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Alex Newell, J. Harrison Ghee Make History as First Nonbinary Tony Winners

Alex Newell, J. Harrison Ghee Make History as First Nonbinary Tony Winners

Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Alex Newell won Best Featured Actor in a Musical and J. Harrison Ghee Best Lead Actor.

Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee made history Sunday night as the first out nonbinary actors to win Tony Awards.

Newell, who also identifies as gender-nonconforming and gender-fluid, won Best Featured Actor in a Musical for their performance in Shucked, and Ghee won Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Some Like It Hot.

“Thank you for seeing me, Broadway,” Newell said in accepting their award. “I should not be up here as a queer nonbinary fat black lil’ baby from Massachusetts. 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.”

In Shucked, about a small town whose corn crop fails, Newell plays Lulu, a whiskey distiller who encourages the townspeople to seek outside help but then becomes wary of the city slicker who offers it.

They thanked the Shucked cast, crew, and creators, plus their mother, “for loving me unconditionally” and “teaching me what strength is.”

Some Like It Hot is an adaptation of the beloved 1959 film about two male musicians who hide from gangsters by joining an all-woman band. For Ghee’s character, Jerry, who adopts the name Daphne, presenting as a woman is initially a disguise, but the character eventually comes to embrace femininity.

“For every trans, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming human, whoever was told you couldn’t be, you couldn’t be seen, this is for you,” Ghee said in their acceptance speech. The thanked the show’s team “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.”

Newell’s and Ghee’s nominations alone made history for nonbinary performers. They chose to be nominated in the male category, but some other nonbinary actors have withdrawn from competition because of the gendered categories. & Juliet‘s Justin David Sullivan did so this season, and Asia Kate Dillon made the same decision after appearing in Macbeth last season.

From left: Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee

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