Billy Porter (born September 21, 1969) is an American stage performer, pop singer, film and television actor and vocal coach. He attended the Musical Theatre program at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School's School of Drama and achieved fame performing on Broadway before starting a solo career as a singer.Porter won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots at the 67th Tony Awards. For the role, Porter also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical.
He is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University College of Fine Arts with a B.F.A. in Drama as well as a certification from the graduate-level Professional Program In Screenwriting at UCLA. During the summers of 1985, 1986 and 1987, Porter was a member of an entertainment group called "Flash" which performed daily at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pa.
He played the Teen Angel in the 1994 Broadway revival of Grease!. Other shows he has been in include Topdog/Underdog at City Theatre (2004), Jesus Christ Superstar and Dreamgirls at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (2004) and the song cycles "Myths and Hymns" and "Songs for a New World" (Off-Broadway, 1995).
Porter wrote and performed in his one-man autobiographical show, Ghetto Superstar (The Man That I Am) at Joe's Pub in New York City in February and March 2005. Porter was nominated for "Outstanding New York Theater: Broadway & Off Broadway Award" at the 17th GLAAD Media Awards.
In September 2010, Porter appeared as Belize in Signature Theatre Company's 20th Anniversary production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America.
Porter originated the role of "Lola" in Kinky Boots on Broadway in 2013, with songs by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein and directed/choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. Porter won both the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for this role.
Porter has also appeared in a number of films. He played a major role as Shiniqua, a drag queen who befriends Angel (David Norona) and Lee (Keivyn McNeill Graves) in Seth Michael Donsky's Twisted (1997), an adaptation of Oliver Twist. He has also appeared on an episode of The RuPaul Show.
He has had a musical career with three solo albums released, Billy Porter on DV8/A&M Records in 1997, At the Corner of Broadway + Soul in 2005 on Sh-K-Boom Records and Billy's Back on Broadway (Concord Music Group) in 2014. He as featured in a number of songs in the tribute album It's Only Life: The Songs of John Bucchino in 2006 released on PS Classics. He sings on Adam Guettel's 1999 album Myths and Hymns studio cast album on Nonesuch Records. He also covered "Only One Road" that was included on the Human Rights Campaign compilation album Love Rocks.
Porter wrote the play While I Yet Live, which premiered Off-Broadway at Primary Stages on September 24, 2014 in previews, officially on October 12. In addition to Porter, the cast included Lillias White and S. Epatha Merkerson.
Billy Porter released Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers in April, 2017. The album, which features new, soulful takes on classic Richard Rodgers songs, includes solos and duets from the following artists (in addition to Porter himself): Tony and Grammy Award winners Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), Tony Award-winner Patina Miller (Pippin), Grammy Award winners Pentatonix and India Arie, Tony Award nominees Brandon Victor Dixon (Shuffle Along), Joshua Henry (Violet), and Christopher Jackson (Hamilton), alongside YouTube sensation and Kinky Boots star Todrick Hall and multiple Grammy Award nominees Deborah Cox and Ledisi.
Porter reprised the role of Lola in Kinky Boots on September 26, 2017, on Broadway, where he did a 15-week run.
Porter was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to William E. Porter and Clorinda Jean Johnson Ford. His sister is Mary Martha Ford.
He and Adam Smith were married on January 14, 2017.
- 1997: Billy Porter (DV8/A&M Records)
- 2005: At the Corner of Broadway + Soul (Sh-K-Boom Records)
- 2014: Billy's Back on Broadway (Concord Music Group)
- 2017: Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers
- 1997: "Show Me"/"What Iz Time"
- 2005: "Awaiting You"/"Time" (Live) (Sh-K-Boom Records)
- 2017: "Edelweiss"
- "Only One Road" on Love Rocks compilation album
- "Love Is On The Way" on The First Wives Club album
- "Destiny" with Jordan Hill on Jim Brickman's Greatest Hits album
- "Where is Love?" with Liz Callaway
- Featured on a number of songs on tribute album It's Only Life: The Songs of John Bucchino
- Adam Guettel's album Myths and Hymns in 1999
- He is featured with Alan Cumming, David Raleigh and Ari Gold in a cover of "That's What Friends Are For", of 'The Friends Project' in support of the Ali Forney Center, a NYC shelter for homeless LGBT youth. The song was arranged and produced by Nathan Leigh Jones and directed by Michael Akers.
Porter has performed at various venues in New York City, including Lincoln Center, which was broadcast on PBS in 2015 and Joe's Pub in New York City.