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Why Greatest Showman’s Keala Settle Rejected Her Famous ‘This Is Me’ Song Until This Year

Keala Settle as Lettie Lutz in The Greatest Showman
(Image credit: (20th Century Studios))

A movie anthem like The Greatest Showman hit “This Is Me” doesn’t step out every year, but it was perhaps the memorable fire of Keala Settle’s standout moment that inspired audiences to keep going out to see the film in theaters months after its release. “This Is Me” has transcended its film and has continued to be the most iconic aspect of the Broadway star and singer’s career. Though as you might imagine, being known for a four-minute piece of music could get old after a while.

CinemaBlend had the honor of speaking to Keala Settle, who sings her heart out in Universal’s All My Life, which is now in select theaters. Settle spent a chunk of time last year touring all over the world with co-star Hugh Jackman, partly as tribute to Greatest Showman’s popularity. During our phone conversation, Settle reflected on how her relationship with “This Is Me” has shifted as of late:

What a lot of people don’t know and now will know is that I rejected that song from the very beginning. While everybody else was accepting it, everything in me was rejecting it because I was not ready to not be afraid. And then this year happened, and over the past probably eight or nine months, basically since this pandemic started for us in the U.S. it has become what it is for everyone else for me because I sat down and looked into it and understood it. I can sing it with everything in me, but when the song was over I used to retract. I don’t know why I do this, but when I perform, I throw everything out there and then when I’m done, I’m so horrified that I did that I retract immediately. Everyone else was being affected by it and I was running away. So this past year has been just a light switch that works and actually has power in it.

As rough 2020 has been for many of us, there’s beauty in reflection and silence. Keala Settle reached major fame and recognition in the past three years for her incredible original rendition of the movie’s anthem. But for two of those years, she had been rejecting it as something for herself and left it for everyone else. This year, Settle could finally reflect on the resonance of the song for herself. Check out this spine-chilling rehearsal of the song:

Before reflecting on “This Is Me,” we talked about how it has continued to remain an important part of pop culture, with Tyler Perry even citing the lyrics' effect on him in October. When I mentioned Perry’s love of her song to Settle, she burst out into glee and joyful screams before saying this:

[This Is Me] is important to everybody, international everybody. There’s a piece of everybody in that song and that’s what I love about it because it connected me with people who are like ‘oh my gosh, I’m in this song,’ and ‘I understand how you feel.’ That’s where your hope comes from and your strength because you realize you’re not the only one.

It’s certainly a powerful song that will continue to resonate with people for years to come. It was nominated for Best Original Song at the 2018 Oscars, where Kaela Settle performed it. Settle had a mini stroke one week before performing at Hollywood's big night out due to her undiagnosed and rare Moyamoya disease. To address the health concerns, she later underwent a 10-hour double-bypass brain surgery to correct the problem.

Keala Settle previously talked about the song giving her a “sense of dread” before performing it. Now that she’s had ample time away from actively performing it and has been able to separate herself from it in a sense, it sounds like she’s truly found peace with “This Is Me.”

Sarah El-Mahmoud

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.