Billy Porter interview: “Everything I’ve done has led to this moment”

Cinderella’s new gender-free fairy godmother talks turning classics into stories for everyone.
WORDS BY ZOYA RAZA-SHEIKH PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMAZON STUDIOS
3rd September 2021

It’s hard to miss Billy Porter’s legacy. From his iconic 2019 win as the first openly gay Black man for Best Drama Actor in 2019 to his previous accolades as a Tony and Grammy winner, it’s no surprise he’s Hollywood royalty.

Now, in his latest role, the actor has swapped ballroom glamour for magical fairytales and decadent golden gowns in Cinderella. Porter seamlessly slipped into the role of fairy godmother, renamed Fab G, and revealed the casting was a “dream come true”. In the run-up to Amazon Studios’ reinvention of the classic tale, GAY TIMES sat down with the star to find out about his glamorous new role and more.

Whether you know Billy Porter from Pose, Kinky Boots or American Horror Story, we can promise you, the actor takes on a whole new look for Cinderella. Catching a glimpse of Porter decked out in an elegant dress, shimmering golden pants and crystal-studded collar, you would think he’s a few feet away from the Met Gala. But no, it’s a sign of Amazon Studios’ innovation when it comes to reworking classics. In stepping forward as the first openly queer character in Cinderella, Porter hopes to initiate overdue cultural change. “As an artist, all I ever wanted to do is make a difference, make an impact, change somebody’s life, save somebody’s life like mine was changed and saved through the arts,” Porter tells GAY TIMES over Zoom.

The significance of on-screen representation isn’t lost on the star. If anything, it’s something he outwardly shares; it’s his raison d’être. “That’s the whole point. It’s really, really important. Look at what I get to do. I never would have imagined, growing up in the 80s as a little Black queer boy, that I would grow up to be the fairy godmother. The fairy Godmother as I like to say,” he laughs, stressing the title. “Everything I’ve ever done, every choice I’ve ever made, has led to this moment that I’m having in my life right now. All of it.”


Billy Porter and Camila Cabello star in CINDERELLA Photo: Kerry Brown © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC

With Cinderella hitting the small screens this week, Porter has had time to think over the impact of the movie. An ambitious remake with a star-studded lineup, the film is bound to pick up traction. So, we ask the actor what he hopes audiences can take away from the audacious remake. “Hopefully, they’ll see themselves. They’ll see their own truth and know that they’re not alone and can dream the impossible and achieve it too,” he says, nodding.

“They can dream the impossible and impossible dreams come true for you, too. Not just blonde white women, honey, dreams come true for everybody.”

When it comes to fashion, a statement is an undersell. Designer Ellen Mirojnick seals the deal with delicate looks threaded throughout the movie. Aside from Cinderella’s big dress reveal, it’s hard for Porter’s gleaming look not to steal the show. We ask the star how much involvement he had in pulling together the genderless golden outfit. “I worked with Ellen Mirojnick on the clothes. We really worked really hard to find something that was magical and, simultaneously, gender-free,” Porter explains. “If you look at it closely, it’s masculine and feminine. There’s a lot going on. There’s regality. There’s a throwback to kings and queens of days old and those glittered pants. Those are pants! There’s a lot going on and I love it and, you know, I love a train.”

Dresses, suits, elegant balls may sound like something of a fairytale, but Porter has been known to attend a few celebrity-studded events and high-profile red carpets. Donning an unquestionably artistic ensemble or leading with a striking fashion moment, the 51-year-old knows how to dress with style. Fashion, inevitably, becomes an attachment of self-expression, so we ask the star how style and fashion can become tools of empowerment. “I am a first generation post-civil rights movement and we were taught that first impressions are the only impression,” he reflects.

“It’s the only chance you get, you know. I also grew up in the Black church, which is a consistent fashion show in and of itself. I’ve always been a person that has valued how I present myself. So, to see that on steroids is the life I’m living right now.” The importance of translating his experience and upbringing into the role of Fab G isn’t amiss on the actor either. “It’s really magical because it’s my expression. It’s how I express myself and one’s self-expression isn’t always with words,” he says. “Sometimes it’s visible and I get to do it visually. It says so much. It changes so much and it creates so many different lines of conversations that are needed, necessary and relevant and valid and earth moving.”

Looking ahead, Porter hopes that Cinderella will stand for more than a reinvention, but an opportunity for the industry to set tradition ablaze and move forward more diversity and inclusion. “My hope is that the success of this version will give other people the courage to challenge the status quo and reinvent these classics, very problematic classics, and reimagine them for a new day for new millennia for a new purpose.”

Cinderella is available to stream on Amazon Prime now.

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