Tony Awards 2023: Alex Newell Makes History as First Non-Binary Person With Featured Acting Win
Alex Newell just impacted the world forever on Sunday, when they turned into the first nonbinary-recognizing individual to win a singular acting award at the 76th yearly Tony Grants. Their jaw-dropping performance in Shucked earned Newell the award for Best Featured Actor Performance in a Musical.
“This has been my dream all my life. And I want to say thank you to everyone in this room,” Newell said as he took the stage at the United Palace Theatre for the Ariana DeBose-hosted 2023 ceremony. Speaking directly to their mother, who was in the audience, Newell shared, “Mommy, I love you. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Thank you for teaching me what strength is.”
“To my entire building and cast and crew of Shucked, you are my rock. I love you all. Thank you for seeing me, Broadway,” Newell continued, while fighting back tears. “I should not be up here. As a queer, nonbinary, 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 and tell you that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Newell first broke out on Glee and has since starred on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and became a Broadway fixture with Once on This Island. This season, they earned their first-ever Tony Award nomination for their turn as Lulu, a female whiskey distiller living in a small, corn-filled town, whose standout musical number includes “Independently Owned.”
Shucked, which features music and lyrics by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally and a book by Robert Horn, tells the story of a young girl who leaves her secluded town in search of someone who can help them save all their corn from dying. Lulu is one of the eclectic residents who finds their world rattled by new ideas (and incomers) from the outside world.
Newell, who attended the Met Gala the night before the 2023 Tony Award nominees were announced, took to Instagram to share their excitement for the recognition. “I’m unwell!” the performer quipped at the time.
In addition to Newell, J. Harrison Ghee was also nominated in the Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical category for Some Like It Hot. Between the two, they became the first-ever nonbinary performers nominated for acting prizes.
The nominations for Newell and Ghee follow 2022’s historic nomination and win for Toby Marlow, who co-wrote the book, music and lyrics of Six and took home the award for Best Original Score. That year, Marlow became the first-ever nonbinary person to be recognized by the Tony Awards.