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Billy Porter Discusses Self-Expression as the First Openly Gay Man to Cover ‘Essence’

Billy Porter Is the First Openly Gay Man to Cover 'Essence'

Just when we thought we couldn’t love him anymore, Billy Porter becomes the first openly gay man to cover Essence.

The Pose star is featured on the front of the magazine’s July/August 2020 issue looking radiant in an Aliétte dress and Christian Siriano hat while discussing the current political climate and his coming-of-age struggle as a young gay black man from Pittsburgh.

Related: From Fashion to Beauty, These Are Billy Porter’s Best Red Carpet Moments

“My masculinity was in question from the moment I could comprehend thought. I was never masculine enough by society’s standards to walk the earth,” he explained. However, eventually he learned to embrace who he was.

“But by taking myself out of the masculinity game, that literally turned my life around, and all of those layers were building blocks to the authentic human being you see in front of you who gives zero f–ks.”

Related: 20 Beauty and Fashion Products to Shop and Support LGBTQ Organizations

It’s this attitude and self-expression that has made the 50-year-old a household name. From standout red carpet looks like his 2019 Met Gala winged camp number to his vocal social media presence, Porter continues to show off the most authentic version of himself.

This same type of bravado is showcased throughout the actor’s entire Essence spread, wearing bold designer pieces that are nothing short of fierce. The cover story features shots of a topless Porter posing amongst rainbow-hued flags wearing Mugler Woo trousers and A-Morir sunglasses, Porter looking like a poolside statue in an Area Heart cape and Coach platform boots, and an almost religious portrayal of Porter decked out in Thom Brown with a J.R. Malpere headpiece and a Iris Barbee Bonner bad the reads “Vote.”

“Being first-generation post-civil rights and feeding directly into, as a gay man, the AIDS crisis, activism is in my DNA,” he told the publication. “And while I don’t fancy myself an organizer, you tell me where to show up, I’m going to show up. I’m that kind of activist.”

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