Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.
There's a new Jenner on television this fall and we're not talking about a member of the Kardashian family.
Blake Jenner came out on top as the winner on Oxygen's Glee Project, a competition show where young hopefuls sing, dance, and act for a chance to be on Fox's hit musical Glee.
If you missed the emotional finale, where Jenner performed Edwin McCain's "I'll Be," it was his heartfelt "I'm the Guy" poem sent to the judges that ultimately won him the role.
The 19-year-old Florida-native makes his debut as Ryder Lynn in an upcoming episode of Glee when the New Directions are casting for their production of Grease. (Jenner makes his official debut on Season 4, Episode 5: "The Role You Were Born to Play" on November 8, 2012.)
After winning The Glee Project competition, Jenner spoke to ChicagoPride.com about his rise to the top and his new role on Glee.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hey, Blake. What made you audition for The Glee Project in the first place?
BJ: (Blake Jenner) I was auditioning a lot here in Los Angeles but nothing was happening. It just wasn't my time and I was just eating Ramen noodles and fighting to survive. When The Glee Project auditions came around, I thought it was so lucky, like a great thing because, I'd have to go in this audition and give it a short. What really made we want to audition was I had the biggest passion for acting. I love acting and it's been my one true love since I was a kid. The second that I watched Glee with my brother, right when it came out years ago, I loved it. I saw myself there. I just loved every character, so it was definitely my love for Glee and my passion for acting drove me to audition for The Glee Project for sure.
JN: From the start of The Glee Project did you feel like you were ready for Glee or did it evolve?
BJ: It definitely evolved. I think from the beginning we all felt like amateurs, I definitely did, and I learned a lot through singing as the competition went on. Once I hit the middle of the second half of competition, we all felt like we were getting to that point where we all felt ready for Glee.
JN: How big a risk was it reading the poem at the end?
BJ: I think it was a risk because it was either a hit or miss. That was the last chance I had to show Ryan who I was and that there were different levels of me, not just through the poem but just in general. That poem is just the start of the levels of me that he could see eventually. It was either hit or miss, I think. It was either the poem was going to work or the was going to flop so I definitely thought it was a risk going in but it was the last chance that I had and I was totally going to take it.
JN: What was your biggest breakthrough moment on the show?
BJ: I think my biggest breakthrough moment on the show I think was "Actability" for myself because that's my favorite episode of everything, "Actability" because we all did a great job as a unit, getting the right emotions displayed and all that stuff. I think that "Actability" is definitely a standout moment for me because I got to show my roots. Everybody else had studied music throughout their whole lives but I'd studied acting.
JN: What was going through your mind when Ryan Murphy announced you were the winner?
BJ: I couldn't even think. I couldn't breathe. My mind was racing. I honestly did not think I was going to win. I thought that I had fought until the end but I honestly thought that the two girls next to me - they had stories that you could see right when you look at them. Mine, you'd really have to get in depth but I honestly thought they were going to win.
I was getting ready to turn to them and hug them because I thought for sure they were going to win and when he said my name, I couldn't even think because it was just like a dream come true. This is something that I've been working towards since my first acting class when I was really, really young.
I just can't explain it. It was the best feeling that I've ever had. When I jumped I think I almost flew out of happiness because I got really, really high. It was just amazing and the best moment of my life, honestly.
JN: What do you think Ryan saw in you?
BJ: He had told me that he appreciated my leading man quality and leadership. So I think Ryan saw that in me. I think he saw that Finn is leaving and he doesn't need a Finn number two, but I think he thought that might need someone of that, like a branch of that maybe someone who has the same type of feel. He might've seen that I would be able to do my best to adapt to anything. I wouldn't be afraid to embody any character that they would give me. So, I think he saw that.
JN: What was the hardest challenge for you?
BJ: I would say slushies because it felt like you were getting slapped by a snowman in the face and it was crazy. I mean, it was so cold. When we were getting slushied I couldn't feel, like the left side of my body. The more I got slushied, the more I went numb and it hurt.
JN: Was there more of your personal story that we didn't see on the show?
BJ: I've gone through a lot of hard time. I was bullied a lot in junior high school and you wouldn't know that just from looking at me. I have shed a lot of tears in my life. I don't think you got to see my vulnerable side but I have had a lot of vulnerable moments in my life.
JN: What was on thing you took away from the whole experience?
BJ: Definitely never to get negative and always stay with the positive because every week I just had faith. No matter how bad things were getting or no matter how bad I was at certain points or if I was going through a hard time, I just had to stay focused and just stay positive.
Believe in your mind and trust yourself as you're doing each activity, like the homework assignment or the music video or even the last chance performance. Just trust yourself, trust your moves and just allow yourself to break through. Definitely, that's what I took from this experience.
JN: Good luck on the new season!
BJ: Thank you so much and thanks for the your questions, man.
Catch new episodes of Glee when it returns Thurs., Nov. 8 on Fox. Visit www.fox.com for listings and details.