It's summer, and gay pride festivals are at their peak. This is Newell's third summer appearing at pride events. Last weekend, the gay actor-singer performed at events in
Newell, whose St. Louis PrideFest headlining appearance is Saturday night, says his pride message is to "have fun and be yourself, and just forget about it."
"It's a fun time," he says. "I don't take myself too seriously at all."
On "Glee," Newell, 21, plays a colorful transgender teen named Unique. He says he has many young fans who relate to his character and reach out to him.
"You have to be confident in yourself before you can remotely tell someone else to do that," he says. "I love myself far too much. It comes off as pretentious to some people, but it's pure love and fun."
Newell has always been that confident, comfortable person. He says his father died when he was young, so he had to grow up quickly.
"I had to be established as a person and know who I am," he says. "I had to be a backbone for my mother. That was a giant factor in everything."
Confidence certainly helped Newell land the role of Unique. His path to success started in 2011 on "
Newell was a runner-up but landed on the show anyway, first as a recurring character, then a regular cast member.
"I love my character; I love her uniqueness," Newell says of Unique, who has been described as groundbreaking. But that's a description Newell shies away from.
"I try not to think too hard about that," he says. "If you say you're humble, you're not really humble. If you say you're down to earth, you're not really down to earth. If you say you're a groundbreaker, you're not a groundbreaker."
Newell describes working on "Glee" as a whirlwind -- not to mention being a "crash course in singing, dancing and recording." He recently released a single called "Nobody to Love," a cover of a song by British act Sigma.
The sixth and final season of "Glee" is on the horizon, with creator
"Every good thing must come to an end eventually," Newell says. "It's been around for six seasons, and that's a long time. Watching it, you can see it coming to an end. Where else can it go? What else can we explore? What doors can we open?"
He's unsure how he'd like to see Unique's story end.
"I don't know what I want to see happen, but you always want your character to end happy, just like your own life," he says.
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