No one would have blamed Lea Michele if she'd skipped out on the 2013 Teen Choice Awards tonight. It's been just a few weeks since boyfriend Cory Monteith was found dead, and Glee was already well represented with Darren Criss co-hosting (along with Lucy Hale), and most of the cast on hand to accept the show's award for Choice TV Comedy. But Michele showed ... and showed the world how she's handling a very personal tragedy turned very, very public.
She was noticably absent when a host of Glee stars took the stage to accept their giant surfboard, but when her name was called for best actress in a TV comedy, Michele appeared, suddenly smiling. It was a smile that wavered as she tried -- just thisclose to successfully -- to hold back her tears, as Michele dedicated her award to the love of her life.
And then she did something really amazing.
She opened up about her grief, and she agreed to share Cory with the world.
You could say she didn't have a choice. The world has weighed in on his tragic death and the circumstances around it. He was a star, so his death is public. Period.
But as his girlfriend, Michele very much could have decided to shut the world out and keep her grief private. She could have said, "thanks but no thanks" to the Teen Choice Awards invite. And she could have simply asked the fans to respect her privacy.
There would be no shame in any of that.
But tonight, Lea Michele decided to share her pain, and in doing that, she showed what a strong and gracious woman she is. As she said in her acceptance speech for her acting award:
I just wanted to be here today to personally thank all of you and tell everyone out there how much all of your love and support has meant to me over these very past difficult few weeks. Not that I had any doubt before, but you guys are most certainly the greatest fans in the world.
It was enough to make Michele sound like a woman who really understands what it means to be a celebrity -- who understands why people really get so wrapped up in what happens to people they've never met. But she didn't stop there:
I wanted to dedicate this award to Cory. For all of you out there who loved and admired Cory as much as I did, I promise that with your love we're going to get through this together.
He was very special to me, and also to the world, and we were very lucky to witness his incredible talent, his handsome smile, and his beautiful, beautiful heart. Whether you knew him personally or just as Finn Hudson, Cory reached out and he became a part of all of our hearts, and that's where he'll stay forever.
As a fan, I was stunned by Cory's death and saddened too, but I know I can't even begin to imagine what Lea has gone through. Her ability to see through her own grief, to recognize that the kid in audience, the kids who voted for her, could be hurting too, ironically only goes to show what incredible pain must lie beneath the surface of Lea's own beautiful smile.
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She's not just grieving the love of her life, she's having to do it with the whole world watching and weighing in, and she's still able to share ... to remember that Cory wasn't just hers, nor is the pain over his death.
As co-star Jenna Ushkowitz said tonight:
On behalf of our brother and our castmate, we know that Cory would have wanted to dedicate this award to you guys. So our condolences to all of you as well.
Watch the tribute here:
What did you think of Lea's tribute to Cory?
Image via Getty Images/Kevin Winter