Billy Porter is a Broadway legend and currently slays as Pray Tell in the third and final season of Pose. The FX series focuses on the Black, LGBTQ balllroom scene in the 1980s and 1990s and tackles the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In a recent interview, the 51-year-old revealed he is HIV-positive.
During a sit down with The Hollywood Reporter, Porter said, “I have lived with that shame in silence for 14 years. HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment.”
Porter said he did not reveal his status to anyone in the Pose cast and very few people in the entertainment industry.
“For a long time, everybody who needed to know, knew — except for my mother. I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn’t certain I could if the wrong people knew. It would just be another way for people to discriminate against me in an already discriminatory profession. So I tried to think about it as little as I could. I tried to block it out. But quarantine has taught me a lot. Everybody was required to sit down and shut the f**k up.”
Porter also explained that growing up in a religious household prevented him from being out about his status and he was concerned about his mother, “My mother had been through so much already, so much persecution by her religious community because of my queerness, that I just didn’t want her to have to live through their ‘I told you so’s.’ I didn’t want to put her through that. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I was the statistic that everybody said I would be.”
Thankfully, his mother is still here and he told her he is HIV-positive this year. She was completely supportive.
The future is bright for Porter, he said, “I’m getting ready to play the fairy godmother in Cinderella. I have new music coming out. I have a memoir coming out. Pose is out. I’m directing my first film. And I’m trying to be present. I’m trying to be joyful, and one of the effects of trauma is not being able to feel joy.”
He also added, “This is what HIV-positive looks like now.”
Read the full interview, here.
You can see Porter as Pray Tell, a character who is HIV-positive, on Pose, Sunday nights on FX.