Billy Porter receives star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

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By Anita Bennett

Contributing Writer

HOLLYWOOD — “You’re too gay, too loud, too extra, too flamboyant.”

Billy Porter said he was told all of those things growing up, yet it made him even more determined to reach for the stars.

On Dec. 1, the Emmy-, Grammy- and Tony-Award-winning actor was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

It was the latest accolade for the kid from Pittsburgh, who was beaten by bullies and ridiculed for being Black and queer.

Porter said he found a way to turn the negativity into something positive.

“It helped me. I’m here as a result of it,” the actor told a reporter after his star ceremony. “I’m really happy about the haters because they made me go deeper as an artist and as a human being, and I’ve landed in a great place.”

That place is a newly installed star located at 6201 Hollywood Blvd., near the Pantages Theatre.

Porter, 53, got his big break on Broadway, winning a Tony Award in 2013 for his role as the cabaret performer and drag queen Lola in “Kinky Boots.”

After making the move to television and film, he had a starring role in Amazon Prime’s 2021 “Cinderella” remake and he directed the 2022 coming-of-age film “Anything’s Possible,” about a transgender high school student. But to television viewers, he is best known for his Emmy-winning turn as “Pray Tell” — the fierce patriarch on the FX series “Pose.”

Off-screen, the actor and singer frequently makes headlines for his fierce fashion sense. He wore a floor length white gown, with matching platform boots to his star ceremony and struck a series of poses for the cameras.

Porter’s younger sister, Mary Martha Ford, spoke during the ceremony and said her brother was always “special.”

“What’s happening for you, it’s like witnessing a miracle,” Ford said. “Little Black, gay kids from Pittsburgh and beyond are so far away from any influences that they can behold, until now. You affirm them. You are to them what you needed someone to be for you.”

Porter has been open about past trauma in his life, and the years of sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his stepfather. On this day, he said it was not about holding grudges, but rather about expressing gratitude.

“I’m grateful for the early childhood traumas that could have, and frankly, would have destroyed me had it not been for the hand of God, blessing me with a gift of my art that grounded me and helped me hold my spirit and my mind together,” Porter told the audience as he fought back tears. “I’m grateful for my allies. I’m far more grateful for my haters.”

The actor came out at age 16 in the middle of the AIDS crisis.

He would later graduate from drama school, but said he didn’t feel fully seen until he began performing in professional theater productions.

“When I was introduced to theater, my life was forever changed,” he said at the podium. “I found my tribe. I found a place where I could breathe, and I held my head up and committed myself to the work of being a real-life artist.”

He was joined at the star ceremony by his husband, Adam Smith; his talent manager; Broadway veteran Tracie Thoms; and other friends from the television, film and theater worlds.

Porter noted that his star ceremony was held on World AIDS Day.

“In honor of this World AIDS Day, I’m grateful to stand in front of the world as an out, loud and proud representation of what being Black, queer and HIV positive looks like in 2022,” he said.

As he ended his comments, a passer-by yelled, “We love you Billy!”

Porter said the feeling was mutual.

“It’s just love,” he said after the ceremony. “It’s light. It’s love. It’s fellowship and it’s healing.”

 

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