Proud Warrior

Billy Porter opens up about how homophobia almost ruined his career

Emmy winner, fashionista and all-around icon Billy Porter has revealed how homophobia in showbiz almost ended his career.

The Pose star opened up to Deadline about his early years in the industry. Porter managed to score several high-profile roles on stage, as well as a recording contract. His insistence on living as an out-and-proud gay man, however, had a detrimental effect on his career momentum.

Porter referred to the music business as  “hugely, violently homophobic. It just was never about the music. It was about trying to fix myself so other people would feel comfortable around me.”

Related: Billy Porter to play Fairy Godmother in Cinderella movie

He also talked about his difficulty finding work as a black ma, when the business had only three “types” for African-American men: “James Earl Jones, the patriarch. Denzel Washington, the sex symbol, or genius clown, Eddie Murphy,” he says. Porter began to pitch himself as a character actor, but work remained elusive. He lost his recording contract and had to declare bankruptcy. He went without health insurance for 13 years.

Fortunately, Porter’s story has a happy ending, His work on Pose rocketed him to the top of the showbiz heap, netted him an Emmy as well as several lucrative product spokesperson deals. He also has no regrets about living out & proud.

“We must speak life into ourselves, even when everyone around us is doing the opposite,” Porter said. “I never saw anything that looked like me, and visibility … when we see ourselves reflected back… is so important.”