Billy Porter is an American stage performer, pop singer, and actor. Porter is best known for his leading role as Pray Tell on the FX drama series Pose. He is openly gay and is married to Adam Smith since January 14, 2017. The Tony Award winner and Emmy Award nominee understands the power of fashion. Some of the actor’s boldest red carpet appearances to date, from his Oscars’ tuxedo gown to his recent Met Gala look, have been designed with specific references in mind. He consistently uses clothing to make a broader cultural statement.
Porter proved that fashion can carry a message beyond the frilly and frivolous when he attended the 78th annual Peabody Awards in New York City. For the occasion, Porter wore a sparkling gown by Celestino Couture. The pink-red creation, which featured intricate embroidery work and tulle, looked stunning on him. But even more striking is the backstory behind the label. Designer Celestino works with an ecologically-sound focus, making use of up-cycled materials to reduce waste. In addition to producing all of his clothes here in the United States, he also donates 10 percent of his profits to initiatives that focus on ending human trafficking.
At the 2019 Met Gala, Billy Porter’s entrance made headlines as “the most fabulous entrance in Met Gala history.” This year’s Met Gala honored the Costume Institute’s exhibit “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” and Porter came to slay. He appeared on the red carpet at precisely 5:53PM as the Sun God, carried on a litter by six shirtless Broadway dancers, and wearing a gold-winged catsuit and a 24-karat gold headpiece by The Blonds. Styled by Sam Ratelle, his full look featured custom-made gold-leaf shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti, with fine jewels by Andreoli and Oscar Heyman. The custom catsuit (and its 10-foot wingspan) was detailed with Preciosa crystals, chain fringe, and gold bugle beads. During his preparation for the Met Gala, Porter spoke about his inspiration for the campy look and the link between theater and fashion. “Fashion has always been a part of me. Dressing up as a character was an extension of that kind of world. Put on clothes and you can become a character, you can become a different being for five hours. There’s something about that that’s very intriguing for me—and fun.”
Porter arrived at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony, dressed in a custom black and white ensemble by Christian Siriano. The top half resembled a classic tuxedo jacket, complete with a bowtie, while the bottom half ― a full skirt ― was pure drama. Porter’s outfit choice was deeply personal, he told Vogue, saying he has always been interested in fashion, but grew up feeling “there was a limit to the ways in which [he] could express himself.”
“When you’re black and you’re gay, one’s masculinity is in question. I dealt with a lot of homophobia in relation to my clothing choices,” he said. “I was trying to fit in to what other people felt I should look like. Putting on those heels made me feel the most masculine I’ve ever felt in my life. It was empowering to let that part of myself free.”