Hometown: Norwark, California. "My dad is the mayor of the town—you might say acting has always been in my blood since my dad is a politician!"
Currently: Making her Broadway debut as Jan, the endearingly naive Pink Lady who finds romance with Roger in the Broadway revival of Grease.
Big Girls Don't Cry: At four, Mendez saw her older sister onstage in Annie, "and I said, 'Wow, this is it!" she remembers. "I started taking voice when I was six and dance classes every day—I just couldn't get enough." Soon, little Lindsay was onstage herself as Gretl in The Sound of Music, but she quickly learned that rejection comes to every performer. "The first time I didn't get called back at an audition, I cried. My mom told me, 'We're doing this for fun, and if it's not fun anymore, we're not going to do it. So if you ever cry again, we're going to stop.' I never cried from then on, and I kept that lesson for the rest of my life. Even though acting is my job, I do this because I love it, and when the love is gone, I'm not going to do it anymore."
Broadway Breeding Ground: The O.C. isn't typically considered a hatching place for musical theater stars, but Mendez's alma mater, Orange County High School of the Arts, definitely was: "I have a million classmates up and down Broadway: [South Pacific star] Matt Morrison, [Wicked star] Stephanie Block, [In the Heights cast member] Krysta Rodriguez," she says. "Anna Aimee White and I were great friends in high school and now we dance onstage together in Grease every night." The school's conservatory approach allowed students to combine academics with a performing arts major hers was musical theater, naturally. By graduation, Mendez had an agent and moved directly to New York. "I'd still like to go to college," she says now, "but I would want to study something completely different. I change my mind every day about what that might be."
Delayed Debuts: Broadway debuts are thrilling whenever they happen, but Mendez and her close friend Sierra Boggess, now starring as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, had expected to make theirs two years ago in a musical called Princesses. "We had done it at Goodspeed and then in Seattle, and Sierra and I decided to set ourselves up for Broadway," Mendez recalls. "We got an apartment with a big rent in midtown—and then the show didn't come in. Sierra was down to the last $70 in her checking account before she got the Les Miz tour. It was crazy! Now our theaters are back to back, and we go through the Edison Hotel to meet each other for lunch. So we did end up making our Broadway debuts together, just in different shows." And Mendez still lives in the Princesses apartment.
Keeping It Real: With 14 Broadway-debuting actors in the house including reality show winners Laura Osnes and Max Crumm, Grease "is like a family," Mendez says of the cast, now in its ninth month at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. "The show has gotten better and tighter, and I think that reflects our friendships offstage." As for her character, the actress revels in playing a normal-sized heroine. "I'm by far the biggest girl in my cast," she says, "and when I heard that Jenny Powers [Rizzo] and Robyn Hurder [Marty] and I were going to wear the same costume for 'Beauty School Dropout,' I thought, 'How's that going to work?' But Martin Pakledinaz, our costume designer, was so awesome and made me feel as beautiful as the other girls. I love that I can be this size and do this role and make girls see that not everyone has to be a skinny-minnie to be on Broadway."
The Newlywed Game: Winning her role in Grease forced Mendez to reschedule her wedding to musical director Michael Borth last summer, but she was happy to do so. "We ended up having it on a Monday night, six days before rehearsals started," she says of the June 6 ceremony. "I had two days to pack, and I wrote all my thank-you notes over one weekend." The couple met her senior year when Borth was working as an accompanist at Mendez's high school, "but it's a G-rated story," she says with a laugh. "We were friends then, and only started dating when I came back several years later for an alumni concert." Married life in New York, complete with a new chocolate toy poodle named Ella Fitzgerald Mendez Borth, agrees with the lively actress. "We're both busy, but it's great to spend our first year of marriage together in one place. We feel so lucky."