This actor just made history as the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award

Posted by
Hannah-Rose Yee
Ali Stroker

Ali Stroker is the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on Broadway. Now, she’s also the first actor in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award. 

When Ali Stroker was two a car accident left her paralysed from the chest down.

Since then the actor has used a wheelchair, but she has never let her disability get in the way of her dreams. All through her childhood she acted in school plays before studying at the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. In 2015, she became the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on Broadway in Spring Awakening. Then, in 2018 she was cast as Oklahoma!’s resident saucy cowgirl Ado Annie Carnes.

Now, Stroker has made history once more by winning a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her sexy, unforgettable performance in Oklahoma!. Accepting her award, Stroker became the first actor in a wheelchair in Broadway history to win a Tony. 

You may also like

Understanding the powerful statement hidden inside Billy Porter’s Tony Awards dress

“This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, a limitation, a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena,” Stroker said in her powerful acceptance speech. “You are.” 

Ali Stroker at the Tony Awards
Ali Stroker celebrates her historic Tony Awards win. 

In a moment of unbelievable oversight, the Tony Awards had not build a ramp from the audience to the stage, but when Stroker’s award was announced she was still backstage after her performance of ‘I Cain’t Say No’ from Okhlahoma!.

The error is a reminder that despite the gains made when it comes to representation thanks to the work of actors like Stroker, there is still a long way to go. When it comes to accessibility, producers and theatres themselves also need to put in the work. 

The venues that stage productions need to be made accessible for performers of all abilities, Stroker affirmed backstage at the Tony Awards. “I would ask theatre owners and producers to really look into how they can begin to make the backstage accessible so that performers with disabilities can get around,” Stroker said after her win. 

Stroker’s award wasn’t the only gong picked up by the Oklahoma! revival at the Tony Awards. The musical is a very sexy, very intimate reimagining of the beloved Rodgers & Hammerstein original, with Stroker’s ‘I Cain’t Say No’ as one of its most scintillating and promiscuous moments.

Ali Stroker perfoming as Ado Annie Carnes in Oklahoma!
Ali Stroker perfoming as Ado Annie Carnes in Oklahoma!

Unlike previous incarnations of the character, Stroker’s Annie is empowered and confident and fully in tune with her own sexuality. For Stroker, playing a disabled character who was also sex positive was paramount. 

Want weekly culture tips and restaurant reviews? Sign up for the Stylist Loves Going Out email

“I feel like I have arrived in my sexual power, meaning that I feel the most confident I’ve ever felt in my life,” the actor told Vulture. “Especially growing up and as a teenager, I was always looking for role models who were in chairs. I always felt like a sexual person – I just didn’t know how to always portray that, and I never really was sure, as a kid, if being in a wheelchair could be sexy. So, to arrive at this point is so exciting – more than exciting, it’s like a relief in many ways.”

We can’t wait to see what Stroker does next. 

Images: Getty


Share this article


Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

Recommended by Hannah-Rose Yee

  • Visible Women

    Meet the woman fighting for more disability representation in the UK

    Stylist’s Woman of the Week is Shani Dhanda, an activist for disabled people and founder of the Asian Woman Festival.

    Posted by
    Hannah-Rose Yee
  • Life

    This viral Twitter thread exposes the reality of a night out in a wheelchair

    “Hold onto your hats,” says Lucy Webster, because “it’s a bumpy ride.”

    Posted by
    Kayleigh Dray
  • People

    There’s a new Barbie and she has a wheelchair

    Another doll in the new diverse collection has a removable prosthetic leg

    Posted by
    Emily Baker
  • Beauty

    This new disability-friendly brand is making beauty accessible for everyone

    Accessibility is the next step in the representation movement

    Posted by
    Ava Welsing-Kitcher
  • Life

    Why we need to talk more openly about disability every day

    “We shouldn't wait for the Paralympics” BY EMILY YATES

    Posted by
    Stylist Team

Other people read

More from People

More from Hannah-Rose Yee