Arts & Entertainment
Alex Newell Of 'Glee' Talks Bill O'Reilly's 'Ignorant' Criticism, Being A Diva
By Emell Derra Adolphus
Originally printed 6/4/2014 (Issue 2222 - Between The Lines News)
Actor, singer, dancer - Alex Newell comes with a lot of labels. He's been called our next "Dreamgirl." A hero for the black transgender community. "Unique." And according to Bill O'Reilly, an advocate of gender confusion.
But Newell says, simply, he's "just Alex" - a boy from a modest gospel upbringing in Lynn, Mass., who likes to go out and get "turnt up" in stilettos.
"I feel like labels aren't as important as people like to think they are. Labels don't define a person," he says. "Who they are on the inside defines them - not who they are in the outside."
Labels aside, Newell - our celebrity guest at this year's annual Motor City Pride festival - is focused on living out loud through his music.
"The performance is going to be fun and exciting. Some Beyonce may show up. Some Ariana Grande. Iggy Azalea. But at the end of the day it's going to be fabulous and amazing," says Newell of his many inspirations.
As Newell explains, we can all benefit from occasionally channeling our inner diva. He certainly has.
Living in Hollywood, Newell fits right in with the glitz and glam. He wears heels, wigs, sparkles and a "I do what I want" attitude.
"I'm a diva. I know that I am. I've always been a diva," Newell says. "It's perfectly fine. I laugh at myself before anyone else can laugh at me, and I get angry with myself before someone else can get angry with me. But then I also love myself before anyone else can love me."
He explains, "So no matter what people say, whether it be hateful, spiteful or loving, it doesn't affect me that much, or at all."
Though he didn't win Oxygen's "The Glee Project," a competition/audition for a role on Fox's "Glee," he certainly owned it, which explains why he became a standout star. "I was kind of the Jennifer Hudson of 'The Glee Project,'" Newell told Out.com.
Appearing during the third season of "Glee" as Wade "Unique" Adams, he was an instant fan favorite as a black gay male with a fierce alter ego, making him one of just a few transgender role models on TV. Although Newell is not transgender, he relates to Wade's uniqueness.
"I relate to my character in that we both give the same message and are true to ourselves," Newell says, explaining how he refuses to be boxed in.
"I don't see myself as a black gay male. I see myself as Alex Newell," he says. "(I) don't label or categorize anyone. I feel like we are all people and that's what matters."
Recently signed to Atlantic Records, he's been busy working on an album since the earlier part of the year, which he says will be like pop and R&B "smashed together."
"A lot of throwbacking," he says. "Kind of like 'Good Vibrations' from the '90s."
But these days, it's not just about the album. It's about the album title too. Perhaps something along the lines of "Me. I Am Alex..."? Or "Unique"?
"It will never be 'Unique,'" Newell says, laughing. "I don't think I own the rights to that name. I don't want to conform to just being my character all the time. I want to branch out, separate myself from the show and make my own name for myself, and just kind of breathe and grow up. It's time for the wings to come off."
While he does so, he won't let anyone rain on his parade. Speaking on Bill O'Reilly's claims that his "Glee" character contributes to gender confusion, Newell says, "For him to sit there and say things that are ignorant is just crazy - kids have been playing dress up since the beginning of time."
Adding that he avoids all media talk about him and his "Glee" character, he says, "You can sit there and live your life in front of a computer screen, letting other people judge your work, but I'm here to educate people and tell them what actual trans teenagers go through in high school. Like RuPaul, I try to send a message of loving yourself. You have to love yourself before you love anyone else."
6 p.m. June 8
Pride Stage, Hart Plaza
1 Hart Plaza, Detroit