'Pose' Star Billy Porter's Stylist Reveals How He Is Helping Break the Fashion Binary

12:00 PM 8/18/2019

by Lindsay Weinberg and Falen Hardge

"We want to keep challenging the notion of what it means to dress like a man or a woman," says Sam Ratelle of his Emmy-nominated client.

Billy Porter Red Carpet Looks_Split - Getty - H 2019
Getty Images

  • Gold Glory

    Dressed as a gilded Pharaoh by The Blonds, Porter was carried into the 2019 Met Gala on May ?6 by six shirtless men. After all, "all the gods and specifically the kings and queens didn’t ever walk," stylist Sam Ratelle said. His campy couture, inspired in part by Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, included gold eye shadow from Pat McGrath Labs, a headpiece dripping with gold chains and beaded golden wings.

  • Sheer Brilliance

    Porter sported a sheer fuchsia gown from the Celestine Couture fall/winter 2019 collection at the Peabody Awards on May?18. "The Finale” dress ($12,000) features mounds of tulle, floral detailing and a beaded neckline. Pose and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel hairstylist Sabana Majeed finished the look with a curly coiled wig, while makeup artist La Sonya Gunter added dark blue lips for the New York ceremony.

  • Dripping with Pearls

    The only ambassador for New York Fashion Week Men’s shows in February, Porter debuted a vintage vibe with a pearl bib and matching earrings at The Blonds’ fall/winter 2019 runway show. It was the first time Ratelle gave the star clip-on earrings for an event: "I feel it was probably one of the last feminine aspects that we touched on." And it proved to be Porter’s induction into the fashion community, with Ratelle adding, "Before [NYFW], I would say nobody was loaning him clothes."

  • Black, White and Bolero

    "It’s still masculine and feminine, but I wanted to depict his strength and how far he’s come. At the same time, I wanted to make sure it was art," Ratelle said of Porter’s outfit for the season two Pose premiere in New York on June ?5 — an ensemble Porter described as "Matador realness" by Filipino designer Francis Libiran. "Women have been wearing pants for decades, but you put a dude in a skirt and it’s like the world falls apart."

  • Bow Art

    Porter — who has said he loves working with emerging designers — struck gold at January’s Critics’ Choice Awards in Rinat Brodach’s?custom chocolate tux jumpsuit, adorned with a pop of color in an over-the-top burnt orange cummerbund bow at his waist. The look was completed with a pair of black boots by Jeffery West.

  • Cape Fierce

    Nominated for best actor in a drama at the Globes, Porter sashayed down the carpet Jan. ?6 in a jaw-dropping bejeweled gray suit with pink-lined cape, inspired by his character Pray Tell. "It truly floats and gives Billy the perfect excuse to, as he would say, 'Serve the fashion,'” said New York bridal designer Randi Rahm, who spent six months creating the outfit (worn with Gucci’s red velvet loafers for women, $890). "I knew Billy would know how to work the red carpet just like a Pose runway and it would require an ensemble with lots of sophisticated drama."

  • Oscar Winner

    Porter had the buzziest outfit at the Feb. ?24 Academy Awards — a black velvet, gender-bending tuxedo gown by famously inclusive designer Christian Siriano. "I wanted to take my power back from when I was silent in the ’90s about my sexuality,” Porter said. Siriano added: "What is menswear? What is women’s? People should be able to wear whatever they want."

  • Statement Chic

    At the Tony Awards in June, Porter donned a gender-bending custom suit designed by Celestine Couture that saluted female reproductive organs to demonstrate his support for women’s rights. “It’s a beautiful nod to Elizabethan couture,” Porter said.

    Ingrid Schmidt and Vincent Boucher contributed to this report.

    This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.