with the same name,[30] a teacher of the movie's protagonist. At the end of that same year, it was also announced that Ushkowitz would star as Maria in the reboot of the musical Hello Again,[31] sharing screen time again with fellow Glee star Nolan Gerard Funk and actors like Audra McDonald, T.R. Knight and Martha Plimpton.


Besides her work with Kindred Foundation, Ushkowitz has advocated for multiple causes. She has been vocal against bullying and, during 2012, she posed with fellow Glee actor and close friend Kevin McHale within the NoH8 campaign, to ban Proposition 8 in California, that forbid same-sex marriages.[32] She was also a supporter of Barack Obama's campaign during the same year.

Her activism efforts have also been centered into nature. Asides from working with NYCLASS, she recently partnered with Oceana, an entity that works for the preservation of the oceans. A long time supporter of Ocean conservation and wildlife, Ushkowitz took a trip during summer, 2015 with Oceana to the Channel Islands to raise awareness on the overfishing of Forage Fish and its alarming effects on their survival. That same year, she hosted the 2015 Nautica Oceana Beach House event.[33] She has also made efforts to raise awareness about the declining populations of sea lions in California, caused at the same time because of the overfishing of Forage Fish.[34]

Personal life[edit]

Ushkowitz dated fellow actor Michael Trevino for 3 years, but they broke up in 2014.[35]


Year Title Role Notes
1995–98 The King and I Royal Child
2006–08 Spring Awakening Swing Performed as Ilse, Anna, Martha or Thea
2014 Hair Jeannie 3 shows with an all-star cast at the Hollywood Bowl
2015 The Wedding Singer Julia Sullivan Summer Season at the Pittsburgh CLO



Year Title Role Notes
1988 Sesame Street Herself
1988 Reading Rainbow Herself
1988 As the World Turns Herself
1989 Nick Jr. (block) Herself
1993 Sesame Street Herself
2000 Little Bill Basketball Girl Episode: The Promise/The Practice
2007 The Suite Life of Zack & Cody Violin Player One episode
2008 Yankees on Deck Host
2009–2015 Glee Tina Cohen-Chang Main cast (Season 1-5)
Recurring Guest Star (Season 6); 106 episodes
2010 When I Was 17 Herself Episode 32, with Patrick Stump and Deena Cortese
2011 The Glee Project Herself Guest mentor
Episode: Believability
2013 This Is How I Made It Herself Episode 10, with Ciara
2013 Master Chef Herself Season 4: Episode 10
2014–2015 Celebrity Name Game Herself Season 1: Episode 8, Episode 10, Episode 21
Season 2: Episode 29, Episode 59, Episode 64


Year Title Role Notes
1989 Babyface Herself Short film directed by Don Gaille
2001 Educated Wendy Short Film directed by Georgia Lee
2011 Glee: The 3D Concert Movie Tina Cohen-Chang Main cast
2014 Twinsters Executive Producer
2016 Captain Underpants Ms. Guided Voice Role
2016 Hello Again Marie Filming

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2011 "Marry The Night" Bo Lady Gaga's music video

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
2010 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Glee Won
TV Land Awards Future Classics (with: Glee Cast) Won
Teen Choice Awards Choice Music: Group (with: Glee Cast) Nominated
Lesbian/Bi People's Choice Awards Favorite Music Duo or Group (with: Glee Cast) Nominated
Gay People's Choice Awards Favorite Music Duo or Group (with: Glee Cast) Won
2011 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Glee: The Music, Volume 1 Nominated
Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals "Don't Stop Believin' (Regionals Version)" Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Music: Group (with: Glee Cast) Glee Nominated
2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media (with: Glee Cast) Glee: The Music, Volume 4 Nominated
2013 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Glee Nominated
2015 South by Southwest Special Jury Award to a Documentary Feature for Editing Twinsters Won
SXSW Grand Jury Award to a Documentary Feature Nominated
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Best Documentary Feature (Grand Jury Prize) Won


  1. ^ "Jenna Ushkowitz". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved March 12, 2015. 
  2. ^ Salisbury, Vanita (February 18, 2011). "Glee’s Jenna Ushkowitz Knows Exactly What Billy Joel Was Talking About". New York. Retrieved March 12, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Jenna Ushkowitz Takes Center Stage". 2009-08-01. Archived from the original on July 23, 2010. Tell me about your last name, Ushkowitz. – It’s Polish. I was actually adopted from Korea when I was 3 months old. My father is Polish-Italian and my mother is Irish-English. 
  4. ^ Hazel Lodevico (2009-08-20). High School Musical Broadway veteran Jenna Ushkowitz gets full of Glee at the Wayback Machine (archived March 27, 2010).
  5. ^ The Philadelphia Inquirer Digital Edition. Retrieved 2012-09-25.[dead link]
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ a b c Jenna Ushkowitz. (2008-08-26)
  8. ^ Jenna Ushkowitz. Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  9. ^ Jann, Janice."Fall ’11 Feature – I Dream of Jenna", Audrey Magazine, 2011-12-06. Accessed 2012-07-23
  10. ^ FOX Broadcasting Company – Glee TV Show – Glee TV Series – Glee Episode Guide. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  11. ^ Martin, Denise (April 26, 2009). "Video: 'Glee' team rewrites the school musical". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 19, 2009. 
  12. ^ Shen, Maxine (November 23, 2009). "'Gleek' goddess". New York Post. News Corporation. Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  13. ^ Weiselman, Jarrett (November 18, 2009). "Jenna Ushkowitz: I'm rooting for Tina to join Cheerios!". New York Post. News Corporation. Archived from the original on 2011-02-05. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  14. ^ Flandez, Raymund (November 26, 2009). ""Glee" Season 1, Episode 11 "Hairography": TV Recap". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved 26 November 2009. 
  15. ^ Kennedy, Gerrick D. (November 26, 2009). "'Glee': A hairlicious distraction before Thanksgiving". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved 26 November 2009. 
  16. ^ "Glee Cast and Jenna Ushkowitz - True Colors". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  17. ^ Votta, Rae (December 7, 2011). "'Glee' Recap: Chord Overstreet Returns in Jam-Packed Episode". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved December 7, 2011. 
  18. ^ Kubicek, John (December 6, 2011). "'Glee' Recap: Sectionals Solves Everything". BuddyTV. Retrieved December 7, 2011. 
  19. ^ Grein, Paul (December 14, 2011). "Week Ending Dec. 11, 2011. Songs: Mariah’s Christmas Gift". Yahoo! Music. Yahoo!. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Nielsen Music: Canadian Update (December 16, 2011)" (PDF). Billboard (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  21. ^ Futterman, Erica (May 16, 2012). "'Glee' Recap: What a Feeling". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved May 20, 2012. 
  22. ^ Jenna Ushkowitz, Lady Gaga: 'Marry the Night' Video Cameo Brought on by Chance Double Date Retrieved 2012-04-17
  23. ^ 'Glee's' Jenna Ushkowitz to Write Book (Exclusive) The Hollywood Reporter (2012/7/2)
  24. ^ Jenna Ushkowitz to Pen CHOOSING GLEE Broadway World (2012/7/2)
  25. ^ 'Glee' star Jenna Ushkowitz is writing a book - 'Choosing Glee' Zap2It (2012/7/2)
  26. ^ [2]
  27. ^ [3]
  28. ^ [4]
  29. ^ [5]
  30. ^ [6]
  31. ^ [7]
  32. ^ [8]
  33. ^ [9]
  34. ^ [10]
  35. ^ "Jenna Ushkowitz, Michael Trevino Split After Three Years Of Dating". Yahoo!. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 

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