Alex Newell, a gay contestant of the popular Oxygen show The Glee Project, has relocated from a small suburb of Boston to Los Angeles in order to follow his dreams. If he wins the competition, Alex, 18, will join the cast of Glee for a seven-episode arc in the upcoming season. The Advocate talks with Newell about being openly gay in the entertainment business, his inspirations for auditioning for The Glee Project, and how singing in his church choir was a strong foundation of his youth.
The Advocate: The theme on a recent episode of The Glee Project was “vulnerability.” You wore a sign that said “Gay” in the middle of a very busy area of Los Angeles. What was that experience like?
Alex Newell: The situation definitely made me vulnerable and uncomfortable. We all put ourselves out there on that day. It represented who I was and, to some extent, what I am uncomfortable talking about. It was a bit tiresome, but at the same time, it was very good. It is said that things done in the dark always come to light, so it is better to embrace who you are and accept yourself.
Other than your sexual orientation, is there anything else that makes you feel vulnerable?
Other than my sexuality, I am vulnerable regarding my physical appearance, as I am not what people considered ideal by most standards. For the entertainment business, I am not the body type of what is typically cast for television or movies. I tend to hide behind my status of being a diva; it’s easy for me to embrace that part of me and seek confidence by being a bit outrageous at times. It’s all in good fun.
Many people have picked you to be the next Kurt on Glee. As he is such a popular character on the show, how does this make you feel?
I think it is great that people are saying that about me. I really hope I am able to live up to people’s expectations, but at the same time, I don’t really like comparisons between entertainers, as each person is an individual. I look to Chris Colfer and the other members of the cast as inspiration for what I can achieve. They lay down a foundation for the path I can follow.
How would you feel if you were cast on Glee or any other show, and you had to portray a heterosexual character?
I think I would be comfortable portraying a straight character. However, I have yet to be presented with such an opportunity, but if it arises, I am sure I would be able to do so without an issue.
How did you enjoy relocating to Los Angeles to film the reality show?
I absolutely loved it. It’s amazing. I can’t wait to get back and pursue a career. It’s one of the places to be if you are looking to get into the entertainment business, of course.
Were all the cast members on The Glee Project accepting of your sexuality and the LGBT community in general?
Yeah, they all were. We lived together and got to know each other in very personal ways. Although very competitive, we all loved everyone for who they were and how they treated one another. No one was judged by one aspect of their life. As a whole, we also learned that the good of someone usually outweighs the bad, and if you give someone a chance, they will typically be an amazing, accepting person.
Who inspired you to become involved with music?
My parents are two of the main influences. They continue to be such an inspiration for me. Both are singers, and my father plays the saxophone and a bunch of other instruments. My church choir was also a huge influence on my personal life and my life as an entertainer. I spent much of my younger days performing and just having fun. I was going to audition for Glee no matter what, and when the opportunity for The Glee Project came along, I jumped at the opportunity. The positive musical experiences in my youth served as a great foundation.
You came out as gay last December. As the show is currently airing and is very popular, has there been any strife between you and members of your church due to your sexuality?
No, there has not been. But, then again, I have not been back to my church since the show has aired. I grew up in the church and the members are very accepting, so I am guessing there will be no problems once I return.
What advice would you give to gay youths who might be afraid to embrace who they are?
I would tell them to be themselves and people are going to love you for you. If you love to sing, sing. If you love to dance, dance. Do whatever you love and things will fall into place, and above all, don’t let anybody stop you or stand in your way.
New episodes of The Glee Project air each Sunday night on Oxygen.