The Oscars is a night full of fashion moments, but there’s one that already won our hearts: Billy Porter’s gender-defying ball gown. He showed up at the 91st Academy Awards with a custom Christian Siriano creation that featured a tuxedo jacket overtop a full-skirted velvet gown.
Speaking with Vogue, he said, “I grew up loving fashion, but there was a limit to the ways in which I could express myself. When you’re black and you’re gay, one’s masculinity is in question. I dealt with a lot of homophobia in relation to my clothing choices.” He added, “Now I’m in a space where, being on Pose, I’m invited to red carpets and I have something to say through clothes. My goal is to be a walking piece of political art every time I show up. To challenge expectations. What is masculinity? What does that mean? Women show up every day in pants, but the minute a man wears a dress, the seas part.”
Pointing out to his Golden Globes appearance where he wore a pink cape, he shared, “That Globes outfit changed everything for me. I had the courage to push the status quo. I believe men on the red carpet would love to play more.”
As for this particular look, he revealed, “This look was interesting because it’s not drag. I’m not a drag queen, I’m a man in a dress.” He admitted, “I’ve always wanted to wear a ball gown, I just didn’t know when. I was inspired [this past New York Fashion Week] because there’s a conversation happening about inclusion and diversity.”
He also shared how empowering it was the first time he fitted the gown. “I felt alive. I felt free. And open, and radiant. And beautiful!”
Ultimately, he said he uses his red carpet looks to make people see that diversity must be embraced and welcomed. “From this [Oscars] moment, I want people to understand that you don’t have to understand or even agree with other people’s authenticity or truths, but we must all respect each other,” he said. “People are going to be really uncomfortable with my Black ass in a ball gown—but it’s not anybody’s business but mine.”