Alex Newell

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Alex Newell
Alex Newell Publicity Photo.jpg
Background information
Birth nameAlex Eugene Newell
Born (1992-08-20) August 20, 1992 (age 27)
Lynn, Massachusetts, United States
  • Actor
  • singer
Years active2010–present
LabelsBig Beat Records
Associated acts

Alex Eugene Newell (born August 20, 1992) is an American actor and singer. He is best known for playing the character Unique Adams on the Fox musical series Glee.

As a singer, Newell released tracks with Clean Bandit, Blonde and The Knocks. "This Ain't Over" is the first track on his 2016 debut EP, entitled POWER.[1] He starred as Asaka in the Broadway revival of Once on This Island at the Circle in the Square Theater in 2018.[2]

Early life[edit]

Newell was born on August 20, 1992, in Lynn, Massachusetts.[3][4] His father, a deacon, died of cancer when he was six years old, at which point his mother raised him as a single parent.[5]

After four complete years of education in the first class of KIPP Lynn Academy, he moved on to and graduated from Bishop Fenwick High School in 2012,[6] where he was involved in his school's choir, improv club, and costume club; he was also a member of his church choir.[3] He never had any formal voice lessons before landing the part on Glee.[7] He has cited Donna Summer, Sylvester, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and Beyoncé as his influences.[8]


2010–14: Glee[edit]

Newell was among 34,000 to submit an audition video in 2011 for the first season of Oxygen's The Glee Project.[7] Newell's self-taped audition earned him over one million MySpace views as well as a spot among the 12 participants who competed for a seven-episode arc on Glee. During the arc, he asserted himself as an out gay man.[9] Eventually, he became the series’ first runner-up.[10] Nevertheless, the producers were so impressed that they decided to bring him on Glee for two episodes.[11] Newell first appeared on Glee in the third season episode "Saturday Night Glee-ver". He was cast in the role of Wade "Unique" Adams, a male-to-female transgender teenager. The shy, outcast Wade expressed her female identity through music as the bold, brave alter ego, Unique. Wade broke ground by being one of the most visible transgender characters on television and one of the first on a network prime time show.[12] Newell's performance was described as "bold",[13] with "remarkable restraint and powerful vocals."[14]

On his nightly show, Bill O'Reilly expressed concern that children watching the show unsupervised might be encouraged to experiment with what he termed "alternative lifestyles," which he said the show glorified.[15] Newell commented, "My mother said, 'If Bill O'Reilly said something about you, you are doing something right.' He just showed the public and conservative viewers me. There are more people seeing me now... There are people like Wade and Unique, and [they're] being themselves. If kids want to go and do that, that is them expressing who they are."[6] He later appeared in two more episodes and completed his story arc that season.

Newell was accepted into the Berklee College of Music for fall 2012, but he decided instead to move to Los Angeles to be on Glee when he was asked to rejoin the cast for the show's fourth season.[6] Unique returned as a Glee recurring cast member in the fourth season premiere, "The New Rachel". Newell, along with the rest of the cast, received a nomination for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in 2012, but lost to Modern Family. For the fifth season, Newell was promoted to main cast because of the character's popularity.[16][17] In the sixth and final season, he was not a part of the regular cast, but he did appear as a recurring guest star. A highlight of the sixth season was Newell singing "I Know Where I've Been" from Hairspray with the Transpersons Choir of 200 performers.[8]

2014–16: Music career and POWER EP[edit]

Over the years, Newell sang at numerous events, such as the Coachella Festival, but also at many LGBT events and pride festivals. He also performed at the Governors Ball Music Festival and BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend.[18][12][19][20]

Newell announced in October 2013 that he had been signed by Big Beat Records and that he was going to release Newell's debut album. It was also revealed that it was going to be produced by Adam Anders.[21] His debut single, a cover of Sigma's "Nobody to Love", was released on June 3, 2014.[22]

In 2015, Newell embarked on a series of cover songs and collaborations. In March, he provided feature vocals for the re-issued version of "Stronger", a song by Clean Bandit.[23] Later in the same month, he produced a disco-house stylization of Robin S.'s single "Show Me Love" together with Russian DJ Matvey Emerson.[24] Over the summer, he worked with the British electro duo Blonde by featuring vocals in their single "All Cried Out". He then began to collaborate with the US electroduo The Knocks on the song "Collect My Love", "a soaring disco standout" where he reached "staggering heights."[25] The song, from the EP So Classic, will be included in The Knocks' debut album 55, scheduled to be released in March 2016. Finally, for Christmas, Newell released a cover of the song "O Come All Ye Faithful".

His original song "This Ain't Over", released in January 2016, was warmly welcomed by the media. Out commented: "The vibrant dance-pop track flawlessly revives disco if only for a few short minutes. Without the gimmicks of manufactured radio pop, Newell manages to serve This Ain’t Over with pure talent." Spin said: "Newell's unassailable voice is in full force on 'This Ain't Over,' shining out like a triumphant beacon over a thumping, glamorous dance-pop soundscape."[25] Vulture concluded: "This is just diva vocal acrobatics flexed with the swag of a queen."[26]

"This Ain't Over" was announced as the first track off his debut extended play called POWER, featuring production from the pop artists Diane Warren, Nile Rodgers, MNEK and DJ Cassidy.[10] The EP will be released on February 19 via Big Beat.[25]

Newell has been supporting fellow Glee alum Adam Lambert on tour from February 23[27] until the April 2 finale at Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theatre.[10] After the tour, he released a new single in collaboration with POWER producers DJ Cassidy and Nile Rodgers, entitled "Kill the Lights", released on April 8, 2016, through Atlantic Records. It is expected to be one of a few tracks that Newell is making as part of the HBO TV series Vinyl. It was later revealed that the song was recorded a year ago when Newell was working with Clean Bandit, Blonde and The Knocks and inspired the producers to work with him on his debut extended play. Later that same month, the song was released again, featuring vocals from Jess Glynne.

2016–present: Newell's debut album and Once on This Island[edit]

After the success and the release of his debut extended play POWER and his tour with Adam Lambert, Newell headed back in the studio. On June 3, 2016, he released his first single outside of his recent project, entitled "Need Somebody". It was exclusively released onto iTunes and Apple Music on June 3 and released onto other platforms several days later. Also, the earnings from its first week of sales were to be donated to The Trevor Project. It was later confirmed the song is the lead single from Newell's debut album, to be released later in 2016.

In July 2016, Newell has provided backing vocals in his biggest collaboration yet in charitable single "Hands". The song itself was written by Justin Tranter, Julia Michaels and BloodPop and produced by Tranter himself and BloodPop, as well as Mark Ronson. It features the likes of Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Meghan Trainor, Troye Sivan, Selena Gomez, Kacey Musgraves, Mary J. Blige, Jason Derulo, Imagine Dragons, Jennifer Lopez, Adam Lambert, Tyler Glenn, P!NK, MNEK, RuPaul, Mary Lambert and Nate Ruess.

In 2017, Newell made his Broadway debut playing the role of Asaka in the revival of Once on This Island.[28] In preparation, he began training with NYC voice teacher Mike Ruckles. In terms of music, he has also marked his return as a featured artist on the song "Other Side of Love" by house musician Kokiri.

Other work and awards[edit]

Newell played the title role in NBC's comedy pilot Imaginary Friend,[29] which was expected to air in 2016.[30] It was passed on and no other network wanted to make it into a series.[31] He contributed with music to the HBO TV series Vinyl on a track also featuring DJ Cassidy and Jess Glynne.[32]

He is committed to helping other LGBT youth and regularly performs at benefit concerts, most notably for The Trevor Project,[5] the Human Rights Campaign,[17] Jack Antonoff's Ally Coalition and other fundraisers.[13]

Newell was given a special recognition award at the 2015 GLAAD Media Awards.[citation needed]

Newell is currently appearing as Mo, next door neighbor of the protagonist Zoey on NBC's musical dramedy Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist.[33]

Personal life[edit]

Alex Newell identifies himself as a cis gender nonconforming gay man.[34]



List of albums, with selected information
Title Album details Peak chart positions
US Dance/
US Heat
Power 4 11


As lead artist[edit]

Title Year Peak chart positions Album
US Dance/
US Dance Club
"Nobody to Love" 2014 Power
"Show Me Love"
(with Matvey Emerson)
2015 non-album single
"O Come, All Ye Faithful" Tyler Oakley's Holiday Jams
"This Ain't Over" 2016 Power
"Basically Over You (B.O.Y.)"
"Kill the Lights"
(with DJ Cassidy and Jess Glynne featuring Nile Rogers)
15 1 Vinyl: The Essentials (Best of Season 1)
"Need Somebody" Non-album single
"Keep it Moving"
"O Come All Ye Faithful" (Volac Remix)
"As I Am"
(with Bryan Adams featuring Matt Kelly)
"Boy, You Can Keep It" 2020 TBA

Featured appearances[edit]

Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album


(Clean Bandit featuring Alex Newell and Sean Bass)[35]
2015 4 1 [A] 37 80 56 3 New Eyes
"All Cried Out"
(Blonde featuring Alex Newell)
4 1 59 82 74 N/A
"Collect My Love"
(The Knocks featuring Alex Newell)
(with various artists)
2016 [B] non-album singles
"Rescue Me"
(DJ D-Sol featuring Alex Newell)

Soundtrack appearances[edit]



Films and television
Year Title Role Notes
2011 The Glee Project Contestant (Himself) Runner-up (with Lindsay Pearce)
2012–15 Glee Wade "Unique" Adams Series regular (season 5)
Recurring role (season 3–4, 6); 39 episodes
2013 Geography Club Ike Feature film
2015 Imaginary Friend Sam NBC television movie
2015 Resident Advisors Morgan Recurring role; 2 episodes
2019 Empire Hey Beautiful Episode: "Hot Blood, Hot Thoughts, Hot Deeds"
2020 Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Mo Main role


Year Title Role Notes
2017–2018 Once on This Island Asaka Broadway Debut

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2019 Grammy Award Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album Once on This Island Nominated


  1. ^ "Stronger" did not enter the Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 79 on the Flemish Ultratip chart.
  2. ^ "Hands" did not enter the Mainstream Top 40, but peaked at number 30 on the Pop Digital Songs.


  1. ^ "Tomorrow's Hits: Alex Newell, The Strumbellas & AudioDamn!". Billboard. January 29, 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  2. ^ "Once On This Island – Cast And Creative". Once On This Island. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  3. ^ a b Jensen, Michael (May 6, 2011). "Will Alex Newell be The Glee Project's Kurt Hummel?". Logo. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  4. ^ Newell, Alex (August 20, 2012). "ANew92: It's my Birthday!!!!!!". Twitter. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Doug Rule (April 23, 2015). "Uniquely Alex: Alex Newell on coming out, Trevor Project and life after Glee". Metro Weekly. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Woodman, Tenley (September 13, 2012). "Newell Gets Unique Chance on Glee". Boston Herald. Patrick J. Purcell. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Maureen Mullen (December 26, 2013). "Lynn's Alex Newell relishes 'Unique' role on 'Glee'". Boston Globe. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Rae Votta (February 12, 2015). "Alex Newell Talks New Music & Future Husband Material". Out. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  9. ^ Jensen, Michael (May 6, 2011). "Will Alex Newell be "The Glee Project"'s Kurt Hummel?". The Backlot. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c Steve Lee (January 16, 2016). "Alex Newell has got the 'Power'". LGBT Weekly. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  11. ^ Michelle McCarthy (March 10, 2014). "Alex Newell of 'Glee' Plays with Androgyny as TV's First Transgender Teen". Frontiers Media. Archived from the original on December 20, 2015. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  12. ^ a b Patrick Rosenquist (October 22, 2015). "The Palm Springs Center Stage Gala Welcomes Alex Newell and Kate Clinton to the Desert". Frontiers Media. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Jason Mannino (10 April 2013). "Andrew Rannells, Kimberley Locke, Alex Newell, Tyne Daly Raise $285k for APLA in the 29th Star Studded S.T.A.G.E Gala". Huffpost Los Angeles. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  14. ^ Jason Scott (May 20, 2014). "'Glee' Star Alex Newell Reigns Supreme With Electric 'Nobody To Love' Cover". Pop Dust. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  15. ^ Fung, Katherine (April 20, 2012). "Bill O'Reilly: 'Glee' Might Encourage Kids To Experiment With 'Alternative Lifestyles'". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  16. ^ Michael Ausiello (June 28, 2013). "UPDATED Glee Exclusive: 4 Original Cast Members Not Returning as Series Regulars for Season 5; Plus — Who's Getting Promoted?". TV Line. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  17. ^ a b "From 'Glee' to BTD: Alex Newell plans to steal the show". Dallas Voice. November 14, 2014. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  18. ^ Robbyn Mitchell (June 25, 2013). "Alex Newell of 'Glee' talks Coachella, shoes before performing at St. Pete Pride". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  19. ^ Michael Gioia (July 15, 2015). ""Glee" Star Alex Newell, Ben Fankhauser, Zak Resnick and Adam Kaplan Rock Out With Joey Contreras Music Tonight!". Playbill. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  20. ^ Seth Kelley (March 22, 2015). "Kerry Washington, 'Glee' Star Alex Newell Bring Down the House at the GLAAD Awards". Variety. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  21. ^ "'Glee' star Alex Newell signs album deal with Atlantic Records". Digital Spy. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  22. ^ "'Glee' Star Alex Newell Covers 'Nobody to Love' [LISTEN]". PopCrush. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  23. ^ "MusicNews – Watch: Clean Bandit's new video, 'Stronger' –". Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  24. ^ "This 'Glee' Star Is Kind Of Slaying The House Revival Game Right Now". MTV News. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  25. ^ a b c James Grebey (January 14, 2016). "Alex Newell's Pop Career Is Just Beginning on Euphoric Lead Single, 'This Ain't Over'". Spin. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  26. ^ "9 Best New Songs of the Week". Vulture. January 19, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  27. ^ Glenn Garner (January 19, 2016). "Alex Newell Will Join Adam Lambert on Tour". Out. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  28. ^ "Get a First Look at Once on This Island on Broadway | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  29. ^ Elizabeth Wagmeister (January 16, 2016). "'Glee' Alum to Star in NBC Comedy Pilot 'Imaginary Friend' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  30. ^ Kevin Jagernauth (January 18, 2016). "Soundtrack For Martin Scorsese's HBO Series 'Vinyl' Includes Otis Redding, The Meters, Edgar Winter, Foghat, More". Indie Wire. Archived from the original on January 20, 2016. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  31. ^ Iannucci, Rebecca (23 May 2016). "Upfronts 2016: Your Guide to Fall Pilots That Didn't Make the Cut". Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  32. ^ Tambay A. Obenson (December 15, 2015). "'Glee' Alum, Alex Newell, Books Starring Role in NBC Comedy Pilot 'Imaginary Friend'". Indie Wire. Archived from the original on March 2, 2016. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  33. ^ Franklin, Marc C. (January 7, 2020). "Catch Alex Newell, Skylar Astin, and More in Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, Premiering January 7". Playbill. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  34. ^ Pham, Jason (2017-06-30). "Alex Newell Won't Fit into Your Mold, But He Might Squeeze into Your Shoes". StyleCaster. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  35. ^ "Stronger by Clean Bandit". iTunes. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  36. ^ a b "Certified Awards". BPI.
  37. ^ "61st Annual GRAMMY Awards". 2018-12-06. Retrieved 2019-02-10.

External links[edit]