Alex Newell made history on Sunday during the 76th Tony Awards, where they became the first openly non-binary person to win a Tony Award. Newell nabbed the Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical category for their role as Lulu in Shucked.
“Thank you for seeing me Broadway,” Newell said while accepting the award. “I should not be up here as a queer, non-binary, fat, Black, little baby from Massachusetts. And to anyone that thinks that they can’t do it, I’m going to look you dead in your face that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Newell made their TV mark as Wade “Unique” Adams on Glee, a role they earned after participating in the casting series The Glee Project, where Newell was a runner-up. They went on to play Mo on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and portrayed Asaka in the Broadway revival of Once on This Island in 2018.
In an interview with Variety, Newell explained why they opted to compete in the supporting actor category.
“I went based off the English language,” Newell said. “Everyone who does acting is an actor. That is genderless.”
With music and lyrics by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally and a book by Robert Horn, Shucked opened on April 4 at the Nederlander Theatre.
Later in the night, J. Harrison Ghee also won lead actor (musical) for their performance as Jerry/Daphne in Casey Nicholaw’s Some Like It Hot, making both Ghee and Newell the first non-binary people to win Tony Awards.
“My mother raised me to understand that the gifts God gave me were not about me,” Ghee said. “To use them to be effective in the world. For every trans, nonbinary, gender non-conforming human — whoever was told they couldn’t be, couldn’t be seen, this is for you. ‘Some Like It Hot’ and that ain’t bad.”
This post was updated at 10:42 p.m. ET to include J. Harrison Ghee’s Tony Award win.