William Ellis Porter II (born September 21, 1969) is an American actor, singer, and writer. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, and achieved fame performing on Broadway before starting a solo career as a singer and actor.
Porter won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots. He credits the part for “cracking open” his feminine side to confront toxic masculinity. For the role, Porter also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical. In 2014 Porter won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for Kinky Boots. Porter starred in all three seasons of the television series Pose, for which he was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and won the 2019 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, becoming the first gay black man to be nominated and win in any lead acting category at the Primetime Emmys. In 2020, he was included on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2022, he won another Tony Award, for Best Musical as a producer for the musical A Strange Loop.
orter released Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers in April 2017. The album, which features new, soulful takes on classic Richard Rodgers songs, includes solos and duets from the following artists (in addition to Porter himself): Tony and Grammy Award winners Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), Tony Award-winner Patina Miller (Pippin), Grammy Award winners Pentatonix, India Arie and Ledisi, Tony Award nominees Brandon Victor Dixon (Shuffle Along), Joshua Henry (Violet), and Christopher Jackson (Hamilton), alongside YouTube and Kinky Boots star Todrick Hall and multiple Grammy Award nominee Deborah Cox.Porter is openly gay, having come out at the age of 16, “in the middle of the AIDS crisis”. He married his husband, Adam Smith, on January 14, 2017, after meeting him in 2009. He was very keen to get married “while Obama was still president and before January 20th, 2017” so the two got engaged on December 29, 2016, and married 2 weeks later.
Porter shared his views on race in the US in a 2020 interview with Vanity Fair, saying, “The reason why our country is in the mess we’re in is simply because of whiteness. White supremacy. White people choke-holding power and sucking the life out of humanity”.
In May 2021, Porter told The Hollywood Reporter that he had been diagnosed with HIV in June 2007; he was also diagnosed with type-2 diabetes in February 2007 and filed for bankruptcy in March 2007. In the same interview, he talked about renting a house on Long Island during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a pre-existing health condition and about having intermittently attended psychotherapy since the age of 25.