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Pose star Billy Porter won the Emmy for best actor in a drama series at Sunday night’s awards show, making history as the first openly gay black man to not only be nominated in the category but to win as well.
During his acceptance speech, the first-time nominee spoke about the significance of his win for portraying Pray Tell on Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals’ groundbreaking FX series, which centers on New York’s LGBTQ ballroom scene of the late 1980s and early ’90s.
“I’m so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day,” said the 50-year-old star before quoting James Baldwin. “[He] said, ‘It took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this earth like I had the right to be there.'”
Porter, who received a standing ovation from the crowd, added, “I have the right. You have the right.”
The Broadway vet and Tony and Grammy winner then thanked the “many people who helped me get here along the way,” and acknowledged the other actors nominated in his category: Jason Bateman (Ozark), Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) and Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us).
Porter gave a special shout-out to Murphy, who debuted Pose in 2018. “You saw me … thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said.
Porter ended his speech by encouraging Hollywood to continue to champion inclusive storytelling in the vein of Pose, which features five trans actors of color in leading roles (an unprecedented number for a U.S. series) and a remarkable amount of LGBTQ talent behind the camera, as well.
“We are the people that get to change the molecular structure of the hearts and minds of the people who live on this planet,” said Porter, who turned heads earlier in the evening while walking the purple carpet in a custom Michael Kors suit. “Please don’t ever stop doing that, please don’t ever stop telling the truth.”
GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis reacted to Porter’s victory in a statement on Sunday night, noting that this is also the first time the Emmy for best actor in a drama series has been given to an actor playing a gay character. Ellis said in part, “Congratulations to Billy for this well-deserved honor and for always using his work and platform to showcase the power of being authentic.”
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