By PAUL CONNOLLY via smh.com Kristin Chenoweth Tony Award-winning singer, actor, in a relationship, 44 My father, Jerry, is not a singer, nor should he ever be. Not in the shower, not church, not anywhere! He has always been, however, someone I admire a great deal – someone who’s an example of quiet strength for me, someone who has been a great example of how a man should treat a lady, and how a man handles his business. My father has been a very big protector in my life. He doesn’t like it when people hurt his little girl. I’m in my 40s now, but he’s still the same way. I have to tell him to back off sometimes, or I will never have a boyfriend! My dad came from nothing, from a very poor background, but he made his way. I saw him work hard, and he’s reaped the benefits from that. He gave me an example that if you work hard and sacrifice, you can succeed. So he’s always been more of a shower than a teller. When he did speak and was digging deep and wanted to make a point it mattered; you knew it meant something, so you listened. My parents made no secret of my adoption. They wanted me to know I was chosen, that I was a gift. I think that’s a good way to handle things with an adopted child. The truth is, someone couldn’t take care of you – not wouldn’t, couldn’t. And they gave you the gift of having a life. Dad always wanted me to understand that my adoption was only a good thing. It was probably better for the birth parent, and it was better for me, because I got options I might not otherwise have had. He drove that home, that it was a gift and that he had struck the lottery. I feel the same way. It couldn’t have been better for me. I tell my father, “You’ve done a real disservice to me, because you’re such a great guy and I think all men are like you, but they’re not.” For all the wonderful men I’ve had in my life, I’ve had a turd or two! My first real boyfriend was a “bad boy”. Dad reacted strongly about that at the beginning, but when he saw that wasn’t going to work he said, “Okay, go for it.” I then thought, “Hang on, where’s all the You can’t do that, the guy’s no good, he’s going to hurt you’ stuff?” The minute Dad released me, I learnt for myself that he might know a thing or two about the opposite sex. By letting me falter on my own he taught me. That can’t have been easy for him. Did I learn the lesson? Oh no, no, no! Let’s be honest, I’ve learnt that lesson about 15 times, and it’s a lesson I keep having to learn; I’ve been a runaway bride twice. I’ve also had some great boyfriends in my life, some really wonderful men, and I’m dating someone special now. I suppose what they’ve had in common is that they are successful. And that’s different from being rich or financially wealthy. I mean that I’m attracted to men who have drive and ambition, men who are successful in their field. I have to date men like that because I’m that way, too [Chenoweth has starred in Wicked, Glee and The West Wing]. So I don’t mean it in an arrogant way that a man has to be at the top of their field, just that they want to be the best they can be. Another important man in my life is [musical director] Richard Jay-Alexander. He’s a successful man – he’s smart and articulate, much like my father, but he’s flamboyant, too, not like my father! He’s funny and a musical genius and a wealth of knowledge. I’m attracted to him because he’s taught me so much, and pushed me to the limit more than I ever thought I could go musically. When you are a generation younger than someone, I think it’s important you listen to them and learn from them. I hope I can be that person for someone else down the road. I would never have understood in my 20s that men might be intimidated by successful women. When I started dating, I had guys tell me they were intimidated to ask me out. And I’d giggle because I’m 4’11” [150 centimetres] and, let’s face it, I sound like Betty Boop. I don’t think I’m an intimidating woman, but I suppose by the sheer amount of things I’ve accomplished [as an actor and singer] there are men who might feel I’m intimidating. That makes me feel a little sad, because I really am still pretty much the girl from Oklahoma, the girl next door.