It was officially Billy Porter Day in Hollywood on December 1 on Thursday, but it is always Billy Porter Day in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
Porter, the Emmy-, Tony- and Grammy-winning favorite son of Pittsburgh, was honored on Thursday with the 2,741st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The ceremony was streamed live, at 2:30 p.m. EST, and just in case you are making a pilgrimage, his name is permanently emblazoned in front of what is currently a Shake Shack, at 6201 Hollywood Boulevard, near the Pantages Theatre.
“James Baldwin said, ‘It’s an artist’s job to disturb the peace,’ and I take my job very seriously,” Porter said after moving introductions by his longtime manager, Bill Butler, and his sister and best friend, MaryMartha Ford.
Speaking on World AIDS Day, Porter’s sister remembered loved ones lost, and her brother noted proudly, speaking of himself, that he is what being HIV positive looks like today. Among his inspiring messages, expressed in many ways during the ceremony: “We are all enough just as we are.”
Porter dedicated the moment to his mother, Cloerinda Johnson Porter Ford, watching from the Actors Fund Nursing Home in New Jersey. (See his full speech below.)
Porter was honored in the category of Live Performance/Live Theatre, although he has certainly been among the busiest actor/directors in Hollywood in recent years. You can see him on the big screen soon, in the movie 80 for Brady, with a cast including Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Lily Tomlin and Rita Moreno.
For those eagerly anticipating what fashion statement they would see from Porter – a world-class fashionista as well as a recording artist, director, composer, writer, producer and playwright – he was dressed head to toe in billowing white with shoulders looking for all the world like angel wings.
Among the roles that brought Porter to this moment was his powerful portrayal Pray Tell in the FX’s breakthrough series Pose, which earned him the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series – the first Black and openly gay actor to win the award.
His first Tony and Grammy came as the lead actor in Broadway’s Kinky Boots, and Porter won a second Tony in 2022 as a producer of best musical A Strange Loop.
Among his many onscreen roles, Porter has starred in Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Apocalypse and narrated HBO Max’s four-part docu-series Equal, along with his role as Fab G, the fairy godmother character in Cinderella. His feature directorial debut – the Pittsburgh-filmed Anything’s Possible — was released in July on Amazon Prime Video.
Upcoming projects include starring in the upcoming custody drama Our Son, with Luke Evans, and directing the queer teen comedy To Be Real, as well as an episode of Fox’s anthology series Accused. If you want to celebrate the New Year with Porter, he also will return as host from New Orleans for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
As a recording artist, Porter most recently released his single Stranger Things under his new record deal with Island Records (UK) and Republic Records (US). His autobiography Unprotected reached bookshelves in December of last year … And so much more.
BILLY PORTER’S HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME SPEECH
The following is a partial transcript of Billy Porter’s speech at the Hollywood Walk of Fame event. Watch the full ceremony at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaaIksjtR3g&t=6s.
What a very, very special moment. … I’m just so blessed and so grateful to be here. James Baldwin said, ‘It’s an artist’s job to disturb the peace.’ And as y’all know, I take my job very seriously.
I’m not gonna get too much into politics today, ‘cause y’all know I can start screaming. You know, it’s all joy. But, you know, I heard a lot of things in my life. ‘You’re too Black, you’re too gay, too loud, too extra, too flamboyant. Homosexuality is an abomination. You are an abomination. You will never be blessed.”
Well, we know that’s a lie. That theory no longer has any credibility, bitches.
‘Try to be quieter, try fitting in, butch it up, dim your light, stop making everybody feel so uncomfortable around you.’ I tried to do all of those things. I really tried hard, but thank God I couldn’t. My dreams were too big to be contained. My dreams have always been big, huge even. But to be honest, ironically, all of my dreams were based on something I had already seen, something that had already been done. I tried to fit in. I tried to keep my dreams manageable. I didn’t know how to dream the impossible. I didn’t even know that I was allowed to do that.
When I was introduced to theater, my life was forever changed. I found a place where I felt seen – sometimes -ish. 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. What a gift it is to be an artist, to be chosen … particularly in complicated times like these. Tony Morrison said, ‘This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There’s no time for despair, no place for self pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.’
We artists are healers. I know this much is true.
As I was trying to come up with the words to say for such an auspicious occasion, the theme I kept coming back to is gratitude. I’m grateful for the early childhood traumas that could have and quite 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. I’m grateful for the universe for guiding me through an unrelenting passion, rooted in a calling, a purpose. And dare I say, a ministry far beyond anything, any trauma could even begin to try and suffocate. I’m grateful for my allies. I’m far more grateful for my haters. I’m grateful for my successes, and I’m far more grateful for my perceived failures
And 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. And as Tony Kushner says, in my most favorite and arguably the greatest play of the 20th century, Angels in America, ‘We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. We are citizens. The time has come, more life. The great work begins.’
I am grateful for my chosen family of angels, many of whom are here with me today, who have been encamped around me for the entirety of my life. Lifting me up, holding me close, cheering me on, my ride or dies. I’m grateful to have lived long enough to see the day where my queerness is no longer my liability, but now is my greatest superpower. I’m grateful for the healing power of love. I’m grateful that the universe has imbued me with the courage to dare to be audacious enough, to stand firmly in my own humanity no matter how under attack it is now, and has always been, and love myself enough to teach the whole wide world what un unconditional love looks like.
I dedicate this moment to my mother, Cloerinda Jean Johnson Ford, who is watching from the Actors Fund Nursing Home. It guts me that mom can’t be here with us in person. She no longer has mobility and she must be looked after 24 hours a day. I’m grateful for the people at the Actors Fund Nursing Home who take care of this woman every day. Mom, you are the personification of what true Christianity means. Your willingness to embrace that which you don’t understand with unconditional love is a template that the world would benefit from employing. I know you’re watching. I love you more than words can say. And lastly, I also dedicate this moment to all those who are struggling. It’s been a rough couple of years for us all. None of us are all right. And that is all right. Together we will heal. And I want to remind you all that this shit ain’t new. We’re living in a circle of life moment that feels surreal. Twilight Zone realness for your nerves, children.
Honey, the pain is real. The hate is real. The fear is real. Y’all just breathe. It’s all good. And when we love collectively and in unison, we win.
It may take longer than we wish it would, but love always wins. I want to leave you with a poem. You know, I moved out here in 2000. I did live out here for three years, calling it my Valley period. And I was connected to a book called The Artist’s Way. I was also introduced to Marianne Williamson. And I love quotes. They keep me going in dark times in my life, complicated times, challenging times. To choose the joy is sometimes a hard thing to do. I’m a going to fake it until you make it kind of person. That’s how I got here.
This is a quote by Marianne Williamson. It’s now been elevated to a poem … called Our Deepest Fear:
I hope that these words will inspire everyone under the sound of my voice to understand and know that you are enough. We are all enough just as we are. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous … Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And it’s not just in some of us. It’s in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. “
Thank you so much for this honor. I am humbled. I am thrilled. God bless you all.
Categories: Feature Stories