At tonight’s 91st Academy Awards in Los Angeles, California, Pose star Billy Porter defied fashion norms by stepping out onto the red carpet in an unapologetically fabulous gown. The custom creation by designer Christian Siriano included a sharply tailored tuxedo jacket overtop a full-skirted strapless velvet gown. A play on masculinity and femininity, the look challenged the rigid Hollywood dress code and was boundary-pushing in all the right ways.
For the actor and singer, the fashion choice was deeply personal. Below, Porter reflects on coming to terms with his queer identity and how his fashion choices have became a powerful tool for self-expression and representation.
I’ve always been inspired by fashion. My grandmother, my mom—they were always stylish. I grew up loving fashion, but there was a limit to the ways in which I could express myself. 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. [Even] when I had my first working contract at A&M Records, I was silent for a long time. I was trying to fit in to what other people felt I should look like. When I landed a role in Kinky Boots, the experience really grounded me in a way that was so unexpected. 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.