Alex Newell, J. Harrison Ghee Make History As First Non-Binary Tony Award Winners

Alex Newell, J. Harrison Ghee Make History As First Non-Binary Tony Award Winners
Image: Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee. Images: Facebook

The 76th Tony Awards became a celebration of talent and queer representation within theatre with many LGBTQI actors taking awards, most notably Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee becoming the first non-binary winners for their respective musical performances. 

Newell, who got their start in the 2012 hit series Glee, was the first to receive their award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for their portrayal of Lulu in Shucked

In accepting their award, Newell was visibly struck with emotion saying “I have wanted this my entire life,” thanking their mother and the cast for their support. 

“Thank you for seeing me, Broadway. I should not be up here, as a queer, non-binary, fat, Black little baby from Massachusetts,” continued Newell. “To anyone who thinks they can’t do it… you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Shortly after, Ghee was called up for their portrayal of Jerry/ Daphne in the stage adaptation of Some Like It Hot winning Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. 

Accepting their speech, Ghee dedicated their award to “every trans, non-binary, non-conforming human whoever was told you could be seen.”

Ghee thanked their mother and the cast for showing “humanity” in letting themselves be seen and represented.  

Both winners received thunderous applause as they accepted their awards in their shimmering gowns, glammed up make-up and hair as standouts amongst other performers. 

More Queer Winners Than Ever

Along with Newell and Ghee, many other queer performers received awards for their respective roles in stage productions tying up the 76th award show as having the most LGBTQI representation in its history.

Brandon Uranowitz received Best Featured Actor in a Play for his role in Leopoldstadt. Uranowitz spoke on the play’s personal effect, helping him discover his roots and identity as a queer Jewish performer. 

“When your child tells you who you are, believe them,” proclaimed Uranowitz reflecting on his personal family relationships. “Protect, celebrate and water that truth, because an authentic life is a limitless life.”

Michael Arden accepted the award for Best Direction of a Musical for Parade and reflected on the importance of representation with the current social and political attacks on minority groups. 

“We must come together; we must battle this. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the horrors of our history,” said Arden. “To queer, trans, non-binary youth out there, we see you, and you’re valuable, and your queerness makes you special,”

Concluding his speech, Arden sent the audience roaring saying, “I as a kid was called the F-word more times than I can remember, and all I can say is…now I’m a f****t with a Tony!” However, the ‘F-word’ which Arden used to reclaim its derogatory use was ultimately censored when the awards were aired. 

Out gay actor Sean Hayes won Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for his role in Goodnight. The Lifetime Achievement Awards went to two gay men – actor Joel Grey (Cabaret, George M!, Wicked, Anything Goes, and Chicago) and composer John Kander (Cabaret, Chicago).

The ceremony was hosted by Ariana Debose, who provided incredible performances and ‘off-the-cuff’ presentations affected by the current writers’ strike. 




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