Billy Porter revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter yesterday that he is HIV-positive. He said he was diagnosed 14 years ago and no longer wanted to keep it a secret.
Although he already had a successful career on stage and screen behind him, Porter, 51, found worldwide fame for his role as Pray Tell in the FX series, Pose. The show covers the ballroom scene of the late 1980s/early 90s, and Pray Tell is a gay man who is also HIV positive.
The show’s creator, über-producer and showrunner Ryan Murphy, yesterday paid tribute to Porter on his Instagram account.
Re-sharing the Hollywood Reporter cover, Murphy wrote, “Today I post an ode of appreciation for my friend – the one and only Billy Porter, who graces The Hollywood Reporter with a historic cover and testimonial about his life, and how he climbed the mountain.
“Once again, Billy Porter refuses to let anyone define him. He is not just a singer, an actor, and dancer. Not just an Emmy winner, a Tony winner, and Grammy winner…more than just an activist and a pioneer. He is a beautiful necklace, made from many pearls…some lustrous, some dented, but all earned and fought for.
“Today is a big day for him, and I think for so many others who have ever been afraid to be themselves because of the societal judgment that can be so harsh for those in our community all over the world.
“I love this continual FIRST who keeps being authentic, keeps making change, and refuses the confining edges of definition. He is, as they say, everything.
“I was proud to show up and support him as he poured his heart out to the always wonderful Lacey Rose. Keep being true, Billy. And thank you for being the light that shows the way.”
Lacey Rose was the Hollywood Reporter writer to whom Porter gave his interview.
In the piece, Porter explained that he was diagnosed in 2007. It was one chapter in a particularly bad year for him.
“I was on the precipice of obscurity for about a decade or so, but 2007 was the worst of it. By February, I had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By March, I signed bankruptcy papers. And by June, I was diagnosed HIV-positive. The shame of that time compounded with the shame that had already [accumulated] in my life silenced me, and I have lived with that shame in silence for 14 years.”
He said he told “everyone who needed to know”, except for his mom, who he felt ashamed and embarrassed to tell. He finally told her after the last day of filming on the final season of Pose.
Porter is now working on his directorial debut, has a memoir coming out later this year, and a Netflix documentary about his life, which is being made in collaboration with Murphy.
Among those to praise Murphy’s posting were fellow Pose star MJ Rodriguez, who said, “Beautiful words!”, while Sharon Stone said, “BRAVO👏👏👏👏😍”
Following the Hollywood Reporter story, Porter also went on The Tamron Hall Show to talk about his status and why he believes he survived in order to make Pose and remind people both of those lost to HIV and those living with the virus.
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