Billy Porter Disrupts the Oscar Social Media

Written by on February 24, 2019

As we began to settle in to watch the Oscar Hoopla, one of the first pics we saw from the red carpet was Billy Porter. He strolled onto his Oscar moment in a number that was a combination of a Victorian gown and a tuxedo. Social Media went crazy. We almost missed the other grand entrances because we were so consumed with Billy’s outfit. We decided to post this as several cultural observations were birthed because of brother. Let’s examine them here:

a. Who is Billy Porter? – this was a prominent question. According to Wikipedia he played the Teen Angel in the 1994 Broadway revival of Grease!. Other shows he has been in include Topdog/Underdog at City Theatre (2004), Jesus Christ Superstar and Dreamgirls at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (2004) and the song cycles “Myths and Hymns” and “Songs for a New World” (Off-Broadway, 1995). Porter wrote and performed in his one-man autobiographical show, Ghetto Superstar (The Man That I Am) at Joe’s Pub in New York City in February and March 2005. Porter was nominated for “Outstanding New York Theater: Broadway & Off Broadway Award” at the 17th GLAAD Media Awards. In September 2010, Porter appeared as Belize in Signature Theatre Company‘s 20th Anniversary production of Tony Kushner‘s Angels in America.

Porter originated the role of “Lola” in Kinky Boots on Broadway in 2013, with songs by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein and directed/choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. Porter won both the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for this role.

Porter has also appeared in a number of films. He played a major role as Shiniqua, a drag queen who befriends Angel (David Norona) and Lee (Keivyn McNeill Graves) in Seth Michael Donsky‘s Twisted (1997), an adaptation of Oliver Twist.[ He has also appeared on an episode of The RuPaul Show.

He has had a musical career with three solo albums released, Billy Porter on DV8/A&M Records in 1997, At the Corner of Broadway + Soul in 2005 on Sh-K-Boom Records and Billy’s Back on Broadway (Concord Music Group) in 2014. He featured in a number of songs in the tribute album It’s Only Life: The Songs of John Bucchino in 2006 released on PS Classics. He sings on Adam Guettel’s 1999 album Myths and Hymns studio cast album on Nonesuch Records.  He also covered “Only One Road” that was included on the Human Rights Campaign compilation album Love Rocks.

Porter wrote the play While I Yet Live, which premiered Off-Broadway at Primary Stages on September 24, 2014 in previews, officially on October 12. In addition to Porter, the cast included Lillias White and S. Epatha Merkerson.

Billy Porter released Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers in April, 2017. The album, which features new, soulful takes on classic Richard Rodgers songs, includes solos and duets from the following artists (in addition to Porter himself): Tony and Grammy Award winners Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), Tony Award-winner Patina Miller (Pippin), Grammy Award winners Pentatonix and India Arie, Tony Award nominees Brandon Victor Dixon (Shuffle Along), Joshua Henry (Violet), and Christopher Jackson (Hamilton), alongside YouTube sensation and Kinky Boots star Todrick Hall and multiple Grammy Award nominees Deborah Cox and Ledisi.

Porter reprised the role of Lola in Kinky Boots on September 26, 2017, on Broadway, where he did a 15-week run.

In 2018, Porter starred in the FX show, Pose in the role of Pray Tell. Pose has been picked up for a second season to be aired in 2019. In August 2018, Porter confirmed via Instagram that he was joining the cast of American Horror Story for its eighth season, subtitled Apocalypse.[22][23] Porter duetted with Pose co-star Dyllón Burnside and sang from his album in a benefit concert emceed by Burnside on July 23, 2018, to celebrate the season 1 finale and raising money for GLSEN.

Yeah. Bruh got cred. And he made a HUGE statement that caused a firestorm on social media.

B. The effeminization of black men – And so the social media commentary ranged from people – mostly women – applauding his choice of wardrobe. And then there were those who identified this as yet another example of society feminizing the essence of the black man. However, many did not understand that stance, immediately calling those out who stated such as homophobic and insecure.

Wait. In this era, certainly those in the gay community have demanded social acceptance. They have been courageous and unrelenting in achieving that acceptance. Certainly, it has taken education and dialogue for those who are not gay to deeply think about the hurt and perceptions of hate they were emitting. Its a good thing for folks thought and perceptions of social folkways to evolve. But with that comes education. Now, if one who is unenlightened about the folkways of gay society and asks questions about what they see and hear, that is now perceived to be homophobic. Hateful. Prejudiced. And so those who are not gay go into their shell unenlightened because the questions never got answered. Hurt because the gay community jumped down their throat with accusations of hate and phobia. When all they wanted was to have an understanding. Or as close as they could get to an understanding. If we look at this man in a gown, and then ask questions, then we are wrong. But some, nay, a lot of folk have questions!

c. To ask is to err – yes, in this era, the struggle continues. Except that now it is wrong to be a man. Masculinity is a toxic sin. This perspective is exacerbated when we see a man in a dress. So often in our history the man has been ripped from the traditional view as a leader of a community. Of the family. More and more, the more feminine, the more accepted. Down with patriarchy they say. The mans man is ripped from the social fabric of African American culture. Ok. Great. You have asked the man to change his thinking. To change who he is. To evolve to a more androgynous being. And as he does, he has questions. Not only does he have questions, the entire community has questions – men and women. Mothers, Fathers, Sisters and Brothers. But to ask questions is to be hateful…. phobic…. hmmm….

This image says a lot in these days and time. And requires deep contemplation from the beloved community. We have questions. What is the message here? How do we teach adn explain this to the young men in our villages? What do we say? Yes, he is free to dress however he wants. But…..

Are we ready for it?

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