Billy Porter (born September 21, 1969) is an American actor, singer, and author. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, and achieved fame performing on Broadway before starting a solo career as a singer and actor.
Porter won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots. He credits the part for "cracking open" his feminine side to confront toxic masculinity. For the role, Porter also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical. In 2014 Porter won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for Kinky Boots. Porter starred in all three seasons of the television series Pose, for which he was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and won the 2019 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, becoming the first gay black man to be nominated and win in any lead acting category at the Primetime Emmys. In 2020, he was included on Time's list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Porter was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to William E. Porter and Cloerinda Jean Johnson Porter Ford. His sister is Mary Martha E. Ford. He grew up in a "very religious" Pentecostal family and has described being sexually abused by his stepfather between the ages of 7 and 12.
He attended Reizenstein Middle School and Allderdice High School, before graduating from the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School in 1987. He graduated from the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama and earned a certification from the graduate-level Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA.
Porter played Teen Angel in the 1994 Broadway revival of Grease. Other shows he has been in include Topdog/Underdog at City Theatre (2004), Jesus Christ Superstar and Dreamgirls at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (2004), and the song cycles Myths and Hymns and Songs for a New World (Off-Broadway, 1995).
Porter wrote and performed in his one-person autobiographical show, Ghetto Superstar (The Man That I Am) at Joe's Pub in New York City in February and March 2005. He was nominated for "Outstanding New York Theater: Broadway & Off Broadway Award" at the 17th GLAAD Media Awards.
Porter originated the role of "Lola" in Kinky Boots on Broadway in 2013, with songs by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein and directed/choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. Porter won both the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for this role.
Porter has also appeared in many films. He played a major role as Shiniqua, a drag queen who befriends Angel (David Norona) and Lee (Keivyn McNeill Graves) in Seth Michael Donsky's Twisted (1997), an adaptation of Oliver Twist. He has also appeared on The RuPaul Show.
He has had a musical career with three solo albums released, Billy Porter on DV8/A&M Records in 1997, At the Corner of Broadway + Soul in 2005 on Sh-K-Boom Records and Billy's Back on Broadway (Concord Music Group) in 2014. He featured in a number of songs in the tribute album; It's Only Life: The Songs of John Bucchino in 2006 released on PS Classics. He sings on Adam Guettel's 1999 album Myths and Hymns studio cast album on Nonesuch Records. He also covered "Only One Road" that was included on the Human Rights Campaign compilation album Love Rocks.
Porter wrote the play While I Yet Live, which premiered Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in September 2014 in previews, officially on October 12. In addition to Porter, the cast included Lillias White and S. Epatha Merkerson.
Porter released Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers in April 2017. The album, which features new, soulful takes on classic Richard Rodgers songs, includes solos and duets from the following artists (in addition to Porter himself): Tony and Grammy Award winners Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), Tony Award-winner Patina Miller (Pippin), Grammy Award winners Pentatonix, India Arie and Ledisi, Tony Award nominees Brandon Victor Dixon (Shuffle Along), Joshua Henry (Violet), and Christopher Jackson (Hamilton), alongside YouTube and Kinky Boots star Todrick Hall and multiple Grammy Award nominee Deborah Cox.
Porter reprised the role of Lola in Kinky Boots in September 2017 on Broadway, where he did a 15-week run.
In 2018, Porter starred in the FX show Pose in the role of Pray Tell. In 2019, Pose earned its renewal for a third season after airing just one episode from the second season. In August 2018, Porter confirmed via Instagram that he was joining the cast of American Horror Story for its eighth season, subtitled Apocalypse. Porter duetted with Pose co-star Dyllón Burnside and sang from his album in a benefit concert emceed by Burnside on July 23, 2018, to celebrate the season 1 finale and to raise money for GLSEN. In June 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, sparking the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Queerty named him one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance, and dignity for all queer people". Also in June 2019 he presented the Excellence in Theatre Education Award at the 73rd Tonys at Radio City Music Hall. However, he earned media coverage for his haute couture red and pink gown, upcycled from Kinky Boots' stage curtains, in a uterine shape, and his impromptu performance of "Everything's Coming up Roses" from Gypsy, for host James Corden's "Broadway karaoke". In September 2019, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Pose, becoming the first openly gay black man to be nominated and win in any lead acting category at the Primetime Emmys.
His memoir, Unprotected, was released in 2021.
Porter attributes his love of fashion from an early age to growing up in the black church which he describes as "a fashion show". His style has gone through many phases over the years, including vintage, Abercrombie and Fitch and geek chic. He has said that he intentionally set out to use fashion in a political way, to be a "walking piece of political art". Porter's stylist Sam Ratelle estimated that as of January 2020 they had worked on 150 red carpet looks together many designed by Porter himself. As of 2021[update], Porter's stylist is Ty Hunter who has previously worked with Beyoncé.
At the 2019 Golden Globes, Porter gained attention for wearing an embroidered suit and pink cape designed by Randi Rahm. He said the fact that people were surprised that he wore a cape inspired him to ask Christian Siriano if he could create him a ball gown because it was something he had always wanted to wear. He felt it seemed like a way to challenge people's ideas of masculinity. He continued to make fashion waves that year when he wore a fitted tuxedo jacket and a velvet gown by Christian Siriano with 6" Rick Owens boots to the 91st Academy Awards.
In February 2019, Porter was an Official Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Ambassador for New York Fashion Week: Mens. Porter attended the 2019 Met Gala and embraced the Camp: Notes on Fashion theme by being carried on a litter by six shirtless men while sporting a "Sun God" ensemble. The Blonds designed Porter's outfit, and it included a bejeweled catsuit outfitted with 10 ft (3.0 m) wings, a 24-karat gold headpiece, as well as custom gold-leaf Giuseppe Zanotti shoes and fine jewels by Andreoli, John Hardy, and Oscar Heyman.
In 2020, Porter wore a floor-length pink poncho style gown with a wide brimmed black hat, a look he characterized as "Handmaid's Tale realness", to the AFI Awards and to the Golden Globes he wore an all-white ensemble that included a tuxedo jacket with a feathered train. He wore a sparkling turquoise bodysuit with matching bolero and a motorised hat to the Grammy awards.
Porter has performed at various venues in New York City, including Lincoln Center, which was broadcast on PBS in 2015 and Joe's Pub in New York City. In 2019 Porter headlined at London Pride.
Porter performed "For What It's Worth" with Stephen Stills at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
Porter is openly gay, having come out at the age of 16, "in the middle of the AIDS crisis". He married his husband, Adam Smith, on January 14, 2017, after meeting him in 2009. He was very keen to get married "while Obama was still president and before January 20th, 2017" so the two got engaged on December 29, 2016, and married 2 weeks later.
Porter shared his views on race in the US in a 2020 interview with Vanity Fair, saying, "The reason why our country is in the mess we're in is simply because of whiteness. White supremacy. White people choke-holding power and sucking the life out of humanity".
In May 2021, Porter told The Hollywood Reporter that he had been diagnosed with HIV in June 2007; he was also diagnosed with type-2 diabetes in February 2007 and filed for bankruptcy in March 2007. In the same interview, he talked about renting a house on Long Island during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a pre-existing health condition and about having intermittently attended psychotherapy since the age of 25.
- 1997: Billy Porter (DV8/A&M Records)
- 2005: At the Corner of Broadway + Soul (Sh-K-Boom Records)
- 2014: Billy's Back on Broadway (Concord Music Group)
- 2017: Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers (Masterworks Broadway)
- 1997: "Show Me"/"What Iz Time"
- 2005: "Awaiting You"/"Time" (Live) (Sh-K-Boom Records)
- 2017: "Edelweiss"
- 2019: "Love Yourself"
- 2020: "For What It's Worth"
- 2020: The Shapeshifters feat. Billy Porter "Finally Ready" 
- 2021: "Children"
- "Only One Road" on Love Rocks compilation album
- "Love Is on the Way" on The First Wives Club album
- "Destiny" with Jordan Hill on Jim Brickman's Greatest Hits album
- "Where Is Love?" with Liz Callaway
- Featured on a number of songs on tribute album It's Only Life: The Songs of John Bucchino
- Adam Guettel's album Myths and Hymns in 1999
- He is featured with Alan Cumming, David Raleigh and Ari Gold in a cover of "That's What Friends Are For", of 'The Friends Project' in support of the Ali Forney Center, a NYC shelter for homeless LGBT youth. The song was arranged and produced by Nathan Leigh Jones and directed by Michael Akers.
|1996||The First Wives Club||Singer|
|1997||Anastasia||Ensemble and character voices||Voice role|
|2000||The Intern||Sebastian Niederfarb|||
|The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy||Taylor|||
|2020||Like a Boss||Barrett|
|TBA||Little Shop of Horrors||Audrey II||Voice role|
|1998||Another World||Billy Rush||Unknown episodes|
|1999||Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story||Little Richard||Television movie|
|2004||Law & Order||Greg Ellison||Episode: "Cry Wolf"|
|2007–12||So You Think You Can Dance||Performer||4 episodes|
|2012||The Big C||Eric||Episode: "Thin Ice"|
|2013||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Jackie Walker||Episode: "Dissonant Voices"|
|Land of Lola: Backstage at Kinky Boots||Host||8 episodes|
|2014||Christmas at Rockefeller Plaza||Performer||Television special|
|2015||Billy Porter: Broad & Soul||Performer||Television special|
|2016||The Get Down||DJ Malibu||Episode: "Where There Is Ruin, There Is Hope for a Treasure"|
|2018–21||Pose||Pray Tell||24 episodes|
Black Reel Award for Outstanding Actor, Drama Series (2019)
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2019)
Nominated—Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series (2019–2020)
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama (2019–2020)
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2020)
Nominated—Television Critics Association Award for Individual Achievement in Drama
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2021)
|2018||American Horror Story: Apocalypse||Behold Chablis||5 episodes|
|2019||Saturday Night Live||Himself||Episode: "David Harbour/Camila Cabello"|
|2019–present||Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve||Himself||New Orleans correspondent (2019–20, 2021–22), Times Square correspondent (2020–21)|
|2020||The Simpsons||Desmond||Voice role; Episode: "Highway to Well"|
|The Twilight Zone||Keith||Episode: "The Who of You"|
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television
|Saturday Night Seder||Himself||Television special|
|2021||That Damn Michael Che||Atomic Twan / Security Guard||2 episodes|
|Middlemost Post||Recycle King||Voice role; Episode: "BURT! The Musical"|
|Gossip Girl||Himself||Episode: "Hope Sinks"|
|Fairfax||Hiroki Hassan||Voice role|
|2022||The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder||Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins||Voice role|
- Miss Saigon, Ensemble/John (u/s), Broadway (1991)
- Grease, Teen Angel, Broadway (1994)
- The Merchant of Venice, Solanio, Off-Broadway (1995)
- Songs for a New World, performer, Off-Broadway (1995)
- Smokey Joe's Cafe, performer, Broadway (1995–97)
- Miss Saigon, John (replacement), Broadway (1998–99)
- Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus of Nazareth, Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center, Nyack, NY (1998)
- Dreamgirls, James Thunder Early, New York Actors Fund concert (September 2001)
- Radiant Baby, Various, Off-Broadway (2003)
- Topdog/Underdog, City Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA (2004)
- Little Shop of Horrors, Audrey ll (replacement), Broadway (2004)
- Chef's Theater: A Musical Feast, Performer, Off-Broadway (2004)
- Ghetto Superstar, Performer, Off-Broadway (2005) – also playwright
- Birdie Blue, Bam/Little Pimp/Sook/Minerva, Off-Broadway (2005)
- Putting It Together, performer, New York (2009)
- Angels in America, Belize, Off-Broadway (2010)
- Kinky Boots, Lola, Broadway (2013–2015)
- Kinky Boots, Lola (replacement), Tour (2014)
- HAM: A Musical Memoir, Off-Broadway (2015) – director
- Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, Aubrey Lyles, Broadway (2016)
- White Rabbit Red Rabbit, Off-Broadway (2016)
- Kinky Boots, Lola (replacement), Broadway (2017)
Awards and nominationsEdit
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- "Billy Porter's one-man show traces his life, onstage and off". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. April 10, 2005. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
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- "Announcing the Cast of Angels in America". Signature Theatre Company. June 22, 2010. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
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- Hetrick, Adam; Gans, Andrew (May 20, 2013). "Billy Porter, Andrea Martin, Pippin, Matilda, Vanya and Sonia Win Drama Desk Awards". Playbill.
- Thomas, Kevin (December 12, 1997). "A Twisted Tale of Souls Rising Above Corruption". Los Angeles Times.
- Jones, Kenneth (January 19, 2006). "John Bucchino's Revue It's Only Life Will Be Preserved on CD". Playbill.
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- Quinn, Dave (April 13, 2017). "Billy Porter and Pentatonix's 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning'". people.com. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
- "Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers". The Official Masterworks Broadway Site. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
- "Everybody Say Yeah! Original Kinky Boots Stars Billy Porter & Stark Sands Will Return to Hit Musical". Broadway.com. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
- King, Eric (August 2, 2018). "Tony Winner Billy Porter Will Appear in Season Eight of American Horror Story". Broadway.com. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- Shoemaker, Allison (August 3, 2018). "Pose's Billy Porter joins the cast of American Horror Story: Apocalypse". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- Feldman, Adam (July 17, 2018). "Dyllón Burnside: Up Close and Personal". Time Out New York. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
- Hetrick, Adam (July 14, 2018). "FX's Pose Stars, Dyllón Burnside, Mj Rodriguez, and Ryan Jamaal Swain, Will Perform NYC Concert". Playbill. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
- "To Be Real: The Cast Of Pose Gives Back — Already! — At NYC GLSEN Benefit". Boy Culture. July 24, 2018. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- Galassi, Josh (May 23, 2019). "Red Carpet and 'Pose' star Billy Porter is telling the queer stories we've been waiting for". queerty.com. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
- "Billy Porter Wore a Uterus Motif to the Tonys to Make a Statement". Time. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
- "Billy Porter Took the Tonys Stage During a Commercial Break and Sang Gypsy". Vulture. June 10, 2019. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
- Leaver, Joel (January 12, 2022). "Billy Porter recalls feeling a lack of 'joy' whilst having a career high". mirror. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
- Rhodes, Malcolm (June 17, 2019). "Taylor Swift's new Pride music video is jam-packed with over 20 cameos from LGBTQ icons". queerty.com. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
- "Democrats Announce Highlights from Opening Night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention: Uniting America". 2020 Democratic National Convention. August 17, 2020. Archived from the original on August 17, 2020. Retrieved August 17, 2020.
- "Billy Porter makes peace with himself: 'I set myself free, honey. No more secrets'". NPR.org. October 19, 2021. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
- Benjamin, Jessica (February 2, 2021). "Billy Porter on London Pride and being a fashion icon". www.standard.co.uk.
- "Billy Porter Is Finally Free". InStyle. March 10, 2021. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
- "London Pride 2019: Billy Porter on being a 'piece of political art'". BBC News. July 6, 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
- Bryant, Kenzie (January 26, 2020). "Grammys 2020 Red Carpet: How Billy Porter's Motorized Hat Came to Be". Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
- Burgum, Becky (September 21, 2020). "Billy Porter's Most Memorable Outfits - From Met Gala To Oscars". ELLE. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
- Gonzales, Erica (January 7, 2019). "Billy Porter's Golden Globes Look Just Changed My Life". Harper's BAZAAR. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
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- "Why Billy Porter Wore a Gown to the 2019 Oscars". Time. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
- "CFDA". cfda.com. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
- "Billy Porter Just Made the Most Fabulous Entrance in Met Gala History". Vogue. May 6, 2019. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
- "Billy Porter's best fashion moments from 2020: 'New Year's Rockin' Eve,' the Oscars, Grammys and more". ABC7 Los Angeles. December 29, 2020. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
- "Billy Porter's best fashion moments from 2020: 'New Year's Rockin' Eve,' the Oscars, Grammys and more". ABC7 Los Angeles. December 29, 2020. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
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- " 'At the Corner of Broadway + Soul' Listing" AllMusic. Retrieved June 24, 2016
- "Finally Ready by The Shapeshifters feat. Billy Porter". June 26, 2020 – via glitterboxibiza.com.
- Suskin, Steven. "On The Record: 'Little Me', 'Charlie Brown', and especially Adam Guettel" Playbill, March 21, 1999
- "David Raleigh THE FRIENDS PROJECT – "That's What Friends Are For" Official Video (HD)". November 11, 2010. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved December 4, 2013 – via YouTube.
- Twisted tcm.com. Retrieved June 25, 2016
- Intern tcm.com. Retrieved June 25, 2016
- The Broken Hearts Club allmovie.com. Retrieved August 7, 2015
- Noel allmovie.com. Retrieved August 7, 2015
- "The Humbling". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
- Acevedo, Nicole. "Camila Cabello will bring 'Cinderella' to life in Sony's new film". NBC News. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
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- Klein, Alvin. "Theater. 'Jesus Christ Superstar' In Revisionist Staging" The New York Times, December 20, 1998
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