Citing Donna Summer, Chaka Khan, and Beyoncé among his influences, Alex Newell is a singer and actor who broke through with the recurring role of Wade "Unique" Adams on TV's Glee. He was awarded the part after impressing the show's producers with his runner-up finish on The Glee Project, a singing competition that aired on cable network Oxygen. He played a transgender student on the musical comedy series, and Newell, who made it known on the Oxygen show that he's a gay male, is an active LGBT rights supporter and events participant.
Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, the performer was raised by his mother after losing his father to cancer at the age of six. He participated in music and the performing arts through programs at school and in church, including singing in choirs at both. He submitted an audition tape for The Glee Project in 2011 while he was still in high school, and would go on to debut on the third season of Glee on the episode "Saturday Night Glee-ver" in April 2012. The singer was accepted by the Berklee College of Music in Boston for admission that fall but instead decided to relocate to Los Angeles after being invited back for the fourth season of Glee. He soon appeared in films, including the comedy Geography Club and the short film Platypus the Musical, both released in 2013. Later that year, he signed with Big Beat Records and began work on his debut EP.
His first single, a disco-charged cover of Sigma's "Nobody to Love," appeared the following spring. Some one-off singles followed, including a cover of Robin S.'s "Show Me Love" with DJ Matvey Emerson and, for Christmas 2015, an R&B ballad version of "O Come All Ye Faithful." Meanwhile, Newell continued to appear on Glee through its sixth season, during which he performed "I Know Where I've Been" from the musical Hairspray with the 200-member Transpersons Choir. He also guested on the Hulu comedy series Resident Advisors in 2015. His four-on-the-floor-permeated dance-pop EP, POWER, arrived in early 2016. He headed out on the road in support of American Idol and Glee alumnus Adam Lambert to promote the release, which hit the Top Five of Billboard's Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart. ~ Marcy Donelson