Billy Porter has been the talk of the town since he originated the role of ‘Lola’ in ‘Kinky Boots’ on Broadway. He’s become a fashion icon, but was he adopted?
There is no evidence to suggest that Billy Porter was adopted. Billy Porter was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cloerinda Porter-Ford and William E. Porter, but was raised by his birth mother and stepfather. Billy Porter ran away from home at 15 to escape an abusive situation.
Read on to learn more about Billy Porter’s life growing up, his broadway career, and biggest fashion moments.
Billy Porter was born in Pittsburgh on September 21, 1969. His biological father wasn’t a presence in his upbringing, having beaten his mother, and left when Porter was just one and a half years old.
Porter told Out Magazine that his mother is handicapped as a result of medical malpractice, and this gave her a dependence on his stepfather whilst Porter was growing up.
Growing up in an extremely religious household was difficult for Porter, who knew he was gay from a young age. He said in an interview with Metrosource, “my childhood was the typical ‘you’re going to Hell’ story”, adding that he tried to suppress his sexuality but was unsuccessful.
He was sent to psychologists, who advised that Porter needed a masculine influence, but found another home in arts, where he was embraced.
He attended Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School and is grateful for the people he met through theatre for helping him “to get out of the toxic environment that I was embedded in”.
Though not adopted, Billy Porter was raised by his stepfather, who sexually abused him in his youth. Billy has spoken openly about his experiences, calling his youth “so full of trauma”, but he regained control over his life by leaving home at 15 to work at a theme park as an entertainer.
Billy gravitated towards theatre as an escape from a home where he felt unsafe and unaccepted and felt empowered by the strength and independence he gained from leaving home.
He graduated from college with a drama degree, an experience he believes to be crucial in providing him with access as a gay black man, and promptly began his pursuit of theatre stardom.
Having already gained prolific success as a performer, Porter was catapulted into the limelight when he originated the role of ‘Lola’ in ‘Kinky Boots’. Though in previous productions of the musical Lola was characterised as straight, Porter felt a responsibility to be authentic and made his Lola gay.
He told Esquire, “to be starring in a Broadway show as a drag queen and say that that character is straight would be irresponsible of me”. His performance won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
In his acceptance speech, he thanked his mother for her “willingness to embrace that which you don’t understand with unconditional love”.
Breaking Onto the Small Screen
Billy Porter created the role of ‘Pray Tell’ in the television drama ‘Pose’. Though familiar with success, Porter had never had such a big role on screen and the role thrust him firmly into the mainstream as a global celebrity.
Watch Billy Porter give a stirring karaoke rendition of ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ at the 2019 Tony Awards, at the request of James Cordon, in the YouTube video below.
Some of Porter’s most memorable moments have taken place on the red carpet. At the 2019 Met Gala he made his entrance in head to toe gold, covered in jewels, and carried by six shirtless men.
He’s made headlines with his statement looks, and that’s his intention. Porter has made a commitment to challenging expectations and gender norms whenever he enters a space.