Billy Porter Makes History With Groundbreaking Emmy Win for ‘Pose’

Jerry Portwood

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Billy Porter won his first Emmy Award, for playing Pray Tell, the ball MC and a male lead in FX’s musical drama Pose. The landmark win makes him the first openly gay black man to win in the Emmys’ Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category.

Dressed in a sequined, striped suit and wearing a flamboyant black hat, Porter took the stage to begin a moving speech. “I gotta read! The category is ‘love,’ y’all. Love! … I am so overwhelmed to have lived long enough to see this day. James Baldwin said, ‘It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the Earth as though I had a right to be here.’ I have the right! You have the right! We all have the right!”

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He continued by thanking “all the other exquisitely talented men in my category,” followed by his mother Cloerinda — “there is no stronger woman who has graced this earth” — his sister, and his husband, Adam Porter-Smith.

After also thanking FX, his PR team, and the rest of the Pose cast, Porter shouted out the person who got the show — which has the largest LGBTQ recurring cast in TV history — to the screen: “Ryan Murphy. Ryan Murphy. Ryan Murphy. You saw me; you believed in us. Thank you.”

He ended his exuberant speech by reminding the audience and actors: “We are the people that get to change the molecular structure of the hearts and minds of the people on this planet. Don’t ever forget that.”

When Porter spoke to Rolling Stone earlier this summer about the role, he explained of his long road to success and self-acceptance: “I did everything that everybody wanted me to do at the beginning of my career, and it didn’t work. I failed as somebody else. The thing that has worked for me in this moment is the thing that I always knew I should have been doing in the first place.”

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