Billy Porter is an actor, singer, and author who is most recognized for his Broadway performances and runway attire. Porter was born on September 21, 1969, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to William E. Porter and Cloerinda Jean Johnson Porter Ford and revealed to his parents that he was gay at the age of sixteen. He first attended Reizenstein Middle School and Taylor Allderice High School in Pittsburgh. Porter found his love for theatrical singing and performing during the summers of 1985-1987, when he performed daily with the group Flash at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. He then began attending the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School, and graduated in 1987. Porter then attended Carnegie Mellon University College of Fine Arts, graduating with a B.F.A. in 1991.
Porter began his Broadway journey after graduation, as part of the ensemble in the play Miss Saigon. In 1992, he performed on the CBS network show Star Search as a vocalist, ultimately winning 1st place and $100,000, and in 1994 he starred in the Broadway revival of Grease. Porter appeared in three plays in 1995: The Merchant of Venice, Songs for a New World, and Smokey Joe’s Cafe. He made his film debut in the 1996 movie Twisted and released his debut self-titled album Billy Porter in 1997 on A&M Records, and also provided character voices, as well as sang, in the ensemble of the animated film Anastasia.
He began working in television in 1998 on the NBC daytime soap opera Another World and has appeared in numerous other shows. He took a short hiatus to direct productions, and has performed in over twenty-two plays, both on and off Broadway, including Dreamgirls (2004). In 2005, he wrote and performed in Ghetto Superstar, his one-person autobiographical play, and released his second studio album entitled At the Corner of Broadway with Sh-K-Boom Records. He is most noted for his original role of Lola in Kinky Boots (2013-2015). In 2014, he released his third album Billy’s Back on Broadway with Concord Records, and his fourth album Bill Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers in 2017 under the label Sony Masterworks.
As an artist, Porter has become a public runway and walkway icon, having created 150 red carpet designs looks with stylist Sam Ratelle or designed by Porter himself. He has won numerous awards but most notably for his role in Kinky Boots, a Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical (2013), and a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album (2014). He also won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role in the FX network multi award winning LGBTQ+ show Pose. Porter met Adam Smith in 2009, and the two married on January 14, 2017.
In May 2021, Porter revealed he was diagnosed with HIV in June 2007. Porter then reveled he had been going through psychotherapy for twenty-five years, and stated he was “rising from his shame,” in September 2021, when he made history with his role of the Fabulous Godmother, in an Amazon Prime Video rendition of Cinderella. He released Billy Porter Unprotected, a Memoir in October, 2021.