J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell Make History as First Openly Nonbinary Tony Award Winners

The 76th annual celebration of Broadway plays and musicals took place at the United Palace NYC.

Pride flourished at the 76th Tony Awards Sunday evening (June 11) at the United Palace located in the Washington Heights neighborhood in Manhattan. The annual ceremony, honoring Broadway plays and musicals, was hosted by history-making Academy Award-winner and Tony-nominated actress Ariana DeBose.

The show, which narrowly aired last night amid the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, saw several displays of Black LGBTQIA+ moments when J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell became the first openly nonbinary actors to win ”Best Lead Actor in a Musical” and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical”.

Ghee, wearing a beautiful blue gown, accepted the prestigious award for their work in Some Like It Hot. “For every trans, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming human who ever was told you couldn’t be, you couldn’t be seen, this is for you,” the 33-year-old star said.

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Newell is best known for their role as Unique Adams on the critically acclaimed Fox musical series Glee and, most recently, their stunning musical number "Independently Owned," in the play, Shucked.

Last night they tearfully accepted their win, sharing, “I have wanted this my entire life, and I thank each and every one of you in this room right now.” The performer continued, "And Mommy, I love you. Thank you for believing in me, thank you for loving me unconditionally, thank you for teaching me what strength is.”

The vocalist, who goes by he/she/they pronouns, closed their speech with a powerful message, stating, ”I should not be up here; as a queer, nonbinary, fat, Black little baby from Massachusetts.” They added, “And to anyone that thinks that they can’t do it, I am going to look you dead in your face [and say] that you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Other winners included playwright and screenwriter Suzan Lori Parks whose 2002 play Topdog/Underdog won the 2023 Tony Award for “Best Revival of a Play.” Vocalist, composer, and Jazz at Pride founder Bryan Carter took home the award for “Best Orchestrations” alongside Charlie Rosen for their work on Some Like It Hot.

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