Billy Porter Doesn't Understand Why People Spend $2,000 on Sweats

"I am not a person who understands athleisure."

Billy Porter
Photo: Rodin_Eckenroth

We've developed a new habit when it comes to award show red carpets: keep an eye out for Billy Porter, because he's about to shut it down. The multi-talented actor and singer — who played Pray Tell on FX's Pose — knows how to steal the fashion spotlight, having stepped out in everything from voluminous gowns to all-gold, winged ensembles (we're still thinking about that Met Gala look, TBH). However, Porter finds it interesting that his feminine style choices tend to make headlines, and when speaking to InStyle, quickly points out the double standard.

"Women are allowed to be masculine and that's considered strong and powerful," he tells us over the phone. "But when men wear dresses, it's a thing. I'm over that. We need to shatter that stereotype."

Of course, Porter still loves to make a statement, and went on to spill some details on his overall style aesthetic, whether he'd ever go into designing, and why he considered Pray Tell to be his dream role.

Billy Porter
Kevork Djansezian/NBC/Getty Images

On his extravagant red carpet looks...

"The first one that actually went super viral was the Golden Globes look, with the cape with the pink lining. Everyone forgets about that because the Oscars dress has overshadowed it, but I think that a larger conversation happened because it was a man in a feminine silhouette. That's a complicated thing — complicated for humanity. The fact that we're still sort of having these conversations about gender, and what's masculine and feminine. I know for myself, the moment that I felt the most grounded and the most masculine was when I totally embraced myself and my balance of masculine and feminine. Putting on those heels without apologies makes me feel the most masculine I've ever felt and that's the truth. That's the conversation I'm trying to have."

On not understanding fashion "rules"...

"Rules that are made by whom? And why? And based on what? Why do we continue to follow this without question? It's stupid."

On his overall style aesthetic...

"I have an aesthetic and my aesthetic is class. My aesthetic is luxury. I am not a person who understands athleisure. Sweat clothes are sweat clothes that you work out in. Sweat clothes are not something that you spend $2,000 on. I don't understand that. I'm a luxury kind of person. I'm the boy that dressed up every day to go to high school. My great-aunt always said dress for the job you want, not the one you have. You know, I'm trying to run shit."

On how he would describe luxury...

"Valentino. Louis Vuitton. Gucci. Prada. Everything that we know as luxury is what I'd describe it as. And even the ones that I don't know."

Billy Porter
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

On his favorite designers....

"I'm an across-the-board fashion person, but I love Rick Owens's gender-fluid aesthetic. I like everything. Anything that's going to make me feel like a supermodel, I like it."

On whether he would ever go into fashion design...

"I will, eventually. I'm not at that place yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm working it out. It could be shoes, it could be hats, it could be glasses, it could be a full line. I don't know! We'll see."

On how to become as confident as he is...

"That's a personal journey. I'm going to be 50 this year. There's an evolution in understanding who you are and clocking down on that and doing that unconditionally. That comes with age. That comes with experience. That comes with giving zero fucks."

Billy Porter
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

On Pose's Pray Tell being his dream role...

"What makes it such a dream role for me is that is has all of the elements that create a full human being. Which, early in my career, that was generally not the case. I was very much a clown, and that was it — nobody wanted hear the rest of the story of what it means to be a gay man in this world. With Pray Tell, you get to go inside his life and see what his day-to-day story is. His struggles, his fears, and all of those things, which is exciting as an actor."

On the most surprising fans he's come across...

"Old white people. I don't mean that in a derogatory way, I just mean in their 70s and 80s white people. In New York, men and women will stop me and go, 'Pose is my favorite show.' That one surprised me. But that means the show is doing its job, which is showing everyone what real family looks like. It's a family show. People responded to family. Our family."

On how others can follow in his footsteps and become activists...

"Just show up. It's very easy, it's called the internet. You can type it in — 'How can I help?' It's really not brain surgery. We need to figure out how to integrate the social media culture into the actual, active bit of activism. Boots-on-the-street activism. We have to figure out how to meld the two together. Because there is power in social media, but clicking like ain't gonna do it. We have to add boots on the ground to that. I don't know what the answer is, but I'm actively trying to figure it out."

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