Brow Beat

Billy Porter Celebrated His Historic Emmy Win With the Night’s Most Moving Speech

The category was Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series.

Billy Porter accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series award for 'Pose' onstage during the 71st Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
As the Pose actor said earlier this year, “If this black queen walks up to take a Best Lead Emmy? That’s the first time it will ever have been done.”
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

On Sunday night, Pose star Billy Porter became the first openly gay black man to win an Emmy in the Lead Actor category. It’s the culmination of a career that started on Broadway nearly three decades ago, as well as a dream come true.

Awards matter for this little black gay boy,” Porter told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “If this black queen walks up to take a Best Lead Emmy? That’s the first time it will ever have been done.”

The award was richly deserved: We at Slate made the case for his win back in June. The actor and fashion plate’s Emmy will sit on his mantle next to his 2013 Tony and his 2014 Grammy, both of which Porter won for his lead role in the musical Kinky Boots. With the Emmy, Porter is now only an O away from an EGOT.

Porter walked up to the stage donning a flamboyant hat and a suit adorned with more than 130,000 crystals (not an exaggeration) after his name was called by another TV trailblazer, Kerry Washington, who said of the win, “Once again we watch history unfold.”

“I am so overwhelmed and I am so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day,” Porter began. In one of the most powerful lines of the night, he quoted James Baldwin: “It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this Earth like I had a right to be here.”

“I have the right,” Porter continued. “You have the right. We all have the right.”