Billy Porter’s Journey to Red Carpet Style Icon

The multi-hyphenate star of Pose has been wowing us long before the Oscars ball gown

At last weekend’s Oscar’s, we witnessed the pinnacle of actor-singer Billy Porter’s style evolution. He arrived in a custom tuxedo-ball gown hybrid with a cummerbund bustier designed by Christian Siriano.

The Tony winner, who stars in the FX musical drama Pose, is as fabulous IRL as he is on screen. “One of the things I’ve realized is that I’ve always had a gender-fluid sensibility with clothes, and it was so squashed by homophobia,” Porter recently told The New York Times. He also admitted that he’s had a hard time getting designers to lend him both men’s and women’s pieces.

Since Sunday, he’s had to respond to a spate of negative commentary, mostly on Twitter. (Tomi Lahren accused him of “assaulting masculinity.”) “I was ready to create the conversation,” he told the Associated Press. “We have to teach people how to treat us, we have to teach people how to love us, we have to teach people how to respect us, and the only way we do that is to respect ourselves.”

Take a look at some of the red carpet highlights that made him the icon he is today.

2014: Tony Awards, Radio City Music Hall, NY

billy porter red carpet

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Here, Porter is rather low key, adding a one dramatic element—a foppish cravat—to his uncharacteristic black suit.

2018: GLSEN Respect Awards, Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons

billy porter red carpet

Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

A fan of wide brim hats, Porter rocks a yellow one at this award show with a dress that looks like something Cersei Lannister might wear in Game of Thrones. Porter pairs it with printed silk pants.

2018: The Trevor Project’s TrevorLIVE L.A., the Beverly Hilton Hotel

billy porter red carpet

Jerod Harris/Getty Images for The Trevor Project

Porter referred to this outfit—red velvet suit and black hat—on Instagram as his “Zorro moment.”

2019: Annual AFI Awards, Four Seasons Hotel

billy porter red carpet

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Gold floor-length silk dress cut on the bias with a matching silk shantung blazer, black boots, and silk headscarf.

2019: Critic’s Choice Awards, Barker Hangar

billy porter red carpet

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

This custom couture look was designed by Rinat Brodach. Porter was styled by Sam Ratelle, who started working with the Kinky Boots star last year. Ratelle told Forbes, “There is always a time and place for every garment. One day it’s a dress, one day it’s a suit, and another day it’s something completely androgynous.”

2019: Golden Globes, The Beverly Hilton

billy porter red carpet

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

This ensemble took six months to create with designer Randi Rahm. Porter said this of his Globes look:

“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.”

2019: Academy Awards, Dolby Theater

billy porter red carpet

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Porter reached out to Project Runway alum Christian Siriano because he knew of the designers work with celebrities who aren’t sample size 0. When Leslie Jones couldn’t find a designer to dress her for the Ghostbusters premiere, Siriano stepped in and designed a custom piece for her. Siriano has dressed Christina Hendricks, Laverne Cox, and Whoopi Goldberg (along with Emily Blunt, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna). Siriano jumped at the chance to give Porter the gown of his dreams, of which Porter paired with six-inch chunky Rick Owens boots and Oscar Heyman fine jewelry (Porter is fan of the NYC-based jewelry designer’s brooches).

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