Billy Porter is the first openly gay black man to receive an Emmy nomination in the outstanding lead actor in a drama series category

By Brittany Talarico
September 22, 2019 07:04 PM

And the category is — Emmys fashun!

Billy Porter told PEOPLE that his 2019 Emmys look would be “a fashion moment” — and the boundary breaking nominee did not disappoint.

Hot off landing a spot on PEOPLE’s 2019 Best Dressed list, the Pose star captivated the carpet once again in a sparkling crystal pinstripe suit by Michael Kors Collection — that he later told PEOPLE featured “51,000 Swarovski crystals” — and whiplash-inducing hat by Stephen Jones Millinery, plus “a Rick Owens platform situation” on his feet. Was he aiming for “fashion icon” status? “I’ve always loved fashion,” he said. “I didn’t know that fashion icon was in the lexicon. But if people are saying that about me, I’m fine with it.”

Porter, 49, continues to shatter ceilings as he pushes for inclusivity in the industry not only with his style, but with his work on screen. The star is the first openly gay black man to receive a nomination in the outstanding lead actor in a drama series category for his starring role as ball emcee Pray Tell in Ryan Murphy’s FX drama. And, he said on the Emmys red carpet, he’s fully celebrating this incredible moment. “All of my dreams are coming true right now,” he said. “I’m grateful that I’ve lived long enough to see the day where I can stand inside of my authenticity and have it be perceived this way. It’s gorgeous and it’s a blessing.”

He shared a similar statement with PEOPLE in July. “I feel really blessed to have lived long enough to see this day, to see the world transform in this way, where our story gets to be told on this level with this kind of juice behind it, Ryan Murphy behind it,” Porter told PEOPLE the same day Emmy nominations were announced. “It’s really life-altering.”

Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty

Pose — which also received a nomination for outstanding drama series — tells the story of the predominately LGBTQ ballroom community in New York City in the late ’80s and early ’90s, focusing on their fights for equality, against the ravaging HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Porter, who has worked on Broadway and in the industry for three decades, feels his first Emmy honor came at the right time.

“Everything happens when it’s supposed to happen,” he told PEOPLE. “We’re always right where we’re supposed to be, and I would never have been ready before now.”

When talking to PEOPLE about preparing his Emmys red carpet look, Porter — who set the Internet ablaze when he wore a black tuxedo Christian Siriano ball gown to the Oscars in February — said that he knew he had to wear something that would live up to his status as a style disruptor.

“I’ve created something where I have to show up, it has to be a moment,” he said.

Billy Porter gets red carpet ready with a Ketel One martini befored attending the 71st Emmy Awards.
| Credit: Santiago Felipe/Getty

He added that his fearlessness with fashion grew from wanting to start dialogue about shifting the perception of what men should be wearing on the carpet.

“As a man, I really want to make a different kind of statement and show up in a way that could also be transformative, that could also be political,” Porter recently told PEOPLE of his style. “My goal was to be a walking piece of political art. When I show up that’s what my goal is. Put a man in a dress and it’s controversial, doesn’t make any sense, but okay. Let’s keep having this conversation until we can change something.”

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He also credits working on Pose, for shifting his perspective on his own red carpet style. “I realized how gender fluid my impulses, my whole life has been. I didn’t really understand that until Pose happened,” he shared. “It kind of cracked my brain open and helped me get to a different space and understating about myself, the dilemmas I was putting on myself even just about what I can wear, what was acceptable, what was masculine enough, what was acceptable.”

The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards are airing live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles starting at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.