Alex Newell

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Alex Newell
Alex Newell Publicity Photo.jpg
Newell in 2015
Alex Eugene Newell

(1992-08-20) August 20, 1992 (age 29)
  • Actor
  • singer
Years active2010–present
Musical career
LabelsBig Beat Records

Alex Eugene Newell (born August 20, 1992) is an American actor and singer. They are known for their role as Unique Adams on the Fox musical series Glee and Mo on Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. Newell also starred as Asaka in the Broadway revival of Once on This Island at the Circle in the Square Theater in 2018.[1] As a singer, Newell has released tracks with Clean Bandit, Blonde, and The Knocks.[2]

Early life[edit]

Newell was born on August 20, 1992, in Lynn, Massachusetts.[3][4] Their father, a deacon, died of cancer when they were six years old, at which point their mother raised them as a single parent.[5]

After four complete years of education in the first class of Kipp Lynn Academy, Newell moved on to and graduated from Bishop Fenwick High School in 2012,[6] where they were involved in their school's choir, improv club, and costume club; they were also a member of their church choir.[3] They never had any formal voice lessons before landing their part on Glee.[7] They have cited Donna Summer, Sylvester, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and Beyoncé as their 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 them 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, they asserted themself as an out gay man.[9] Eventually, they became the series’ first runner-up.[10] Nevertheless, the producers were so impressed that they decided to bring them on Glee for two episodes.[11] Newell first appeared on Glee in the third season episode "Saturday Night Glee-ver". They were cast in the role of Wade "Unique" Adams, a transgender teenager who was assigned male at birth. The shy, outcast Wade expressed their 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] They later appeared in two more episodes and completed their story arc that season.

Newell was accepted into the Berklee College of Music for fall 2012, but decided instead to move to Los Angeles to be on Glee when they were 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, Newell was not a part of the regular cast, but 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. They 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 they had been signed by Big Beat Records and that they were going to release Newell's debut album. It was also revealed that it was going to be produced by Adam Anders.[21] Their 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, they provided feature vocals for the re-issued version of "Stronger", a song by Clean Bandit.[23] Later in the same month, they produced a disco-house stylization of Robin S.'s single "Show Me Love" together with Russian DJ Matvey Emerson.[24] Over the summer, they worked with the British electro duo Blonde by featuring vocals in their single "All Cried Out". They then began to collaborate with the US electroduo The Knocks on the song "Collect My Love", "a soaring disco standout" where they 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".

Their 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 their 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 supported fellow Glee alum Adam Lambert on tour from February 23[27] until the April 2 finale at Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theatre in 2016.[10] After the tour, Newell recorded 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 was expected to be one of a few tracks that Newell was making as part of the HBO TV series Vinyl. It was later revealed that the song had been recorded the previous year when Newell was working with Clean Bandit, Blonde and The Knocks, and inspired the producers to work with them on their debut extended play. Later that same month, the song was released again, featuring vocals from Jess Glynne.

2016–present: Debut album, Once on This Island, and Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist[edit]

After the success and the release of Newell's debut extended play Power and their tour with Adam Lambert, Newell headed back in the studio. On June 3, 2016, they released their first single outside of their 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 their 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 their Broadway debut playing the role of Asaka in the revival of Once on This Island.[28] In preparation, they began training with NYC voice teacher Mike Ruckles. In terms of music, Newell has also marked their return as a featured artist on the song "Other Side of Love" by house musician Kokiri.

They currently appear on NBC's musical dramedy Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist in the role of Mo, a genderfluid DJ and the protagonist's next-door neighbor.[29]

Other work and awards[edit]

Newell played the title role in NBC's comedy pilot Imaginary Friend,[30] which was expected to air in 2016.[31] It was passed on and no other network wanted to make it into a series.[32] They contributed with music to the HBO TV series Vinyl on a track also featuring DJ Cassidy and Jess Glynne.[33]

They are 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]

Personal life[edit]

Newell identifies as gender nonconforming,[34] and in May 2020 said they relate to their character Mo in Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, who is genderfluid.[35] They have stated they go by all pronouns.[36][37] Newell also identifies as a gay man.[38]



List of albums, with selected information
Title Album details Peak chart positions


Power 4 11


As lead artist[edit]

Title Year Peak chart positions Album


"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 41 TBA
"Mama Told Me"

Featured appearances[edit]

Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album




(Clean Bandit featuring Alex Newell and Sean Bass)[43]
2015 [A] 37 56 80 3 4 1 New Eyes (Special Edition)
"All Cried Out"
(Blonde featuring Alex Newell)
59 82 74 4 4 1 non-album single
"Collect My Love"
(The Knocks featuring Alex Newell)
(with various artists)
2016 non-album singles
"Rescue Me"
(DJ D-Sol featuring Alex Newell)
2019 31 4
(Vincint and Princess Precious featuring Alex Newell)
2021 TBA

Soundtrack appearances[edit]

  • Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 2 (2011)
  • Glee: The Music, The Complete Season 3 (2012)
  • Britney 2.0 (2012)
  • Glee: The Music Presents Glease (2012)
  • Glee: The Music, The Complete Season 4 (2013)
  • Glee Sings the Beatles (2013)
  • A Katy or a Gaga (Music from the Episode) (2013)
  • Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 4 (2013)
  • Glee: The Music, City of Angels (2013)
  • Glee: The Music, Transitioning (2014)
  • Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical (World Premiere Cast Recording) (2016)
  • Once On This Island (New Broadway Cast Recording) (2018)
  • Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist: Season 1, Episode 4 (Music From the Original TV Series) (2020)
  • Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist: Season 1, Episode 7 (Music From the Original TV Series) (2020)
  • Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist: Season 1, Episode 11 (Music From the Original TV Series) (2020)
  • Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist: Season 1, Episode 12 (Music From the Original TV Series) (2020)


Films and television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2011 The Glee Project Contestant (Themselves) 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"
2020–2021 Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Mo Main role
2020 RuPaul's Secret Celebrity Drag Race Themselves (Winner) Episode: "RuPaul Roast"
2021 Come and Learn with Pibby! Melira (voice) Main role


Year Title Role Notes
2017–2018 Once on This Island Asaka Broadway Debut
2020 Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Narrator Manhattan Concert Productions

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
Grammy Awards Best Musical Theater Album Once on This Island Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Nominated


  1. ^ "Stronger" did not enter the Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 79 on the Flemish Ultratip chart.


  1. ^ "Once On This Island – Cast And Creative". Once On This Island. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  2. ^ "Tomorrow's Hits: Alex Newell, The Strumbellas & AudioDamn!". Billboard. January 29, 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  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 [@thealexnewell] (August 20, 2012). "It's my Birthday!!!!!!" (Tweet). Retrieved June 3, 2021 – via Twitter.
  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. 31 October 2013. 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' –". 12 March 2015. 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. 13 November 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ Elizabeth Wagmeister (January 16, 2016). "'Glee' Alum to Star in NBC Comedy Pilot 'Imaginary Friend' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ Iannucci, Rebecca (23 May 2016). "Upfronts 2016: Your Guide to Fall Pilots That Didn't Make the Cut". Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  33. ^ 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.
  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. ^ Gordon, David (2020-02-28). "Alex Newell Lives His Truth in NBC's Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist". TheaterMania. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  36. ^ @thealexnewell (January 13, 2021). "Hey! All pronouns are accepted and preferred here! 💋" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  37. ^ Licuria, Rob (2020-06-09). "Alex Newell ('Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist'): It's 'refreshing' to have gender fluid characters be 'represented' and 'seen' on TV [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]". GoldDerby. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  38. ^ "For Pop Star and Actor Alex Newell, Gender is Anything but Obvious".
  39. ^ "Alex Newell: Chart History - Dance/Electronic Albums". Billboard. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  40. ^ "Alex Newell: Chart History - Heatseekers Albums". Billboard. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  41. ^ a b "Alex Newell: Chart History - Hot Dance/Electronic Songs". Billboard. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  42. ^ a b "Alex Newell: Chart History - Dance Club Songs". Billboard. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  43. ^ "Stronger by Clean Bandit". iTunes. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  44. ^ a b "Certified Awards". BPI.
  45. ^ "61st Annual GRAMMY Awards". 2018-12-06. Retrieved 2019-02-10.
  46. ^ Nordyke, Kimberly (January 18, 2021). "Critics Choice TV Awards: 'The Crown,' 'Ozark' Lead Noms With 6 Apiece". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 18, 2021.

External links[edit]