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Billy Porter Explains Daring Choice to Wear a Gown to the Oscars

“My goal is to be a walking piece of political art every time I show up. To challenge expectations,” he said.

Billy Porter Explains Daring Choice to Wear a Gown to the Oscars
Credit: The Academy Instagram

Pose star Billy Porter, 49, wore a custom velvet tuxedo gown designed by Christian Siriano to the 91st Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday. The Tony Award winner spoke to Vogue about his queer identity and his choice to play up masculinity and femininity with the daring fashion choice on Hollywood’s biggest night.

“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,” Porter told the style publication.

“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…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.”

Porter went on to explain how Hollywood claims to be progressive still expects people to fit into specific labels.

“This industry masquerades itself as inclusive, but actors are afraid to play, because if they show up as something outside of the status quo, they might be received as feminine, and, as a result, they won’t get that masculine job, that superhero job,” he added. “And that’s the truth. I’ve been confronted with that.”

The 49-year-old revealed that he and Siriano came up with the gown idea after he was offered the pre-show hosting gig. The pair was adamant about presenting him as a man in a dress because Porter isn’t a drag queen. The tux and dress combo was the perfect pairing.

The outfit choice was a lesson to teach others to respect other people’s “truths” even if you don’t always agree with them.

“People are going to be really uncomfortable with my black ass in a ball gown—but it’s not anybody’s business but mine,” Porter said in conclusion.

Pose was renewed for Season Two in July 2018.

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