What Kristin Chenoweth knows (and Kanye West and Joe Wilson don't) that writers need to learn

Last year on Emmy night, Kristin Chenoweth showed up dressed to the requisite long and flowy nines, nominated for her role in "Pushing Daisies," a quirky but critically acclaimed show that was on the rise and destined to become a cult hit.

"It wasn't my moment," she shrugged the next time I saw her. "And losing to someone as fabulous as Jean Smart doesn't sting too much."

Last night was her moment. My girl Cheno showed up in an adorable dress that was neither long nor flowy. Hers were the only legs I saw on the red carpet, and if she hadn't been fighting off a migraine headache, she'd have been suffering less than anyone else there because the poorly planned gauntlet stretched out stifling hot in the direct sun.

She was nominated for the same role in "Pushing Daisies," but the show was canceled last spring and sank quickly and quietly beneath the waves. Turns out destiny isn't always what we think it is. As delightful as she was in the show, the show was dead, and frankly, I don't think anyone was betting the farm on anything other than "30 Rock to sweep." Kristin was surprised to have been nominated and looked stunned when she won.

Alone in a hotel room in Florida (I'm off working with another ghost client), I leaped off the couch, spilled my wine, whooped out loud. This victory is so much more delicious because I've seen this woman lose so graciously.

Kristin is a serious artist with an Masters in Opera Performance and a long history of mule-tough theatre work. Despite the cutesy stuff you see on E!, her career is about dedication to craft, not the collection of accolades. Losing well is something she talks a lot about in her NYT bestselling memoir, A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love and Faith in Stages. There's a long, hilarious chapter about her perennial "second runner-upness" and various "nomin-not-tions."

"Awards are on the outside. Rewards are on the inside," she says in a sidebar of advice for young actors. "That means rewards don't have to be dusted."

When she collected her soon-to-be-well-dusted Emmy last night, Kristin gave credit to Amy Poehler for rallying her fellow noms in the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy category ("C'mon! We're the funny girls!") to steal the show with a great little bit. I loved the spirit of that bit: We're all in this together. Only one of us is going to win this time, but we're here because we love what we do.

We've seen some examples of galactically poor losers lately, and in a field as fiercely competitive as publishing, we see the same bitterness play out on smaller stages every day. I just want to take a moment to celebrate these women who know the essential truth of making a life in the arts: You win some, you lose some. But if you hang in there long enough, work hard enough, care about craft deeply enough, and rise above the disappointments, your moment will come.

Watch and learn...


Awww...That's great - and it couldn't happen to a nicer, more gracious person! Congratulations, Kristin!

Thanks, Joni, for posting this. I missed it last night and wanted to see her moment. I was a big fan of PUSHING DAISIES, and Kristin was a delight in it.
Anonymous said…
This was one of my favorite moments of the Emmys. I love it when a winner seems truly surprised. And I loved it when she retained her sense of humor through her tears -- the bit about being out of work and naming the shows she liked. She's a talented lady, for sure.

So glad to have discovered your blog, too (thanks to Ken Levine's blog). I'm adding it to my links. I'm a would-be novelist, mom, and rapacious reader, as well!
Lisa said…
I loved her dress, she looked stunning.
VP81955 said…
Excellent observation about an excellent lady. If talent, graciousness and class were translated into height, Kristin would be so tall she'd have to duck to pass through doorways. You must have had plenty of fun collaborating with her.

Like some others here, I arrived at your blog through Ken Levine. I admire your writing skill and your enthusiasm for what you do, and you can be sure I will regularly visit.

And while I'm at it, I hope you don't mind me plugging my own blog, "Carole & Co.", which as you can guess from the avatar focuses on Carole Lombard and classic Hollywood. It's been up since June 2007, and we've posted more than 900 entries on Lombard, her life and times, and people she knew and worked with. You and your readers are cordially invited to visit (and join) -- it's at


Continued success.
Joni Rodgers said…
Thanks for stopping by, everyone. And yes, I love Lombard!
Loved this post and clip. Thanks, Joni. Wendy

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