Out100: Billy Porter
Photography by Danielle Levitt
After many years away from the Great White Way stage, Porter returned with a vengeance, starring as Lola in Kinky Boots, the Harvey Fierstein–Cyndi Lauper show for which he won his first Tony Award, for Best Actor in a Musical. Although he has to wear sparkly, thigh- high boots and belt out diva-worthy ballads eight nights a week, Porter is basking in the power he has to connect with audiences from the Broadway stage.
“There are many parallels between Lola and myself — mainly the idea of being an outsider and holding on to who you are,” he says. “I think the joy and the pleasure of Kinky Boots is that it transcends sexuality, it transcends stereotypes, and it transcends fear, which I think motivates a lot of the bigotry and homophobia that exists in the world. It’s nice to reach people at a human level.”
As a board member of the Empire State Pride Agenda, he’s been working to spread marriage equality to a wider audience; now he finally has the biggest platform of his life. “I wanted to represent, but I didn’t think that marriage equality was something that mattered to me, until it actually happened,” he explains. “I used to live in a world and in a space where I didn’t think that my love mattered, and so my behavior was representative of that. I’m thankful that this is happening, because it’s causing me to look inward and to respect myself more. And to respect my love.”
Photographed at the 13th Street Repertory Company in New York City on July 2, 2013