Prêt-à-Porter: Billy is ready to POSE!

POSE -- Season 3 -- Pictured: Billy Porter as Pray Tell. CR: Eric Liebowitz/FX
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One of the biggest success stories to come out of the ground-breaking TV show POSE is Billy Porter. A working actor since the 80’s Porter was best known for his performances in Kinky Boots on Broadway before his work on POSE as ball emcee Pray Tell, saw him win the best actor Emmy at age 50. He talks to Oliver Hall about his highlights.

In 2019 Billy Porter because the first openly gay black man to win a Lead Actor Emmy. When he speaks at POSE Season 3’s virtual press conference he is clearly immensely proud of his work on the show and the impact it has had. He tells us he hopes it will teach viewers, “to be empowered and to dream the impossible. Even when everything and everybody around you says the opposite, do it anyway.”

Earlier this year, Porter publicly came out as HIV+. He was diagnosed in 2007. Both POSE’s first and second seasons were set during the height of the AIDS epidemic and he tells us that finds the parallels between that time and the current COVID-19 pandemic in America to be ‘quite profound.’

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“As a Black gay man who lived through the AIDS crisis, I have been dealing with a lot of PTSD during this COVID time. It’s very reminiscent of what it was like then. The best news about that is that I survived. We got through it,” he tells us. Adding that he hopes POSE’s depictions of that tragic time for our community with highlight to viewers now, that there is hope in sight if we bond together and unite.

“We can get to the other side. I feel like that’s what POSE really accomplishes this season, is reminding the public that, you know, it’s when we come together and when we lead with love is how we get to the other side.”

For Porter, stepping away from POSE feels like waking up from an incredible dream. 

“There was never, ever a space in my brain to dream what POSE is, what Pray Tell is.  I spent the first 25-plus years of my career trying to fit into a masculine construct that society placed on us, so I could eat. POSE and Pray Tell in particular, really taught me to dream the impossible.”

He tells us he felt ‘very emotional watching the season finale for the first time. “The idea that the little, Black church sissy from Pittsburgh is now in a position of power in Hollywood in a way that never existed before.  You can damn sure believe that I will be wielding that power and there will be a difference and a change in how things go from here on out. I thought I had confidence before this but now it’s a whole new day!”

Porter says he is enormously grateful to the writers and producers of POSE because they taught him ‘how to fish.’

“Remember that old saying? You don’t give somebody the food. You teach them how to fish so they can catch it for themselves.  That’s the gift of this – we’ve all now been empowered to go out and continue for ourselves.”

Borrowing from Vice President Kamala Harris he tells us he believes POSE has opened the door for LGBT+ POC characters on television. “You know, we may be the first, but we’re definitely not going to be the last.”

POSE’s final season is streaming on NEON now.

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