Jenna Ushkowitz

Jenna Ushkowitz

Ushkowitz at the San Diego Comic-Con International in 2011
Born Jenna Noelle Ushkowitz
(1986-04-28) April 28, 1986
Seoul, South Korea
Alma mater Marymount Manhattan College
  • Actress
  • singer
  • dancer
Years active 1989–present
Home town East Meadow, New York, U.S.

Jenna Noelle Ushkowitz (/ˈʌʃkəwɪts/; born April 28, 1986)[1] is a South Korean-born American actress, singer, and podcast host.[2] She is known for her performances in Broadway musicals such as The King and I and Waitress, and Tina Cohen-Chang on the Fox comedy-drama series Glee.

Early life

Ushkowitz was born in Seoul, South Korea; she was adopted at the age of three months and raised in East Meadow, New York.[3][4][5] Ushkowitz was raised Catholic (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 Bachelor of Arts in theatre arts, with a concentration in performance and a minor in musical theatre.


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 New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden when she was thirteen.[7] Ushkowitz understudied the roles of Anna, Martha, and Thea in the Broadway musical Spring Awakening from 2006 to 2008.[8] In 2009, Ushkowitz landed the role of Tina Cohen-Chang on Fox's musical comedy-drama series Glee. 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.[9] She was initially given little information about Tina's back story, and believed that the character's stutter was real.[10]

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 the musical 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".[11] Gerrick D. Kennedy, writing for the Los Angeles Times, wrote that the "poignant" rendition was one of his "feel-good, tearjerker moments".[12] 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 Billboard Hot 100.[13] Rolling Stone journalist Erica Futterman wrote that her "Because You Loved Me" performance "removes some of the Lite FM softness embedded in the tune" and added that it was "really is great to see Tina get a song that suits her vocal abilities".[14]

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 both 2010 and 2011, Ushkowitz embarked on live concert tours with her Glee co-stars, with performances taking place in the United States, Canada, England, and Ireland. In 2011, Ushkowitz appeared briefly in Lady Gaga's music video for "Marry the Night", playing the role of Gaga's friend.[15] In July 2012, it was reported that Ushkowitz would be writing her first book, titled Choosing Glee.[16] The book, an autobiography, was released on May 14, 2013.[17] During Glee's fifth season, Ushkowitz's character graduated and was accepted into Brown University, meaning her role on the series was reduced.

In August 2014, Ushkowitz was cast as Jeannie Ryan in the Hollywood Bowl production of Hair.[18] Also in 2014, Ushkowitz was approached by fellow adoptee Samantha Futerman to found Kindred: The Foundation for Adoption, 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. With the same spirit that made her create Kindred, in 2015, Ushkowitz executive produced the documentary Twinsters, a film showing the story that connected Samantha and Anaïs, identical twin sisters separated at birth. The film premiered at the 2015 South by Southwest. That same year, she was cast as the lead character, Julia Sullivan, in a special production of The Wedding Singer at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, marking one of the first times the character has been played by an Asian woman. The play was initially set to last one week, but the positive response from critics and audiences extended its run.[19]

In September 2015, it was reported that Ushkowitz had been cast as the voice of Ms. Guided in the upcoming animated film Captain Underpants, based on the series of books with the same name.[20] In December 2015, it was announced that Ushkowitz had been cast as Marie the Nurse in the film adaptation of the musical Hello Again, alongside Nolan Gerard Funk, Audra McDonald, and Martha Plimpton.[21] In 2016, Ushkowitz co-founded the podcast network At Will Radio with Will Malnati. The network debuted Infinitie Positivities, a show hosted by Ushkowitz that contains discussions of topics from her book Choosing Glee, and conversations with people who inspire her; guests include fellow actors, authors, and experts. In each episode, she talks about a new way to live life with a positive outlook.[22]

Ushkowitz temporarily assumed the role of Dawn from Kimiko Glenn in the Broadway production of Waitress, beginning performances July 29, 2016,[23] and completing her run on October 19, 2016.[24] She will be a part of the cast of Broadway's The 24 Hour Plays, with the performance set for November 14, 2016.[25]


Besides her work with Kindred Foundation, Ushkowitz has advocated for multiple causes. In 2012, she posed with Glee co-star Kevin McHale for the NOH8 Campaign, supporting the ban of Proposition 8 in California which had previously banned same-sex marriages in the state.[26] Ushkowitz has also worked with NYCLASS and Oceana. A long time supporter of ocean conservation, Ushkowitz took a trip during summer of 2015 with Oceana to the Channel Islands, in order to raise awareness on the overfishing of forage fish and its effects on their survival. That same year, she hosted the 2015 Nautica Oceana Beach House event.[27] She has also made efforts to raise awareness about the declining population of sea lions in California, also caused by the overfishing of forage fish.[28]


Year Title Role Notes
1996–98 The King and I Royal Child Neil Simon Theatre
2006–08 Spring Awakening Swing Eugene O'Neill Theatre
2014 Hair Jeannie Ryan Hollywood Bowl
2015 The Wedding Singer Julia Sullivan Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera
2016 Waitress Dawn Brooks Atkinson Theatre



As actress
Year Title Role Notes
2000 Little Bill Basketball Girl Episode: "The Promise/The Practice"
2007 The Suite Life of Zack & Cody Violin Player Episode: "Orchestra"
2009–15 Glee Tina Cohen-Chang 106 episodes
As herself
Year Title Role Notes
2010 When I Was 17 Herself Episode 32
2011 The Glee Project Herself Episode: "Believability"
2013 This Is How I Made It Herself Episode 10
2013 MasterChef Herself Episode: "Top 14 Compete"
2014–15 Celebrity Name Game Herself 6 episodes


Year Title Role Notes
2001 Educated Wendy Short film
2011 Glee: The 3D Concert Movie Tina Cohen-Chang Concert film
2014 Twinsters N/A Executive producer
2016 Yellow Fever TBA Completed
2016 Hello Again Marie the Nurse In post-production
2017 Captain Underpants Ms. Guided (voice)

Music videos

Year Title Artist
2011 "Marry The Night" Lady Gaga

Awards and nominations

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 Grand Jury Award for Documentary Feature Twinsters Nominated
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Best Documentary Feature (Grand Jury Prize) Won


  1. "Jenna Ushkowitz". TV Guide. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  2. Daum, Kevin (May 24, 2016). "'Glee' Star Jenna Ushkowitz Shares 12 Things Millennials Can Do to Make Their Life Amazing". Inc. Magazine. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  3. Salisbury, Vanita (February 18, 2011). "Glee's Jenna Ushkowitz Knows Exactly What Billy Joel Was Talking About". New York. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  4. "Jenna Ushkowitz Takes Center Stage". August 1, 2009. 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.
  5. Hazel Lodevico (August 20, 2009) High School Musical Broadway veteran Jenna Ushkowitz gets full of Glee at the Wayback Machine (archived March 27, 2010).
  6. "BWW Reviews: Jenna Ushkowitz's CHOOSING GLEE: 10 Rules to Finding Happiness and the Real You". Broadway World. May 21, 2013.
  7. 1 2 3 "Performer: Jenna Ushkowitz". August 26, 2008.
  8. Jann, Janice (December 6, 2011). "Fall '11 Feature – I Dream of Jenna". Audrey Magazine. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  9. Martin, Denise (April 26, 2009). "Video: 'Glee' team rewrites the school musical". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 19, 2009.
  10. Weiselman, Jarrett (November 18, 2009). "Jenna Ushkowitz: I'm rooting for Tina to join Cheerios!". New York Post. Archived from the original on February 5, 2011. Retrieved February 16, 2010.
  11. Flandez, Raymund (November 26, 2009). ""Glee" Season 1, Episode 11 "Hairography": TV Recap". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 26, 2009.
  12. Kennedy, Gerrick D. (November 26, 2009). "'Glee': A hairlicious distraction before Thanksgiving". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 26, 2009.
  13. "Glee Cast and Jenna Ushkowitz – True Colors". Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  14. Futterman, Erica (May 16, 2012). "Glee Recap: What a Feeling". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  15. "Jenna Ushkowitz, Lady Gaga: 'Marry the Night' Video Cameo Brought on by Chance Double Date". AOL. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
  16. "'Glee's' Jenna Ushkowitz to Write Book (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. July 12, 2012.
  17. Perez, Olivia (January 10, 2013). "First Look! Jenna Ushkowitz Pens New Book 'Choosing Glee'". Teen Vogue.
  18. Hughes, Jason (June 2, 2014). "Kristen Bell, Amber Riley, Jenna Ushkowitz, Hunter Parrish Take Leads in Hollywood Bowl Production of 'Hair'". TheWrap.
  19. "GLEE's Jenna Ushkowitz to Lead Pittsburgh CLO's THE WEDDING SINGER; 2015 Summer Season Casts Set". Broadway World. April 22, 2015.
  20. "The Cast of 'Glee' – Where Are They Now?". Life & Style. September 8, 2015.
  21. Pedersen, Erik (December 1, 2015). "Audra McDonald & Martha Plimpton Lead Ensemble Cast Of 'Hello Again' Pic".
  22. "Infinite Positivities homepage". At Will Entertainment.
  23. Lloyd Webber, Imogen (July 19, 2016). "Jenna Ushkowitz to Temporarily Replace Kimiko Glenn in Sara Bareilles' Waitress on Broadway".
  24. Viagas, Robert (October 20, 2016). "Caitlin Houlahan Makes Broadway Debut in 'Waitress' Tonight". Playbill.
  25. "Daveed Diggs, Jenna Ushkowitz and More Sign on for THE 24 HOUR PLAYS on Broadway; Cast Complete!". Broadway World. October 20, 2016.
  26. "Photo Gallery: Familiar Faces". NOH8 Campaign.
  27. "Jenna Ushkowitz and Reid Scott Celebrate Oceana's 3rd Annual Nautica". Oceana.
  28. "We Must Save Ocean Wildlife Before It Is Too Late". The Huffington Post. November 13, 2015.
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