My Pride Anthems: Billy Porter

The incomparable Pose star shares his favourite Pride tunes from Sylvester to Whitney Houston.
HuffPost UK

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, and that includes how we’re all celebrating Pride in 2020.

With huge public gatherings out of the question, we’re asking a range of LGBTQ celebrities and allies for their personal Pride anthems, to help us all get into the Pride spirit from lockdown.

As we near the end of our My Pride Anthems series, we spoke to the incomparable Billy Porter about some of his must-listen tunes this Pride month.

Billy Porter
Billy Porter
Billy Porter

In recent times, Billy has become known for his inspiring speeches and iconic red carpet looks, as well as his Emmy-winning role as Praytell in the Ryan Murphy drama Pose.

“It’s not lost on me that I’m a part of the generation that kicked the door down for queer artists, especially queer artists of colour,” he tells HuffPost UK. “And it’s not lost on me that very often the people that kick the door down and the people who are the trailblazers don’t always have the chance to benefit from the trail that’s been blazed and the kicked down doors. And I am blessed to be experiencing both sides.”

Here are the songs he picked as his ultimate Pride anthems, including hits from Whitney Houston and Sylvester...

Carl Bean – I Was Born This Way

“I went a little way back here. This was a disco anthem in 1977, and the lyric is literally about ‘I was born this way’ and I’m gay, period.

“You know, he was a Black man, and he was singing this song – I actually just learned about it in the last couple of years, but it’s really inspiring that this was happening. Black queer people have always been part of the conversation, even though we have not been as visible as white people.”

Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)

“For a little Black queer boy who grew up Pentecostal in Pittsburgh, Pensylvania in the 70s and 80s, there was nothing, no images reflected back at me that looked like me. So to discover Sylvester…

“And he was mainstream, you know? He crossed over, it was disco. He was on the top of the charts as a Black, queer, gender non-conforming – before we even had that language – man. And I’m excited for the position that I’m in right now in my life in general. My focus is to pick up the mantle where Sylvester left off and step into that space that has not been occupied since Sylvester died of AIDS in 1988.”

MFSB – Love Is The Message

“This song is for voguers, ball children, DJs… this is an inspiration and a symbol of joy for them. And it’s a classic. And Pose brought it back.

“I have to say, I had heard the song before [Pose], but I didn’t know the name of it until my big episode in season one, which was titled Love Is The Message. And that was the episode that was submitted for Emmy consideration for me, and that’s what I made history on.”

Whitney Houston – I’m Every Woman

“First of all, this was Chaka Khan, but then Whitney Houston re-did it, and it became a gay anthem in the 90s. And this was back when I was being a club kid at the Roxy and Sound Factory and all these places.

“And there was this remix, where in the middle the beat would drop, and it was this sort of ethereal, safe [moment]... and for those of us who were doing our recreational drugs at the time, the lights would dim, and that would be our cue to take our bumps of whatever, and it would come back on and we’d be flying again!

“I have such beautiful memories of that time, because the club was a space for us during the AIDS crisis to come in fellowship with each other and just block out the noise for a few hours. It was a very healing space for us. I do not condone drugs, obviously there was a lot of it that can get and has got out of hand, but in that space, in that time, there was a reason for the party. The party was the antidote to the terror that we were living through.”

The Shapeshifters and Billy Porter – Finally Ready

“I have to say this is one of my favourite songs that I’ve recorded ever. It really speaks to what it feels like to have your love discounted by society, shunned and ignored, and the journey to what that means to excavate the courage to finally let true love in.

“It’s hard for us, gay men of a certain age. It’s really, really hard. There’s a lot of baggage and a lot of trauma and a lot of grief that is in the way, and blocks that kind of love, that kind of intimacy. And so I wanted to speak to that with this song.

“And I am living that right now, I am happily married, and my husband teaches me every day what true love is and what it really looks like and feels like. And I’m finally ready! I want people to embrace the idea that when you let love in truly, when you can find the space to let it in for real, your life will be forever changed.”

Finally Ready by the Shapeshifters and Billy Porter is out now.

We’ll be adding each celebrity’s song choices to our bumper My Pride Anthems playlist each day. Take a listen below:


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