Billboard Women in Music Honoree Idina Menzel: ‘I Worked My Whole Life to Have a Crossover Song’

Miller Mobley

Idina Menzel photographed on March 17 at Ludlow Studios in New York City.

The Billboard Women in Music Breakthrough Artist honoree talks about the phenomenon of 'Frozen' and the blessing of John Travolta mispronouncing her name at the Oscars.

Just after 10 p.m. one November night, Idina Menzel is winding down from her workday. The 43-year-old is backstage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where she has been performing a lead role in the dual-narrative musical If/Then since March, drawing sellout crowds and racking up her third Tony nomination in the process. (In 2004, she won a Tony for Wicked.)

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Such an achievement would be enough to headline any Broadway star's year, but If/Then isn't even the defining moment of Menzel's 2014. That would be her Frozen contribution, "Let It Go," the No. 5-peaking song that became the biggest hit from a Disney animated musical in nearly 20 years, and the first sung by an original cast member to crack the Billboard Hot 100's top 10. (A pop version, cut by Demi Lovato, reached No. 38.)

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Menzel, whose 5-year-old son Walker is asleep behind her on a couch, is still trying to process how she got to this point. "Your career will ebb and flow, you'll get dropped from record labels, you'll get fired from jobs, and then all of a sudden this can happen," she says. "You just have to believe in yourself and stick around long enough for the magic to happen."

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"Attending the Oscars with my sister. [John Travolta mispronouncing my name] was the ultimate blessing in disguise."

"Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Annie Lennox, Joni Mitchell -- all dynamic, really emotional singers. Sheryl Crow, I love her too."

"I worked my whole life to have a crossover song. Finally I turned 40, had a kid, and stopped giving a f--k, and all of a sudden I have this song that's in a Disney film."

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Performed at the Oscars.

Nominated for her third Tony.

Reached No. 5 on the Hot 100 with "Let It Go."

Became the first person to score both a Billboard top 10 hit and a Tony Award for acting.

Met Billy Joel, Pink and Melissa Etheridge the same morning: "Pretty damn cool!"

This article first appeared in the Dec. 12 issue of Billboard.


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