“Putting on those heels made me feel the most masculine I’ve ever felt in my life.” –Billy Porter
At the 91st Academy Awards in Los Angeles, California, Pose star Billy Porter defied fashion norms by stepping out onto the red carpet in an Tux/ gown. The custom creation by designer Christian Siriano included a sharply tailored tuxedo jacket overtop a full-skirted strapless velvet gown.
The actor and singer says he’s always been inspired by fashion through his grandmother and his mom—they were always stylish. I grew up loving fashion, but there was a limit to the ways in which I could express myself.
I’m not a drag queen, I’m a man in a dress wearing Rick Owens shoes and Heyman fine jewelry to go with it.
Why He Wore a Gown/Tuxedo, to the Oscars
“Now I’m in a space where, being on Pose, I’m invited to red carpets and I have something to say through clothes. 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? Women show up every day in pants, but the minute a man wears a dress, the seas part. It happened to me at the Golden Globes [when I wore a pink cape], and I was like, really? Y’all trippin’? I stopped traffic! That Globes outfit changed everything for me. I had the courage to push the status quo. I believe men on the red carpet would love to play more. 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. And that’s the truth. I’ve been confronted with that.
I’ve always wanted to wear a ball gown, I just didn’t know when. I was inspired [this past New York Fashion Week] because there’s a conversation happening about inclusion and diversity. There were so many people of different races and voices. At Palomo Spain, genderless boys floated down the runway in gorgeous chiffon dresses and capes. It was lovely. Fashion has the ability to touch people in a different way. I also went to Christian Siriano’s show. I’ve loved him ever since he was on Project Runway. He was the first person who understood that everybody wears clothes—not just size zeros. He’s become the go-to person for all of the Hollywood women who are rejected by the fashion industry. The fashion industry rejects you if you’re above a size four, it’s ridiculous! I’ve always wanted to work with [Siriano]. I got this Oscars gig [hosting a red carpet pre-show], and at his party after the show, I just dropped it in his ear and said, “Do you think you’d have time to make me a gown?” And he said, “AAAAA-BSOLUTELY.”