Jenna Noelle Ushkowitz (born April 28, 1986) is an American stage and television actress and singer, who is perhaps best known for her performances in Broadway musicals and for her role as Tina Cohen-Chang on Glee.
Ushkowitz was born in Seoul, South Korea; she was adopted at the age of three months and raised in East Meadow, New York. Ushkowitz was raised Catholic and 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. She 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. She graduated from Marymount Manhattan in 2007 with a B.A. in Acting, with a concentration in Theater Performance and a minor in Musical Theater.
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 a 1996 revival of The King and I.
Ushkowitz sang the American National Anthem at a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden when she was thirteen. Before joining the cast of Glee, she was an understudy for the roles of Anna, Martha, Thea and Ilse in the Broadway musical Spring Awakening.
In 2009, she landed the role of Tina Cohen-Chang on Fox's musical high school show Glee. Her character had a stutter for the first nine episodes until she revealed she had been faking one due to her extreme shyness. Her storylines have included dating fellow glee club members Artie Abrams and Mike Chang. Her solos have included the songs "Tonight" from West Side Story, "True Colors", and "ABC" by the Jackson 5.
Ushkowitz has performed live concert shows in the US, England, and Ireland with her castmates from Glee. She has known Glee co-star Lea Michele since they were eight years old; they also co-starred on Broadway in Spring Awakening. Ushkowitz was initially given little information about Tina's backstory, 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." Ushkowitz has created her own backstory for Tina, and believes that she is rebelling against her mother rather than genuinely being a goth, explaining: "I don't think her room is filled with dark posters and heavy metal stuff—I just think this is a phase she's going through. There's definitely a lot of options for all the characters to evolve and change next year. I'm totally rooting for Tina to join The Cheerios or something crazy like that."
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