Red carpet or not, nobody brings it like Billy Porter. For InStyle’s April issue, the legendary showman reflects on his newfound love for the simple life after escaping the city last year, his many groundbreaking fashion moments and his impact on the fashion industry and culture at large.
On his statement-making tuxedo gown from the 2019 Oscars: “As funny as it may sound, I’m a businessman, and wearing that [Oscars] dress was a business decision, in a sense. People were like, ‘Oh, he’s just trying to get attention.’ Well, yeah, I’m in show business! It’s part of my job. Otherwise, I don’t eat.”
On the long-overdue conversation about genderless fashion: “I used to get frustrated that women could wear whatever they wanted and men had to show up in the same penguin suit. The reason why women wearing pants is considered OK by society’s standards is because it comes from the patriarchy. The patriarchy is male, so suits are strong, and anything feminine is weak. I was sick of that discussion, and I knew my platform allowed me to challenge it.” “I had been running from my feminine side for years because I was told that my queerness would be a liability in this business. And it was for decades—until it wasn’t.”
On seeing those like Harry Styles and Jonathan Van Ness follow in his fashion footsteps: “It’s hard because I feel like I’ve had an influence, but I also don’t want my ego to get big. For instance, I just saw some of the latest fall men’s collections, and there are a bunch of coats that have these little trains behind them. Now, I could say, ‘I may have been an influence there,’ but I’d rather let other people say it. When Time magazine called me a fashion icon, I finally said, ‘OK, maybe now I can say it myself without sounding like an ass—.’ ”
On what he’s learned while writing his memoir: “One thing I’ve realized while writing is how grateful I am that all of this didn’t happen when I was in my twenties because I wasn’t ready. Who I am and what I represent is very specific, and one needs to be an adult to handle what’s coming, both the good and the complicated. I’ve been in this business for 35 years now. I’m a grown-ass man. I know what I want. I know what I don’t want. I know how to handle all of it. And I know what to do with it.”
The April issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download March 19.
Image 1: Queera Wang Shirtdress | Saint Fort Brand Hat | Lady Grey Ear Cuff | Diaboli Kill Jewelry by Angie Marei Ring (on pinkie) | Lady Grey Rings
Image 2: Palomo Spain Jacket and Pants | Star Wars x Gigi Burris Hat | Alan Crocetti Ear Cuff | Lillian Shalom Rings | Sweater, Porter’s own
Image 3: Louis Vuitton Coat, Shirt, and Trousers | Esenshel Hat | Lady Grey Ear Cuff | Diaboli Kill Jewelry by Angie Marei Ring (right hand) | Lillian Shalom Rings | Sunni Sunni Mules
[Photo Credit: Robbie Fimmano for InStyle Magazine]