Actor-singer-author Billy Porter is in high demand these days. He’s on red carpets for the biggest award shows and galas; he’s on hit TV shows; he’s got a new record coming out, and a new book.
It hasn’t always been that way, however. Porter said that for decades he had to hide his real self in order to work in the business, as he tells correspondent Seth Doane in an interview for “CBS Sunday Morning,” to be broadcast October 10 on CBS and streamed on Paramount+.
“The calls I’m getting now is for me to be Billy, the ‘Billy’ that was rejected for decades,” he said. “They want me to show up in my dresses, they want me to show up in my gowns, they want me to show up in my wings.
“Yes, it surprises me. I spent the first 20 years of my career trying to be masculine enough so I could eat.”
Porter, an Emmy, Tony and Grammy award-winner, talks with Doane about his childhood and how he knew he was gay at a young age, and about the challenges he faced at home and in his career.
“I was born queer. I was born gay,” said Porter. “And I was effeminate, you know, as a little one I was effeminate. You could tell.”
He said he was beaten up regularly at school, until he landed a part in a fifth-grade talent show, where he sang.
And he’s never stopped.
Porter will release a single on October 15. His memoir, “Unprotected,” hits stores later this month. And he earned an Emmy in 2019 for his work on the TV series “Pose,” in which he played a flamboyant emcee who rules 1980s New York City’s trans and queer nightlife.
“I’ve prepared a long time for this moment, and I’m so ready,” Porter said. “I’m 52 and I’m grounded in ways that allow for me to be able to enjoy this … to be able to be present and understand the magnitude of what is happening, the platform that I have, and how to use it.”
Porter also opens up about his own struggle with being molested as a child by his stepfather, and how the arts provided a safe haven for him. He also talks about the shame he felt when being diagnosed as HIV-positive, something he didn’t reveal publicly for 14 years. “It was devastating. It really almost took me out, it really did,” he said of being diagnosed in 2007. “I’m of a certain age, I was supposed to know better. ‘How did this happen?'”
The Emmy Award-winning “Sunday Morning” is broadcast on CBS Sundays beginning at 9 a.m. ET. “Sunday Morning” also streams on CBSN [beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET] and Paramount+, and is available on cbs.com and cbsnews.com.
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