Black Excellence Series: Celebrating Billy Porter

From the moment I saw his interview with Pink magazine about living his truth through fashion in the face of mass discrimination, I knew I just discovered a brand new role model. Billy Porter is an American performer and actor, best known for his multiple roles on Broadway and the ballroom culture TV series Pose, star-studded with queer and trans actors of colour. Billy Porter is fabulous, unapologetic, talented, shameless and dripping in awards, from the Emmy’s to the Tony’s to the Grammys. Billy Porter is a gay black man. And sadly for some, this is where the conversation ends.

But I, like Porter, would say that it is because of those identities that he has such a widely successful career and has been able to capture the hearts of so, so many. In the interview I mentioned earlier, Porter discusses how determining to live authentically and constantly as a political statement reinforces and justifies his own identity. “I want to be a walking piece of political art," said Porter. "Just living inside of my truth publicly is a political act, I get that, too; so, to add the layer of fashion on top of it seemed like a no-brainer."

And this is nothing short of the truth – when Porter walks out onto the scene, people notice. Some of his most famous looks are from the 2019 Met Gala as an Egyptian Sun God, the 2019 Tony Awards in a Uterus Suit to promote reproductive rights, the 2019 WorldPride NYC Parade in a giant pride dress, and the Pose Season 2 Premier as a matador to combat bullying. His look at the 2020 Grammys featuring a remote control fringed hat didn't fall short of his epic styling history, either. Needless to say, if the system’s got you down, Porter’s got a dress that will pick you right up!

Though many might consider fashion as a political statement to be frivolous or not as significant as other forms of protest, many applaud Porter and others like him for using such a platform to call attention to major issues. I also love the idea because it reminds us that although the real conditions under which many suffer are downright atrocious – racism, queerphobia, classism, you name it – the ways in which we combat these things don’t have to be! Doing the hard, emotional work of social justice is just as important as making it fun, bringing it back to pleasure and the senses, which Porter wholly encapsulates.

He also touches on – or rather, rips open – the taboo of being black and queer at the same time: “The most disappointing was the backlash from black people. That was worse than all of it. The vitriol, you know, like I’m the cause of the emasculation of the black man. Well, okay: I didn’t know that I had that much power, but now that I know I do, you can expect me to be wielding it every f****** chance I get.”

It’s no secret that there is a long-standing queerphobic stigma within communities of colour, and also racist stigma within white queer communities. Lack of representation and interaction has bred eons of ignorance, even though black trans women played pivotal roles in the Stonewall Riots which lead to the beginning of Pride, something both communities should be proud of! For all black queer youth, seeing Billy Porter shine can honestly be a revolutionary experience, finally getting the representation they have been missing, and knowing it is possible to excel living as both.

This Black History Month, I’m honouring Billy Porter who inspires not only me but many others to live authentically and fight for social equity in the most unbothered and fabulous ways possible! And remember: if you’re ever feeling down (or need some killer fashion inspo), pop by his Instagram for an instant pick-me-up! Stay fresh, Golden Hawks!