Billy Porter made history at the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday. The star of the FX drama Pose became the first openly gay black man to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, the ceremony's award for best actor. Kerry Washington introduced Porter, tipping off the audience whose name was in the envelope when she said, "Once again we see history unfold" before announcing Porter as the winner.
Porter, who turned 50 the day before the ceremony, alluded to the monumental significance of the moment in his speech, declaring, "The category is love, man, love!" Paraphrasing American writer James Baldwin, a gay black man, Porter spoke about "vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself" and having the right to exist. "I'm so overwhelmed and so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day," he said.
Porter plays Pray Tell on Pose, a father figure to young kids in the ballroom scene depicted on the hit series. The win also brings him closer to achieving mythical EGOT status. Porter previously won best actor at the Tony Awards for his performance in Kinky Boots and earned a best musical theater Grammy for that same show at the Recording Academy's annual fête.
Porter's win celebrates a new trajectory for his career; while campaigning for the Emmys, Porter talked at length about being relegated to the margins for most of his working life — unable to fit into existing archetypes for black men and being silenced or given small parts due to entrenched homophobia in the industry. In one interview with TV Guide, he said that when he was initially cast as the lead on Pose, he couldn't even believe it because he'd become accustomed to roles that sidelined him. Pose breathed new life into his career, and he's become a household name, beloved for his epic red carpet moments, and an Emmy award winner.