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There Was but One Creative Gawd Who Smote All Others in 2019. Mr. Billy Porter Is Kuumba Personified

Billy Porter accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series award for ‘Pose’ onstage during the 71st Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sept. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Billy Porter accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series award for ‘Pose’ onstage during the 71st Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sept. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)

If there’s one thing black folk are, it’s creative. Whether through necessity or just burned into our melanin-ness, we make sumptuous meals from scraps, our bodies defy gravity when we dance; and we have reimagined fashion, hair, sport, ways of looking at the world, and even naming our children in our burnished image (even if we rarely get the credit or coinage for our contributions). We are unique (shout-outs to all my Uniquas out there), distinct, and givers of trends.

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And this year, as we celebrate Kuumba (kooh-oom-bah), or creativity, on this sixth day of Kwanzaa, one person stood up, showed up and showed out on stages and red carpets through all of 2019. The person who exemplifies Kuumba—to do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it—is none other than THEE Billy Porter, whose fashion, fierceness and flair equal creativity in the flesh. In 2018, that accolade went to Netflix’s Jasmyn Lawson; in 2017, it was comedian Robin Thede.

Billy Porter is obviously an artist—and a multi-hyphenate talent, at that. I mean, he came into my orbit way back in 2005 as that “Black Broadway Bitch from the ghetto” (Pittsburgh, FYI), and for years he slayed the Great White Way, finally winning his first Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical (Kinky Boots) in 2013. Porter then won a Grammy for that soundtrack the next year; and, not to be outdone, won the 2019 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, the first openly black gay man to do so, as the indomitable Pray Tell on FX’s ever-giving delight Pose. For those keeping score, that means Porter just needs an Oscar for the coveted EGOT designation—and really, I can see that happening any day now.

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And yet, all those creative juices really began to sizzle with Porter’s fashion moments in 2019, as he collected his roses during last year’s awards season. At the 2019 Golden Globes, Porter continued his red carpet slayage in an embroidered suit and pink cape; next up was the fitted velvet tuxedo jacket and a gown topped with six-inch boots at the Oscars. Then, at the 2019 Met Gala (theme: Camp: Notes on Fashion), Porter could not be outdone, being carried in by six shirtless men while sporting a “Sun God” ensemble. Ra? More like Rawr!

Porter’s bold takes on fashion and eschewing the gender binary are not only revolutionary but damn, it sure looks like Porter is having so much fun doing it, chile! And as creativity is but a joyful expression of one’s inner Gawd, we bow down, Sir.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.

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