The Life of Billy Porter

"It's when we are visible that we have the power to create empathy." Billy Porter made history as the first openly gay black actor to win the Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama Series for “Pose” — this is his story.

Posing for history

He is the first black and openly gay actor to have won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. He is Billy Porter. He was born in 1969 in Pennsylvania and grew up with his parents and sister. In 1987, he graduated from Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama. At 25, he began a career as a comedian on Broadway. Theater was the thing that encouraged me to dream beyond my circumstance, outside of my circumstance. In 1997, he released his first album. At 44, he won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Lola, a drag queen, in Kinky Boots.

In 2016, he supported the Trevor Project which focuses on suicide prevention services among LGTBQ+ teenagers. At 47, he married the man with whom he’s been sharing his life for the past 8 years. In 2018, he landed the role of Pray Tell in the hit series Pose, which depicts the daily life of young gay men and transgender women. At 49, he caused a sensation at the Oscars with his tuxedo gown. A few months later, he wore a dress inspired by a uterus to support the right to abortion, amid threats to reproductive rights in several states. The day after his 50th birthday, Billy Porter won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role in Pose.

“I hope that young queer people of all colors can look at me and know that they can. I was told that who I am was never gonna work. I was told that who and what I am would never be successful. Period. That’s what I was told. I did not believe them,” Billy Porter concludes.