Up against the tear-jerking performances of This Is Us actors Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia and the swashbuckling heroism of Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington, Billy Porter (in the hat to end all hats—sorry, Pharrell) won Best Actor in the Drama category, making Emmys history. Porter, star of Pose, a Paris Is Burning-influenced series about LGBTQ+ ballroom culture in the ‘80s and ‘90s, became the first openly gay black man to a) be nominated for an Emmy and b) to win the damn thing.
If you don’t know Porter from Pose (two Ryan Murphy-created seasons await you) then you probably remember him from last year’s Oscars red carpet. The clear winner in the men’s fashion category, Porter showed up in a Christian Siriano designed tux-on-top, ball-gown-on-the-bottom lewk that went a long way towards landing him on Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed list.
Porter is known for making statements that go beyond the aesthetic (after the Oscars, he told Vogue “My goal is to be a walking piece of political art every time I show up. To challenge expectations. What is masculinity? What does that mean?”) and his Emmys appearance was no exception.
The actor quoted James Baldwin in his acceptance speech, saying that “it took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this Earth like I had a right to be here. I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right!” he said to massive applause.
Not only is Porter himself a big winner for his portrayal of emcee Pray Tell, he’s using the recognition and the spotlight to shine a light on his community.
“We are the people that get to change the molecular structure of the hearts and minds of the people who live on this planet,” said Porter. “Please don’t ever stop doing that. Please don’t stop ever telling the truth.”