In recognizing Black History Month, Apicha CHC will be spotlighting Black LGBTQ+ pioneers in their own right and their contribution to bettering our society. These people are fundamental to our histories, relentless in their efforts to open doors that were firmly closed. We will not let these people be erased from history.
Billy Porter is a gay Broadway performer, singer, actor, fashion trailblazer, and LGBTQ+ activist. His advocacy and activism -- often through his own work -- is one that has helped bolster LGBTQ+ visibility and acceptance.
Porter was born September 21, in 1969 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the musical theater program of Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, and then attended Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts, where he earned his BFA in drama. This laid the groundwork for his career.
Heading to Broadway & beyond
In 1991, Porter joined the ranks in Broadway with his first role in Miss Saigon, which won three Tony Awards and became one of the longest running shows. He continued to be cast in other Broadway shows throughout the 1990s, including Grease. Porter took a break from performing and spent some time writing and directing shows.
Porter eventually returned to Broadway in 2013 as Lola in Kinky Boots. That year, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical, and the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for his performance.
His acting career extended beyond musical theater, with acting roles in shows like Pose and American Horror Story.
In a time where being Black and gay is not often portrayed on television and film, Porter's presence and acting roles have been a step toward representing more queer people of color.
Roles in activism & supporting the LGBTQ+ community
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Porter has been vocal in pushing for gay rights, acceptance, and visibility. He has also donated to LGBTQ+ organizations such as the Ali Forney Center. Porter has been candid about his own life experiences as a gay Black man, and how toxic masculinity has affected him. "The hetero normative construct that masculinity is better silenced me for many years. It was like my masculinity was in question before I could even comprehend the thought," Porter once said in an interview with Allure.
As an artist, Porter has also said there is great power in using his platform. "We are the arbiters. We're the ones that create change because it's creative in how we talk about it. We open hearts and minds in a different way," Porter said.
Photo Source: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Kevork Djansezian/NBC/Getty Images