Listening Tour Preview: ‘Just being myself is radical’: Billy Porter talks authenticity, humanity

June 6, 2022

Actor, singer and author Billy Porter sat down with Soledad O’Brien to discuss his unconventional path and how becoming his authentic self seemed like a “very radical thing to do.”

This conversation is part of the fourth and final leg of the Matter of Fact Listening Tour “Trailblazers, Troublemakers & Dreams,” which will explore difficult issues surrounding race and equity through discussions with a diverse collection of accomplished individuals representing a panoply of fields.

“I want to be an entertainment mogul/guru/visionary that moves the conversation of humanity forward,” Porter said.

Porter said he wants to do that on a large scale.

Porter, the star of Pose and Tony Award winner for Kinky Boots, has had a very unconventional path.

“There has always been this sense of urgency just in terms of why I’m here, why I’m here on the planet, the importance of my art, all of those things have always been in place,” Porter said.

Simultaneously, Porter said there was a huge hurdle for him to get over, which he said was his queerness.

“I was told from the moment I could comprehend thought that something was wrong with me, I needed to be fixed, it was from every space that I vibrated,” Porter said.

Porter said those spaces included his home life, school life, church life and performing arts life.

“It’s like there’s no space for you, there’s no room for you, you have to do it like this or your queerness will be your liability,” Porter said.

Porter said because of that, he spent the first 20 years of his career being “masculine enough so that he could eat.”

“And then, I just decided in my 30s, I was like, this is toxic and no matter how well I do it, everybody already knows, so I don’t have a shot. So I should probably just lean into myself and let the chips fall where they may,” Porter said.

While laughing, O’Brien pointed out how Porter just being himself was a very radical thing to do.

“Yes. As a Black, queer man in this world today and for the entirety of my life, it is radical, just being myself is radical,” Porter said.

“Trailblazers, Troublemakers & Dreams” will stream live Wednesday, June 8, at 7 p.m. EST.

Wednesday’s digital-first presentation will be streamed live on the Very Local phone & TV app, and other Hearst consumer-media digital platforms.

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Trailblazers, Troublemakers and Dreams