Pose star Billy Porter loves a good fashion statement. He paid homage to ballroom icon Hector Extravaganza by wearing a gown to the Oscars, went full camp Sun God for the Met Gala, and wore a repurposed theater curtain from Kinky Boots to the Tonys. And that was just in the first half of this year.
Most recently. Porter has been all over London Fashion Week, hopping from show to show. But his biggest style triumph came during New York Fashion Week, when he brought his special magic to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre for the debut of The Blonds’ Spring/Summer 2020 collection. From Paris Hilton gyrating on a mini Eiffel Tower to Martha Stewart sitting bright-eyed in the audience, the night—which was presented in conjunction with Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway—was all about spectacle and pageantry. It is fitting, then, that Porter—no stranger to the term “over-the-top”—took the stage to perform his new single, “Love Yourself” and joined the Moulin Rouge! cast at the end to perform “Lady Marmalade” clad in a sequined white and gold ensemble complete with a silver-plated corset and sparkling crown.
Before the show, Porter broke down his daring approach to fashion and style, explaining how he went from dabbling in ’80s vintage prep to stunting in couture.
What were the other kids wearing when you were growing up?
It was the ’80s, so it was very preppy. I went to a predominantly white high school and so it was the Izod alligator polos and Ralph Lauren polos and in the summertime it was very Ocean Pacific (OP) with corduroy short shorts and dock siders. I was doing some of that too, but I was mostly doing vintage because I couldn’t afford a lot of the other stuff.
Best fashion advice you ever received:
My aunt Dorothy always used to say, “Save your money and buy quality.” Buy the expensive shit because quality will last forever. Be a little daring, but always stay fabulous.
Most prized possession in your closet:
I’m going to say hats and shoes. I’m a hat man and I’m a shoe man. I spend a lot of money on hats and shoes and I really love them.
First major fashion purchase:
A cashmere coat. I don’t remember the brand, but it was a long, black, cashmere dress coat.
What was the most recent big item you purchased?
Rick Owens platform boots.
Favorite fashion moment from pop culture:
My own! I have two favorite moments. The Cristian Siriano tuxedo dress for the Oscars and obviously when I wore The Blonds to The Met Gala! Have you ever seen someone wear wings and a headpiece to the Met Gala while being carried in by six men?
What is always in your bag?
My phone, lip balm, lotion, and floss. Flossing is important for movie star teeth, honey.
Do you consider yourself a style icon?
I leave that for other people to give me titles. If they want to give me that title, fabulous. I’m just trying to be me.
Favorite look you wore as Pray Tell on Pose?
I would have to say the Diana Ross look in the finale of season two. There are so many looks and I love them all, I’m just choosing that one because it’s the first one I thought of. It was fabulous.
Oldest piece of clothing (or accessory) you own?
A Giorgio Armani double-breasted tweed suit that I bought in the ’90s.
Have you always felt embraced by the fashion world?
No. I wasn’t embraced before, but I’m embraced now and that’s all that matters.