Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee Made Tonys History

J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell Photo-Illustration: The Cut. Photos: Getty Images

Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee made history on Sunday night when they became the first openly nonbinary people to win a Tony Award. Newell won the prize for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for their role as Lulu in Shucked, the corn musical, and Ghee won the Leading Actor in a Musical award for their role as Jerry/Daphne in Some Like It Hot. According to the New York Times, both performers agreed to nominations in gendered categories, Ghee telling the paper that though they hoped awards shows would do away with the actor/actress binary, “Wherever I am, I will show up as who I am. Someone’s compartmentalization of me doesn’t limit me in any way.”

“My mother raised me to understand that my gifts that God gave me were not about me. To use them to be effective in the world, to help somebody else’s journey,” Ghee said in their acceptance speech. “So thank you for teaching me how to live, how to love, how to give. For every trans, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming human who ever was told you couldn’t be, you couldn’t be seen, this is for you.”

Earlier in the night, Newell also gave a touching speech while accepting their Tony, telling the audience: “Thank you for seeing me. Broadway, I should not be up here as a queer, nonbinary, fat, Black little baby from Massachusetts.” Newell rose to fame for playing Wade “Unique” Adams in the third season of Glee, after competing on The Glee Project.

For many Glee fans, Newell’s historic victory was only made sweeter by the fact that they sauntered past former Glee castmate and not-exactly-friend Lea Michele to accept their award. In 2020, after Samantha Ware, who also starred on Glee, accused Michele of bullying on the set of the show, Newell supported Ware by commenting on Ware’s post with a GIF saying, “Get Her.”

A victory for Newell and Ghee, and a victory for all the Gleeks out there.

Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee Made Tonys History