Billy Porter caused quite the stir when he rocked up to the Oscars red carpet in a tuxedo ball gown, receiving praise and outrage in equal measure.
While many applauded Porter’s custom tuxedo (designed by Christian Siriano), others described it as a threat to black masculinity. The Tony-winning actor knew his look would spark a conversation and he was prepared to take on that responsibility.
“I was ready to create the conversation,” Porter told the Associated Press on Monday. “We have to teach people how to treat us, we have to teach people how to love us, we have to teach people how to respect us, and the only way we do that is to respect ourselves.”
The “Pose” star said that he understands where black masculinity comes from and how toxic it can be, and he, along with his stylist Sam Ratelle, want to help break down those gender-driven barriers.
“It goes all the way back to the earliest of emasculations, which is slavery, so the only way to sort of overcome that is to be the strongest and the most masculine and the most powerful and now, what has become toxic,” he explained.
“And I don’t think it’s just black people. I think it’s men in general. Every ethnicity has their version of it.”
As for the negative comments, Porter doesn’t care. “What people think about what I’m doing is not my business. I lived that already. I’m inside of my authenticity and the whole point is that you have to respect me as much as I respect you.
“If you don’t like it, go somewhere else. You don’t have to look. It’s not about you. I don’t understand why my putting on a dress causes this much strife in your life.”
Now that people are listening, Porter is hoping he can continue to push the conversation along.
“I hope it opens up a dialogue of healing. I will always continue to do me. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the 49 years that I’ve lived on this planet, is that being authentic is the only version of the story that anybody should be.”