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Billy Porter Dispels Rumors of RuPaul Rift Backstage at Emmys

Cynthia Littleton

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Billy Porter choked up backstage on Sunday at the Emmy Awards as he spoke about the larger cultural significance of his lead drama actor Emmy win for the FX drama “Pose.”

Porter leads the large ensemble on the series set in 1980s New York City during the height of the AIDS crisis and the birth of the ballroom community that involved drag competitions for gay and trans people.

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Porter said the mere fact that FX carries the show and that it received enough attention to command Emmy nominations is a testament to how much social attitudes have changed in the past few decades. The acceptance and inclusion of LGBT characters in mainstream TV has only helped.

“Visibility and representation are the only things that create change. It’s when we are visible that we have the power to create empathy through the way we tell stories. Being black and gay and out and being in this position and speaking from where I get to speak from is the change,” Porter said. His voice broke as he added: “I hope that young queer people of all colors can look at me and know that they can.”

Porter was asked backstage about his reaction earlier in the night when “RuPaul’s Drag Race” won the kudo for reality competition series. Some thought he was throwing a bit of “side eye” at RuPaul, who also celebrates the drag and LGBT community on his VH1 series. Porter was emphatic that there was no animosity between the two.

“RuPaul is a friend of mine. I am so proud of him. I stand on his shoulders. He is doing it. He paved the way for me. There’s never a side eye about that,” he said. “There’s never a side-eye coming from me. There’s never anything negative coming from me. It’s all love, it’s all light, it’s all positivity. Don’t come to me with that mess. Ever, ever, ever.”

Porter said the Emmy hardware was another form of validation, which is meaningful given that he grew up hearing that he would never amount to anything.

“I’m so grateful that I lived long enough to see the day I could stand up in front of the world as my true authentic self,” he said. “I was told that who and what I am would never be successful — period. That’s what I was told. I did not believe them.”

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