14 Questions wth Billy Porter
Though you might not know it, Billy Porter was a star and fashion icon long before he won a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway hit “Kinky Boots” and graced the 2019 Academy Awards red carpet in a Christian Siriano ball gown. In anticipation of his high-profile summer and fall — which see him reprising his role as Pray Tell in Season 2 of FX’s hit “Pose” and starring in his first feature film — Porter answers our burning questions.
You keep on reinventing yourself. You’ve gone from stage performer to TV personality to fashion icon. What would you call this chapter of your life?
I’m experiencing the fruits of authenticity and what authenticity means. I’m black and gay and I’m out of the closet, and that wasn’t appealing for a long time. I chose myself and my sanity over my fame, and I’m having what people would consider a more traditional trajectory in this business. Authenticity wins.
You’re known for your incredible fashion sense. Where did that stem from, and how would you describe your current look?
I’ve always loved fashion. My mom, my grandmother and my great-aunt were all hugely fashionable. I’ve finally found a space where I’m comfortable being me. I call it the “Billy Porter look,” and it’s rooted and based in however I feel at that time. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to embrace it.
What was the origin of the outfit you wore to The Oscars?
It was my childhood joke and dream to wear a ball gown to the Oscars. When the opportunity came around, I was feeling very fashion-forward, and I knew that Christian Siriano would be one of the only couture fashion designers who would put a man in a ball gown.
Who inspires you in the fashion world?
The younger generation. They are free from the constructs and rules and are rejecting them. Those young designers are my heroes.
Season 2 of “Pose” just began airing. What can you tell us about it?
I can’t say anything! But … I will say it goes deeper and tells the real truth of these people who paved the way for the LGBTQ rights we live with today.
Speaking of “Pose,” what’s your relationship like with the show’s creator, Ryan Murphy?
He’s a mentor and a friend. He is the person that I look up to most at this point in my life. He represents everything that I’ve ever dreamed of being as an artist. He’s using his power for good. And he has taught me to dream the impossible, and that takes my breath away.
You also have a new movie coming out, “Limited Partners” with Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish.
Yes, we filmed it this past fall. It’s a summer comedy and it’s my first big studio movie. It was fun working with those ladies. In the movie, Tiffany and Rose are best friends and they have a makeup company, and I work for the company.
OK, a few rapid-fire questions … who is your ideal seatmate on a long plane ride?
Oprah Winfrey and my husband.
Describe the most memorable trip you’ve taken in the past year.
An Atlantis cruise to Bali.
What place do you always go back to?
Any beach. Fire Island is the closest to home.
What five iconic figures would be at your dream dinner party?
James Baldwin, Oprah Winfrey, Jesus, Bayard Rustin and Steve Jobs.
What song best describes your life?
“I Will Survive.”
What do you still want to accomplish in your career?
I want to write and direct more. I want to be that kind of artist, because we can effect change if we’re the change-setters.
What does no one know about Billy Porter?
That I am a situational extrovert.