It’s Friday night, the bar is atop a hotel near Oxford Circus, and he’s decked up in a kaftan with copper and silver stripes and knee-high Rick Owens platform boots with six-inch heels. That means it’s cocktail time for Billy Porter.
As Billy Porter put it, “I’m tired of asking for their permission.”
The Evening Standard, Billy Porter
The fact that it is just 11 am is irrelevant. When you’re only one Oscar away from achieving the illustrious “EGOT,” when you’re in London for a month from New York, when you have one of the hottest theater plays in London, when you’re still reeling from personal and professional calumny (divorce and the actors’ strike), and when you play by your own rules, you do whatever the hell you want.
This Broadway star, star of Ryan Murphy’s ball-culture drama Pose, and discotastic pop phenomenon believes in starting the day off right with a glass of champagne and a bold declaration of opinion. According to rumors, he was disinvited from the Met Gala because of this trait when he called Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour a “b****” in an interview.
It all sprang from a discussion he had with Wintour in 2019 after the two of them had appeared on a Q&A. “At the end, the jackass asked me, ‘How can we improve?’ I was so shocked that I couldn’t think of the right thing to say. Put your influence as Vogue to good use by giving a platform to the people who are driving the de-gendering of fashion movement. Saddeningly, six months later, Harry Styles was the first male model to grace the cover, as reported by Porter.I’m calling out the gatekeepers; it’s not Harry Styles’ fault that he’s white and cute and straight and fits into the system that way.
In his new track, Broke A Sweat, Porter declares, “I’m tired of asking for their permission.” When I ask this Pennsylvania-born, Pentecostal-church-raised adult if a particular occurrence inspired that bold lyric, he answers in the emphatic affirmative: Yes — his life.
Fashion icon, says Billy Porter. This is the time when I am most needed. History is written by the victors.
The Evening Standard, Billy Porter
‘When I came into the business in the late Eighties, I was informed that my queerness would be my liability,’ the 53-year-old says in his husky drawl. He is thinking back to before he became a Tony Award winner in 2013 for his performance in the original New York production of the musical Kinky Boots, and again in 2014 for his work as a co-producer on the musical A Strange Loop, which is currently running at the Barbican. He elaborates, saying, “Not only in the music industry, but across the board. It was also a weakness. They ejected me from the mainstream of the R&B scene. Once he became a Broadway star, the cultural establishment would eventually take notice, right?
Interrupting with, “Made a name for myself, period,” this charisma-bomb who, even when gently instructing me, is never less than sizzling company, says this. It’s not just Broadway. Porter boasts, “I earned an Emmy for my role as the show’s outstanding lead actor in Pose in 2019. I am a style icon. This is the time when I am most needed. I shouldn’t be here in this state, but I guess winners write their own histories. To be a gay man of a particular age is a blessing, and I’m glad I made it this far. I survived the AIDS epidemic, baby! I basically lost an entire generation of people. I’m a part of the generation that “kicked the door down,” however.
“When I got into the business in the late Eighties,” Billy Porter recalled, “I was told that my queerness would be a liability.”
Blue Jacket / Getty Images
Porter is currently in London and is staying with friends in the Clapham Common area. However, he will be spending his final days in London at the swanky Corinthia Charing Cross, a favorite of the Hollywood publicity circuit. They got “a respite from some other s**t!” while they worked. He is referring to his recent announcement of separation from Adam Smith, his husband of six years. “Everyone knows I’m going through a divorce! “Y’all wanna talk about my split and Ricky Martin’s split at the same time?” he hoots. It’s not lost on anyone that he made the proposal in London, at a restaurant owned by Jason Atherton.
He concurs that “it’s bittersweet,” expressing his own personal experience. Yet, interpersonal connections are challenging. I can never stop loving him. As far as we were able to, we got. However, we are able to take in new information, develop, and continue living. With a flourish of his hair, he concludes, “And I’m looking forward to the next… adventure.” She’s available once again!” I want to find an English boy band! And you have to put it into your own words exactly! Huzzzband!” Cackling, Porter says.
She’s available once again! I want to find an English boy band! And you have to put it into your own words exactly! Huzzzband!
A Strange Loop’s success in London, bookending a decade that included two Tony Awards for him, must make him feel good. A biopic of James Baldwin is among Porter’s next projects, and while he nods in agreement, he makes it clear that he is not at liberty to discuss either that or any other aspect of his acting career. The strike is the reason. Kid, we have to get our hands on that cash! “I can’t talk about the strike because of the s**t I’ve read some lay people write about us: ‘Just a bunch of millionaires trying to get more millions.'”
The London version is different. That “bile from people who survived a pandemic because they could turn on their television and watch us” doesn’t bother him. And they drop us like a hot potato. They assume we have some sort of right to receive because of this. Meanwhile, our cheques only amount to six cents. It’s very upsetting to me. Perhaps it is because of these bruised feelings, as well as the financial strains that will be very sympathetic to Britons fighting rent and mortgage hikes, that he discusses the strike at all. And engage in heated discourse.
At a 2019 party, Billy Porter was spotted with his ex-husband Adam Smith. Relevant Getty Images
Two percent of professional actors (out of a total of 150,000 members of our union) make enough money to live on thanks to residual payments, which were established in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Then streaming video was introduced. There’s no agreement for it… “It’s not Nielsen ratings anymore,” he adds of the standard, public tally of a US TV show’s popularity, “and they don’t have to be transparent with the numbers. The streaming companies are notoriously opaque with their viewership figures.” We’ve developed as a company. He slams his fist on the table, shaking his berry dish, and yells, “The contract must change. Without even tasting the berries, Porter leans in to glare at the Disney CEO who has recently dug himself a PR hole. “For Bob Iger to argue that we can’t expect a living wage is shocking. …while he earns $78,000 in one day.
In certain ways, yes.
I don’t know what to say other than f*** you. I have been silent because I don’t think that would help. Because I’m so angry, I haven’t gotten involved yet. I’m relieved to have made it over here. However, upon my return, you will find me on the picket lines. Billy Porter has some news for you if this seems like a millionaire attempting to get even more money. To put it simply: “I have to sell my house.” Really?
Until you make f***-you money (which I haven’t yet), the artist’s life is still a cheque-to-cheque existence.
“Yeah! Reason being: we’re on strike. And I have no idea when we’ll be returning [to work]. Until you make f***-you money (which I have not yet), the artist’s life is a cheque-to-cheque existence. I had a new movie coming out in August and a new TV show debuting in September, but none of those things happened. That is not taking place at all. Referring to a widely publicized comment attributed to an unknown Hollywood executive, he says, “So to the person who said ‘we’re going to starve them out until they have to sell their apartments,'” you’ve already starved me out.
But Porter isn’t going to take it lying down. The Black Mona Lisa is the title of his future album. He claims that this is not an act of hubris. This is a proven fact. The image you project is crucial to your success as a music singer. Is there a particular picture that comes to mind? It’s the Mona Lisa: timeless in all time and space. That’s me, the Black Mona Lisa.
Billy Porter once said, “Being a pop star is about the imagery that you create.”
It’s no surprise that the ever-charming Porter has been routinely applauded on the streets of London given his nuclear-level assurance. More than I had anticipated!” Her father had no idea she was so worldly. As an aside, he explains that he deliberately uses the opposite pronouns. You have to shake things up! You have to throw people off your scent! My pronouns are he, he/her, she/her, they/them, and that b*tch. Every single one of them!
However, mimosas are in order right now. Porter puts on a flawless cut-glass English accent before he cheerfully waves me out. Please, flatter me in your writing. Make sure I sound slim, influential, and educated, he says. I’m going to give it a shot, That Bitch.
Released on Republic Records/Island, Broke A Sweat has finally here. The Barbican hosts A Strange Loop till September 9th.