The Truth About Cory Monteith's Relationship With Lea Michele

Back in 2012, "Glee" co-stars Cory Monteith and Lea Michele were television's "it" couple. As the show's lead vocalists, the dynamic duo had already watched their cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" hit No.4 on Billboard's Top 100 chart. On screen, their characters Finn (Monteith) and Rachel (Michele) were "very much in love," as Michele put it to Entertainment Weekly. And their real-life romance was so swoon-worthy that fans dubbed them "Monchele."


This combination of music, fame, and fandom made Monteith and Michele's love story seem like a fantasy. However, the couple's romance ended suddenly on July 13, 2013, when Monteith died of an accidental drug overdose in a Vancouver hotel room (via CNN).

The tragic incident revealed that Monteith and Michele's relationship was perhaps more complex than the two let on. In the aftermath of her beau's death, Michele tried her best to foster a culture of secrecy around their relationship. "There are so many personal aspects of this whole journey that people are not invited to know," she told Elle in late 2013. In the years since, however, much more has come out. 

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Cory Monteith was 'intimidated' by Lea Michele at first

Cory Monteith had his eye on Lea Michele before the two even crossed paths. In a "Glee" BTS special, Monteith wasn't afraid to admit that he'd conducted some internet sleuthing on his co-star before meeting her for the first time (via Yahoo! News). He explained, "I heard about this Lea Michele Safarti, so I went on YouTube and looked at all these videos of [Michele] performing onstage."


All that sleuthing, however, did nothing to calm Monteith's nerves. When he finally saw Michele for the first time in the flesh, the young actor was rattled. "The first impression I had when I met Lea was, I was intimidated. Honestly, I was. I was intimidated because [she is] very talented," he confessed in the same interview.

In some ways, Monteith's initial reaction was justified. In 2009, when "Glee" took off, Michele was known for starring in the Broadway hit "Spring Awakening." Monteith, on the other hand, knew almost nothing about the world of musicals. In one of his first public appearances, the Canadian heartthrob told Undercover, "I've yet to see a musical theater show in my life ... so ['Glee'] has been a huge education, you know, and alongside the likes of a Broadway star." Luckily, these differences didn't stop the pair from connecting, both onscreen and in real life.


The couple dated in secret

Although Cory Monteith may have been nervous about meeting Lea Michele, that did not stop sparks from flying between the two co-stars. Not long after the 2009 premiere of "Glee," there were already rumblings of "Monchele" dating rumors, which Monteith was quick to quell. "We're great friends. We've become really close over the show, but we're just friends. We're not dating," he insisted in a December 2009 interview (via People).


While Monteith may have seemed adamant in his response, the actor didn't exactly divulge the full truth about his and Michele's relationship. More recently, Michele opened up about what really went down between her and Monteith at the show's inception. In a 2013 exclusive, the Broadway star told Elle that she and Monteith did actually start dating back in the show's early days. Their relationship, however, was a well-kept secret. "Nobody really caught on," she shared.

Cory Monteith and Lea Michele broke up

Lea Michele and Cory Monteith's initial relationship was short-lived. According to Elle, the two only "briefly dated" before transitioning back to being just friends. At the time, they were just getting used to their newfound stardom. Luckily, they were able to keep their split out of the tabloids.


However, this isn't entirely surprising, given Monteith's fierce desire for privacy. The Canadian actor was unusually closed off about his romantic life. In 2010, when Teen Vogue asked Monteith if he was seeing anyone, the star simply responded, "No." Michele then swooped in, saying, "Not like he would tell us." Monteith confirmed Michele's assertion, adding, "I stay private about that stuff. I don't want to be like, 'I'm seeing this girl...'"

Monteith went on to explain that much of his anxiety about public relationships was related to a fear of public breakups. "I see the people in the tabloids, the ones that get bad press, who have kind of gone off the edge, and I try to study them so that I don't do that," he confessed.


They kept flirting after their split

Following her private breakup with Cory Monteith, Lea Michele did not wait long to move on. By May 2010, she had fallen for fellow singing superstar Theo Stockman (via CBS). Unlike Monteith, Stockman had performed on Broadway — in none other than the Tony-awarding winning musical "Hair" (via Playbill). And Stockman wasn't afraid of bringing his romance with Michele into the spotlight. As CBS reported, the pair made their relationship debut on the red carpet of the Time 100 Most Important People gala in New York.


From afar, Michele and Stockman seemed like a match made in heaven. Nonetheless, their relationship did little to curb Michele's natural chemistry with Monteith. A behind-the-scenes Teen Vogue video released in September 2011 shows just how flirty the two could be, even while she was dating Stockman. At one point in the video, Monteith casually rearranged Michele's hair, and they joked that the photoshoot wasn't actually for the magazine's cover shoot but for their "save-the-date for our wedding."

When Teen Vogue asked if Stockman ever got jealous of her kissing scenes with Monteith, Michele responded, "My boyfriend is an actor as well, so he understands." Even so, the pair broke up in September 2011, just months before Monteith and Michele made their relationship official (via Elle).


It wasn't easy for Monteith to announce they were dating

Cory Monteith and Lea Michele may have gotten back together in 2011, but the two waited a while to tell the world that they were an item. It wasn't until the very end of 2012 that Monteith finally gave fans the news that they were hoping for. During a guest appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," he confirmed that Michele was, in fact, his girlfriend.


This announcement put Michele over the moon. Years later, she admitted just how much that moment meant to her. "It's one of my favorite memories," she told Ellen DeGeneres in a 2013 interview. "I remember when he came home that night, he sort of puffed out his chest and he was like, 'I talked about you on Ellen today.' And I was so happy."

Just because Monteith made the announcement, though, that doesn't mean it came naturally to him. "He was such a private person," Michele admitted to the talk show host. Even so, Michele treasured their relationship. "I lived every day feeling like the luckiest girl in the whole world," she said.

Cory Monteith was 'a good sport' when it came to his girlfriend's cooking

Not everyone knows that Lea Michele is a bit of an amateur chef, but the bubbly brunette actually loves to hit the kitchen and get cooking. Not only does she claim to make a "really good soup," but Michele has also bragged on "Live with Kelly and Ryan that she "always [wins]" her family's annual cooking competition. Not everyone, however, was always so enamored with her cooking.


Cory Monteith had a particularly bad experience with Michele's culinary abilities — not that he ever spoke out about it publicly, of course. The actor herself admitted to Jay Leno that some of her culinary ventures left much to be desired. "I cooked something for my boyfriend [Monteith] the other day, and I don't think he really liked it. ... I made him a little breakfast, like my version of an Italian Croque Madame, something like that," she shared.

It would be difficult to criticize Monteith for his hesitance toward his girlfriend's meal, however. According to Michele, the issue with the dish had more to do with food safety than, say, the seasoning. "I think the eggs were raw and not cooked," she said. "It wasn't very good! But he was a good sport."


Michele took Monteith on a family vacation

In January 2013, Cory Monteith joined Lea Michele and her parents on a family vacation to Hawaii. According to Us Weekly, the party of four jetted off to the Big Island, where they enjoyed quality time at the beach. "I had the best time with my mom and dad.I got to hang out with them and relax," Michele told the outlet.


Later, however, the actress admitted that the trip was not quite as peaceful as she originally let on. Thanks to Monteith's planning, Michele found herself engaging in some wild escapades. She told E! News, "Cory took me on some adventures, some crazy activities. I was scaling mountains and driving down incredibly dangerous roads." While her excursions with her boyfriend may have been risky rather than relaxing, Michele did seem to enjoy herself. "It was really, really awesome. I had the best time ever," she gushed.

The "Glee" actress capped off her trip with an Instagram post that hinted at future Big Island getaways. "Last look at paradise ... Till next time, of course," she wrote.

Cory Monteith helped Lea Michele revise her book

In 2014, Lea Michele published her autobiography, "Brunette Ambition." But Michele wasn't the only brunette working hard on the book. According to the actress, Cory Monteith played a major role in helping her make edits. He was especially vocal when it came to helping Michele decide which stories were actually hers to tell. "I did write a lot in the book about [Jonathon Groff] coming out to me," Michele told fans at a book signing in New York. "I remember Cory telling me when he read the book, 'You've got to be careful because you're talking about someone'" (via Us Weekly).


After hearing her Monteith out, Michele took her boyfriend's advice to heart and "edited down that chapter a lot." In the end, that decision was likely for the best, as Groff has since divulged just how difficult it was for him to come out. "It wasn't like I came out when I was 23, and everything was great. I came out of the closet and I was still feeling quite shameful for many years," he told Out (via Pride).

The couple discussed marriage

In 2013, when Cory Monteith died due to an accidental drug overdose, Lea Michele was understandably crushed. Rumors quickly began to circulate that the actor wasn't actually Monteith's girlfriend but rather his bride-to-be. American Star reported that Michele's grandfather Albert Sarfarti believed that his granddaughter was, indeed, Monteith's fiancée (via Toronto Sun). "They were about to be married. I'm sure Lea is heartbroken," Safarti told the publication.


At the time of Monteith's death, Michele did not directly address her grandfather's comments. However, years later, Michele admitted that she did see a long-term future with Monteith. "We talked about children and what we would look like when we grew old and who would get fat and how we would stay thin. We talked about where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do," she told Glamour UK.

While Michele never used the word "marriage" in the interview, she dropped hints that the couple had been in it for the long haul. "We were done. We were it. When you're at that place in your life with someone, you talk about everything," she said.

Lea Michele wrote a song using Cory Monteith's last words

Immediately following Cory Monteith's death, Lea Michele did everything in her power to honor his memory. One of the ways that she paid tribute to her late partner was by writing him the song "If You Say So." In an interview with Seventeen, Michele revealed that she titled the song with the last four words that Monteith ever spoke to her. "[The song] is about my last conversation that I had with him," she explained. "I spoke to a woman who lost her son, and she mentioned how grateful she was that the last words she said to her son before he died were, 'I love you.' Mine were that as well."


The piece's tragic lyrics transport the listener back to Michele's final conversation with Monteith: "Was just a week ago/ You said I love you girl/ I said I love you more/ And a breath, a pause, you said, if you say so/ If you say so/ If you say so."

Beyond its sentimental value, "If You Say So" helped mark Lea Michele's transition into a better position professionally. It served as the final song on Michele's 2014 album "Louder," her solo record debut. "I really feel like, for such a long time, people ... were like, 'Yeah right, when is this album you're talking about really going to happen?' Now that it's really coming out it's unbelievable," she told Billboard.

Michele still honors Monteith's wishes

In the years since Cory Monteith's death, Lea Michele's life has continued on. In 2019, the vocalist and actor married businessman Zandy Reich in a romantic Northern California ceremony (via People). Just over a year later, the couple welcomed a son, whom they named Ever, according to ET.


While Michele has found love again, the star has not forgotten about Monteith. She continues to keep his spirit alive by honoring her late beau's wishes for the world. Michele told Elle that Monteith "would want nothing more than for me to take this situation [his unexpected death] and use it to help people." And Michele has done just that.

In the years since Monteith's passing, Michele has gone on to raise money for one of his favorite charities, Chrysalis (via OK! Magazine). The singer has done her best to include his memory in her quest for donations. In her fundraising Instagram posts for Chrysalis, Michele has often included photographs of the late "Glee" star. In that sense, the actor has managed to help the charity in Monteith's name.


Lea keeps Finn's memory alive

Cory Monteith may be gone, but Lea Michele does everything in her power to keep his "Glee" character Finn alive. For one thing, she tattooed the character's name on her upper thigh, as revealed in one of her Instagram posts. For another, she has refused to watch "The Quarterback," Finn's farewell episode on "Glee" (via Insider). Michele explained her decision, saying, "I have never watched the episode. It's the only one I have not seen because I think if I don't watch it, it just kind of feels like Finn is still there." 


For some, "The Quarterback" proved to be a beautiful tribute to Monteith, who seemed to be an indelible part of the show. Critics have also noted how the episode respectfully avoided the nature of his death (via The Hollywood Reporter).

For Michele, however, recording that episode was one of the most challenging moments of her career. "I would film it, and then I would run off, and then I would come back," she said (via Insider). However, she didn't want any special treatment. "I said I don't want to be treated with kid gloves," she explained. "I want to just come back to work and be with everyone because this is the only way I'm going to feel better."