Billy Porter enters everything work first. Work first.
Having just performed at the virtual Democratic Convention the night before our conversation (singing “For What It’s Worth,” with musician Stephen Stills on guitar), Emmy-winning Pose star Billy Porter told me that the pandemic required innovation and the convention resonated differently him. With no audience, no cheering he was left simply with “the words,” he says. It grounded him in a different way than in past performances.
In talking about the awards attached to Pose or Kinky Boots or anything he’s been a part of, Porter says “I love awards, I love winning them…and, they are different for a person like me being Black, queer and out,” detailing that his white counterparts who will be respected anyway, and get work anyway, but how it has given him a seat at the table.
We talk about the impact fashion has had on his life, growing up in church (“the Black church is a fashion show”) and how that upbringing informed his evolving sense of style that plays with masculinity and femininity as we’ve seen on gag-worthy display at the Oscars, the Emmys and the Met Gala. “The art of fashion is activism. My art is my activism,” he says.
Porter details the watershed television moment of the opening lovemaking scene from the beginning of season two with him and Dyllón Burnside and his Emmy submission episode “Love’s In Need of Love Today,” that allows his character, Pray Tell, to run the gamut of emotion and performance, including his duet of the episode’s title song with co-star Mj Rodriguez.
“It is necessary to constantly remind ourselves that we are not an abomination.”Marlon Riggs
Billy Porter is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Pose, which is currently available to stream on FX and on demand platforms.