Billy Porter Says Husband Adam Smith 'Was the One That Got Away' Before They Rekindled Their Romance and Got Married

Inside the Kinky Boots star and his new husband's love story

Photo: Bruce Glikas/STQproductions

Broadway star Billy Porter and his longtime partner Adam Smith said “I do” this weekend — and while they were only engaged for 16 days, their big day was nearly eight years in the making!

The performer and his husband first met at a dinner with mutual friends in February of 2009, shortly after Smith moved to New York City from Los Angeles.

“I sat next to Billy,” says Smith, 35, co-owner of the eyewear company Native Ken. “I found out later that wasn’t by accident!”

Indeed, Porter spotted his future husband en route to the restaurant in N.Y.C.’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood and clandestinely made his move.

“I was cruisin’ him as he walked up the street, and he stopped, and he was with us!” the actor-musician, 47, recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh, well, I’ll be sittin’ next to this handsome specimen tonight!'”

And that chance encounter was the beginning of a tight-knit bond they’ve shared ever since.

Steve Mack/FilmMagic
Steve Mack/FilmMagic

“We kind of were enamored with each other from the beginning,” says Smith. And with that, the pair began dating for a year—before they split.

“We were both sorting things out,” Porter recalls. “The first time we were dating, we were just, like, ‘hanging out,’ and all of a sudden, we realized, ‘Oh, it’s been seven months; that’s more than just hanging out!’ But because we weren’t conscious of it, it kind of imploded.”

While the pair split in 2010, they remained close friends over the years, and their connection was always present.

“I remember saying to my therapist, ‘Now I know what love looks like, and it just walked out the door,'” says Porter. “I didn’t know what it looked like before, and it was after that that I realized: ‘Oh, s—, that’s the one that got away! But now that I know what it looks like, the next time it shows up, I will be ready.’ I didn’t realize it was gonna show up as the same person — but I’m grateful that it did!”

Porter and Smith were always in each others’ lives, and Smith — who called off their relationship — even says, “We almost acted like we were boyfriends at times.” But the husbands-to-be didn’t rekindle their romance until two years ago.

“It had been marinating within me, my love for him and figuring it out and coming to terms with it, over the years,” Smith says. “So I knew that it was on me if I wanted to ever change anything, I would have to be the first one to approach the subject; so I was trying to figure out the right time to do it.”

As it turns out, the perfect timing came in 2015 on Smith’s birthday, after enjoying brunch and seeing Hamilton at the Public Theatre, where “Billy reached over and held my hand, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna tell him today,'” Smith says.

Bruce Glikas/STQproductions
Bruce Glikas/STQproductions

So after the show, on their drive to dinner, “I felt it, and the tears came, and I pulled over, and he said, ‘I love you, and I’ve always loved you, and if there’s any chance, I would like another shot — I would like us to have another shot at this,'” Porter remembers. “He was the one that got away — so it wasn’t hard. The yes came easy and immediately!”

The decision to propose seemingly came just as easy. But deciding on how Porter would pop the question took a little more time.

“I had been planning it since late-September, early-October, just trying to figure out how to do it,” the star, who won a Tony Award for originating the character of Lola in Kinky Boots, says. “I understand that I am not the most romantic person, and that has been illuminated in terms of our relationship and how we’ve been trying to be present for each other, and conscious. So when I started thinking about this, I was beginning to ask friends who were in relationships, like, ‘How should I do it? Should I do it here, should I do it there?’ And they were like, ‘You need to create a story to tell; Adam is going to want a story to tell!'”

Well, the happy couple got their fairytale engagement story on Dec. 29, during a double date with friends while on vacation in the U.K.

“I secretly set it up with in London, and we went to a restaurant that was on the 42nd floor overlooking the skyline,” Porter says. “The plan was we’d eat dinner, I would go to the bathroom, I would come back and propose, and then dessert would come. Dessert ended up coming too quickly, but I had planted the seed with [our friends] earlier in the evening, when I asked them to tell their story about how they met; they did, for me to be able to then tell our story and, at the end of it, I said, ‘And with that…’ and I pulled out the Cartier ring!”

Bruce Glikas/STQproductions
Bruce Glikas/STQproductions

Shortly after the proposal, Porter and Smith decided they wanted to wed before President-elect Donald Trump‘s engagement, under President Barack Obama‘s administration, which has championed LGBT rights and marriage equality.

“We felt like, with everything that we’re gonna have to fight for coming up, the unknown that we’re going into, we want to be married doing that,” says Porter, who exchanged vows with Smith — who planned the wedding — two weeks later in front of 45 guests at a close friend’s Manhattan penthouse. “We want to be doing that side-by-side, in every single way.”

As the newlyweds will face some unknowns, there’s at least one thing they’re not expecting as they look forward to the rest of their life together.

“I have nine nieces and nephews,” says Smith.

“And my sister’s trying to have a child,” Porter adds.

“We love children! But I think we’re gonna be guncles,” says Smith.

Even so, “We’re talking about possibly getting a dog!” says Porter.

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