On Sunday, June 11, Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee made history by becoming the first out non-binary actors to win Tony Awards. Both performers used their acceptance speeches to share empowering messages with all trans and non-binary folks.
Alex Newell, who also identifies as gender non-conforming and gender-fluid, won an award for Best Featured Actor for their role as Lulu in the musical Shucked. In accepting the accolade, the actor said, “Thank you for seeing me, Broadway”.
“I should not be up here as a queer non-binary fat Black lil’ baby from Massachusetts,” they continued. “To anyone that thinks they can’t do it, I’m going to look you dead in your face [and say] that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Newell then thanked all the Shucked cast, crew, and creators, concluding her speech with a heartfelt message to their mother, thanking her “for loving me unconditionally” and “teaching me what strength is.”
that’s Tony winner Alex Newell to you!!!
“Thank you for seeing me, Broadway. I should not be up here, as a queer, non-binary, fat, Black little baby from Massachusetts. To anyone who thinks they can’t do it…you can do anything you put your mind to.”#TonyAwards pic.twitter.com/DaQtK7vAIL
— Spencer Althouse (@SpencerAlthouse) June 12, 2023
J. Harrison Ghee won a Tony Award for their performance in Some Like It Hot, where they played a character who initially disguises as a woman and eventually comes to fully embrace femininity.
In their acceptance speech, Ghee addressed the audience by saying: “For every trans, non-binary, gender-nonconforming human, whoever was told you couldn’t be, you couldn’t be seen, this is for you.”
The actor then thanked the team who worked with them on the musical “for letting me lead, for letting me bring myself to the work, for letting me be representation, letting lives be seen. Thank you for the humanity.”
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) June 12, 2023
Newell and Ghee had already made Tony history when they were the first non-binary actors to be nominated for such awards. Both performers chose to be nominated in the male category, while other actors, such as Justin David Sullivan and Asia Kate Dillon, decided to withdraw altogether from the competition because of the gendered categories and lack of inclusivity.
While Newell and Ghee are the first out non-binary actors to win a Tony Award, 14 years ago, Karen Olivo also became a Tony winner for their performance as Anita in West Side Story. However, Olivo only came out as non-binary in 2021. Moreover, last year, composer and writer Toby Marlow became the first out non-binary Tony winner.
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