UPDATED with video: Category is: groundbreaking history at the Emmys realness. Billy Porter took the Emmy tonight for his role as the outspoken, fierce and fabulous ballroom emcee Pray Tell in FX’s Pose. He makes history as the first openly gay black man to win an Emmy in the Lead Actor category.
Upon walking on the stage to accept the award in his fabulous outsized hat, he proclaimed, “The category is LOVE!” before saying that he was “overwhelmed to see this day.”
He then quoted the incomparable James Baldwin saying “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.”
He thanked an “abundance” of people who got him to where he is today including his mother, sister, husband, his manager, publicity team, FX and his Pose family.
He then went on to praise the co-creator of the show: “Ryan Murphy! Ryan Murphy! Ryan Murphy! You saw me and believed in us! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
He ended by passionately saying, “We as the artists are the people that can change the molecular structure of the hearts and minds of the people who live on this planet. Please don’t ever stop doing that. Please don’t ever stop telling the truth!”
The celebration and advocacy continued backstage with Porter when he went into diversity and inclusion in the industry.
“I feel like visibility and representation are the only things that create change,” Porter said. “It’s when we are visible that we have the power to create anything through how we tell our stories. I know that being black and gay and out and in this position and speaking from where I get to speak from is the change. I hope that young, queer, people of all colors can look at me and know that they can.”
Porter was the only one nominated from the talented pool of Pose actors and actresses nominated. He praises their work and still has hope for them. He isn’t mad at all that they weren’t recognized because their presence alone is a win. “I don’t live in bittersweet…I’m living in the present,” explained Porter. “I’m living in the positive. The fact that we’re in the building is the point, right? The world has changed period. That’s where we are. We got another season. They’ll get their shot.”
When Pose premiered, it made TV history with the largest transgender cast and blazed a trail with LGBTQ storytelling. Pose is also nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, kicking down the door for the queer community and other marginalized groups when it comes to television and entertainment.
Pose recently wrapped its second season. The series created by Steven Canals, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk also made history for producer Our Lady J as the first trans producer to be nominated and Janet Mock made history as the first trans woman of color to be nominated as a producer. And to add to that, Canals made history as the first Latinx producer to be nominated in a drama series.
Here are Porter’s comments backstage following his win.