Billy Porter (entertainer)

Billy Porter (born September 21, 1969) is an American Broadway theater performer, singer, and actor. He attended the Musical Theater program at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School's School of Drama, graduated from Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, and achieved fame performing on Broadway before starting a solo career as a singer and actor.[1]

Billy Porter
Porter in 2017
Born (1969-09-21) September 21, 1969
EducationCarnegie Mellon University (BFA)
University of California, Los Angeles (GrDip)
OccupationPop singer, actor, performer, vocal coach
Adam Smith (m. 2017)
  • 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical
  • 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical
  • 2019 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Porter won the 2013 Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots at the 67th Tony Awards. For the role, Porter also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical. In 2014 Porter won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for Kinky Boots. He currently stars in the television series Pose for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and won the 2019 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, becoming the first openly gay black man to be nominated and win in any lead acting category at the Primetime Emmys.

Early life

Porter was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to William E. Porter and Cloerinda Jean Johnson Porter Ford.[2][3] His sister is MaryMartha Ford-Dieng.[4][5][6] After attending Reizenstein Middle School, Porter attended Taylor Allderdice High School and then the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, where he graduated in 1987.[7] He graduated from the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University with a B.F.A. in Drama and earned a certification from the graduate-level Professional Program In Screenwriting[8] at UCLA.

During the summers of 1985–1987, Porter was a member of an entertainment group called "Flash," which performed daily at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania.[9]


Porter played Teen Angel in the 1994 Broadway revival of Grease!. Other shows he has been in include Topdog/Underdog at City Theatre (2004),[10] Jesus Christ Superstar and Dreamgirls at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (2004),[11] and the song cycles Myths and Hymns and Songs for a New World (Off-Broadway, 1995).[12]

Porter wrote and performed in his one-person autobiographical show, Ghetto Superstar (The Man That I Am) at Joe's Pub in New York City in February and March 2005.[12][13][14] He was nominated for "Outstanding New York Theater: Broadway & Off Broadway Award" at the 17th GLAAD Media Awards.[15]

In September 2010, Porter appeared as Belize in Signature Theatre Company's 20th Anniversary production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America.[12][16]

Porter originated the role of "Lola" in Kinky Boots on Broadway in 2013, with songs by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein and directed/choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. Porter won both the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for this role.[17][18]

Porter has also appeared in many films. He played a major role as Shiniqua, a drag queen who befriends Angel (David Norona) and Lee (Keivyn McNeill Graves) in Seth Michael Donsky's Twisted (1997), an adaptation of Oliver Twist.[19] He has also appeared on The RuPaul Show.

He has had a musical career with three solo albums released, Billy Porter on DV8/A&M Records in 1997, At the Corner of Broadway + Soul in 2005 on Sh-K-Boom Records and Billy's Back on Broadway (Concord Music Group) in 2014. He featured in a number of songs in the tribute album; It's Only Life: The Songs of John Bucchino in 2006 released on PS Classics.[20] He sings on Adam Guettel's 1999 album Myths and Hymns studio cast album on Nonesuch Records.[21] He also covered "Only One Road" that was included on the Human Rights Campaign compilation album Love Rocks.

Porter wrote the play While I Yet Live, which premiered Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in September 2014 in previews, officially on October 12. In addition to Porter, the cast included Lillias White and S. Epatha Merkerson.[12][22]

Porter released Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers in April 2017. The album, which features new, soulful takes on classic Richard Rodgers songs, includes solos and duets from the following artists (in addition to Porter himself): Tony and Grammy Award winners Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), Tony Award-winner Patina Miller (Pippin), Grammy Award winners Pentatonix and India Arie, Tony Award nominees Brandon Victor Dixon (Shuffle Along), Joshua Henry (Violet), and Christopher Jackson (Hamilton), alongside YouTube and Kinky Boots star Todrick Hall and multiple Grammy Award nominees Deborah Cox and Ledisi.[23]

Porter reprised the role of Lola in Kinky Boots in September 2017 on Broadway, where he did a 15-week run.[24]

In 2018, Porter starred in the FX show Pose in the role of Pray Tell. In 2019, Pose earned its renewal for a third season after airing just one episode from the second season. In August 2018, Porter confirmed via Instagram that he was joining the cast of American Horror Story for its eighth season, subtitled Apocalypse.[25][26] Porter duetted with Pose co-star Dyllón Burnside and sang from his album in a benefit concert emceed by Burnside on July 23, 2018, to celebrate the season 1 finale and to raise money for GLSEN.[27][28][29] In June 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, sparking the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Queerty named him one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance, and dignity for all queer people."[30] Also in June 2019 he presented the Excellence in Theatre Education Award at the 73rd Tonys at Radio City Music Hall. However, he earned media coverage for his haute couture red and pink gown, upcycled from Kinky Boots' stage curtains, in a uterine shape,[31] and his impromptu performance of "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy, for host James Corden's "Broadway karaoke."[32] In September 2019, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Pose, becoming the first openly gay black man to be nominated and win in any lead acting category at the Primetime Emmys.

Also, in 2019, Porter had a cameo appearance in Taylor Swift's "You Need to Calm Down" music video that featured twenty LGBTQ icons.[33]


At the 2019 Golden Globes, Porter gained attention for wearing an embroidered suit and pink cape designed by Randi Rahm.[34] He continued to make fashion waves that year when he wore a fitted tuxedo jacket and a velvet gown by Christian Siriano with 6" Rick Owens boots to the 91st Academy Awards.[35] In February 2019, he was an Official CFDA Ambassador for NYFW: Mens . Porter attended the 2019 Met Gala and embraced the Camp: Notes on Fashion theme by being carried on a litter by six shirtless men while sporting a "Sun God" ensemble. The Blonds designed Porter's outfit, and it included a bejeweled catsuit outfitted with 10-foot wings, a 24-karat gold headpiece, as well as custom gold-leaf Giuseppe Zanotti shoes and fine jewels by Andreoli, John Hardy, and Oscar Heyman.[36]

Personal life

Porter is openly gay. Porter and Adam Smith were married on January 14, 2017.[37]




  • 1997: "Show Me"/"What Iz Time"
  • 2005: "Awaiting You"/"Time" (Live) (Sh-K-Boom Records)
  • 2017: "Edelweiss"
  • 2019: "Love Yourself"

Other songs

Appears in


Porter has performed at various venues in New York City, including Lincoln Center, which was broadcast on PBS in 2015 [42] and Joe's Pub in New York City.[43]



Year Title Role Notes
1996 Twisted Siniqua [44]
1996 The First Wives Club Singer
1997 Anastasia Ensemble and character voices Voice role
2000 Intern Sebastian Niederfarb [45]
2000 The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy Taylor [46]
2004 Noel Randy [47]
2014 The Humbling Prince [48]
2020 Like a Boss N/A Post-production
2021 Cinderella[49] Fairy Godmother pre-production


Year Title Role Notes
1998 Another World Billy Rush Unknown episodes
1999 Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story Little Richard Television movie
2004 Law & Order Greg Ellison Episode: "Cry Wolf"
2007–12 So You Think You Can Dance Performer 4 episodes
2012 The Big C Eric Episode: "Thin Ice"
2013 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Jackie Walker Episode: "Dissonant Voices"
2013 Land of Lola: Backstage at Kinky Boots Host 8 episodes
2014 Christmas at Rockefeller Plaza Performer Television special
2015 Billy Porter: Broad & Soul Performer Television special
2016 The Get Down DJ Malibu Episode: "Where There Is Ruin, There Is Hope for a Treasure"
2018–present Pose Pray Tell 17 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama
Nominated—Television Critics Association Award for Individual Achievement in Drama
Pending—Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series
Pending—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama
2018 American Horror Story: Apocalypse Behold Chablis 5 episodes
2019 Saturday Night Live Himself Episode: "David Harbour/Camila Cabello"


Sources:Playbill Vault;[50] Off-Broadway Database[51]

Awards and nominations

Award Year Category Work Result Audience Choice Awards 2013 Favorite Leading Actor in a Broadway Musical Kinky Boots Won
Critics' Choice Awards 2019 Best Actor in a Television Drama Series Pose Nominated
2020 Pending
Dorian Awards 2019 TV Performance of the Year – Actor Won
TV Musical Performance of the Year "Home" (with Mj Rodriguez and Our Lady J) Won
Drama League Award 2013 Distinguished Performance Award Kinky Boots Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical Won
Emmy Awards (Primetime) 2019 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Pose Won
Fred and Adele Astaire Awards 2013 Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Musical Show Kinky Boots Nominated
GLAAD Media Awards 2017 Vito Russo Award Billy Porter Won
Gold Derby Awards 2019 TV Drama Series Actor of the Year Pose Won
Golden Globe Awards 2019 Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama Nominated
2020 Pending
Grammy Awards 2014 Best Musical Theater Album Kinky Boots Won
Outer Critics Circle Award 2013 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical Kinky Boots Won
Television Critics Association 2019 Individual Achievement in Drama Pose Nominated
Tony Awards 2013 Best Leading Actor in a Musical Kinky Boots Won

See also


  1. "Family Celebrates Billy Porter's Tony Award Win". 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  2. "Billy Porter". 2017-09-21. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  3. "Tony Awards Acceptance Speeches From Billy Porter, Patina Miller, Cyndi Lauper, Andrea Martin, Judith Light and More | Playbill". Playbill. 2014-05-23. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  4. "Celebrating Billy Porter". New Pittsburgh Courier. 2013-10-24. Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  5. Petrarca, Emilia (2019-05-01). "The Realness of Billy Porter". The Cut. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
  6. "'Pose' Star Billy Porter Reveals Past Sexual Abuse in Searing Op-Ed". 2018-10-31. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
  7. "Billy Porter's one-man show traces his life, onstage and off |". Retrieved Aug 18, 2019.
  8. "UCLA Professional Programs". Archived from the original on 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  9. Gordon, David. "My First Tony Award Nomination", May 27, 2013
  10. Rawson, Christopher (March 5, 2004). "Rooting for the Underdog: Homewood native Billy Porter finds his focus in a career with many facets". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  11. Jones, Kenneth (August 4, 2004). "Norm Lewis and Billy Porter Woo Dreamgirls, Including Frenchie Davis, in Pittsburgh Aug. 10–22". Playbill.
  12. Billy Porter at the Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved August 7, 2015.
  13. Sandman, Jenny (March 15, 2005). "Review. Ghetto Superstar (The Man That I Am)".
  14. Murray, Matthew (March 6, 2005). "Off-Broadway Review. Ghetto Superstar (The Man That I Am)".
  15. Gans, Andrew (January 24, 2006). "GLAAD Media Awards Nominees Include I Am My Own Wife, Color Purple and Ghetto Superstar". Playbill.
  16. "Announcing the Cast of Angels in America". Signature Theatre Company. June 22, 2010. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  17. Purcell, Carey (June 10, 2013). "Kinky Boots, Vanya and Sonia, Pippin and Virginia Woolf? Are Big Winners at 67th Annual Tony Awards". Playbill.
  18. Hetrick, Adam; Gans, Andrew (May 20, 2013). "Billy Porter, Andrea Martin, Pippin, Matilda, Vanya and Sonia Win Drama Desk Awards". Playbill.
  19. Thomas, Kevin (December 12, 1997). "A Twisted Tale of Souls Rising Above Corruption". Los Angeles Times.
  20. Jones, Kenneth (January 19, 2006). "John Bucchino's Revue It's Only Life Will Be Preserved on CD". Playbill.
  21. "Myths and Hymns Studio Cast". Retrieved August 7, 2015.
  22. Hetrick, Adam (September 24, 2014). "Billy Porter's While I Yet Live, with Lillias White and S. Epatha Merkerson, Premieres Off-Broadway". Playbill.
  23. "Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers". The Official Masterworks Broadway Site. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
  24. "Everybody Say Yeah! Original Kinky Boots Stars Billy Porter & Stark Sands Will Return to Hit Musical". Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  25. King, Eric (August 2, 2018). "Tony Winner Billy Porter Will Appear in Season Eight of American Horror Story". Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  26. Shoemaker, Allison (August 3, 2018). "Pose's Billy Porter joins the cast of American Horror Story: Apocalypse". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  27. Feldman, Adam (July 17, 2018). "Dyllón Burnside: Up Close and Personal". Time Out New York. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  28. Hetrick, Adam (July 14, 2018). "FX's Pose Stars, Dyllón Burnside, Mj Rodriguez, and Ryan Jamaal Swain, Will Perform NYC Concert". Playbill. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  29. "To Be Real: The Cast Of Pose Gives Back — Already! — At NYC GLSEN Benefit". Boy Culture. July 24, 2018. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  30. Galassi, Josh (2019-05-23). "Red Carpet and 'Pose' star Billy Porter is telling the queer stories we've been waiting for". Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  31. "Billy Porter Wore a Uterus Motif to the Tonys to Make a Statement". Time. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  32. "Billy Porter Took the Tonys Stage During a Commercial Break and Sang Gypsy". Vulture. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  33. Rhodes, Malcolm (2019-06-17). "Taylor Swift's new Pride music video is jam-packed with over 20 cameos from LGBTQ icons". Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  34. Gonzales, Erica (2019-01-07). "Billy Porter's Golden Globes Look Just Changed My Life". Harper's BAZAAR. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  35. "Why Billy Porter Wore a Gown to the 2019 Oscars". Time. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  36. "Billy Porter Just Made the Most Fabulous Entrance in Met Gala History". Vogue. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  37. Fierberg, Ruthie. The two have been a sight for the naked eye. Their love filled with happiness."Billy Porter Is a Married Man!" Playbill, January 17, 2017
  38. Hetrick, Adam. " 'Kinky Boots' Star Billy Porter Releases "Billy's Back on Broadway" April 15" Playbill, April 15, 2014
  39. " 'At the Corner of Broadway + Soul' Listing", accessed June 24, 2016
  40. Suskin, Steven. "On The Record: 'Little Me', 'Charlie Brown', and especially Adam Guettel" Playbill, March 21, 1999
  41. "David Raleigh THE FRIENDS PROJECT - "That's What Friends Are For" Official Video (HD)". YouTube. 2010-11-11. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  42. Gans, Andrew. "Live From Lincoln Center's 40th anniversary season on PBS will continue April 3 with a concert from Tony winner Billy Porter" Playbill, April 2, 2015
  43. "Billy Porter Returns to Joe's Pub December 7 and 8", November 12, 2008
  44. Twisted, accessed June 25, 2016
  45. Intern, accessed June 25, 2016
  46. The Broken Hearts Club, accessed August 7, 2015
  47. Noel, accessed August 7, 2015
  48. "The Humbling". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-04-24.
  49. Acevedo, Nicole. "Camila Cabello will bring 'Cinderella' to life in Sony's new film". NBC News. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  50. "Billy Porter Broadway" Playbill, accessed June 24, 2016
  51. "Billy Porter Off-Broadway", accessed June 24, 2016
  52. Klein, Alvin. "Theater. 'Jesus Christ Superstar' In Revisionist Staging" The New York Times, December 20, 1998
  53. Lefkowitz, David. "Dreamy Night for Dreamgirls' Actors' Fund Benefit, Which Reaps $1.1 Million" Playbill, September 28, 2001
  54. Jones, Kenneth. "Pittsburgh 'Topdog' Has Ray Anthony Thomas and Native Son Billy Porter, March 4-April 4" Playbill, February 23, 2004
  55. BWW News Desk. "Billy Porter, Justin Bartha and Stana Katic Set for September at WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT" Broadway World, August 9, 2016
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