‘Let’s keep fighting’: Q&A with Billy Porter ahead of his SoFlo appearance for Stonewall Museum

Billy Porter is coming to Wilton Manors to work the party.

The Emmy-, Tony- and Grammy-winning entertainer — and red-carpet trendsetter — is expected to make an appearance at the Back to the Drive Celebration being put on by the Stonewall National Museum, Archives & Library on Thursday, Sept. 21.

There will be dancing, food stations and open bars, and Porter will speak. The fundraiser is for the museum’s Stonewall National Education Project (SNEP), which aims to protect marginalized students and encourage the inclusion of LGBTQ+ history and culture into the curriculum.

Robert Kesten, the museum’s executive director, explains: “When books and education are under threat in a growing number of states and regions across the USA, and with Black and LGBTQIA+ history and culture under specific attack — including right here in Florida — who is better to stand up and call it out than the always brilliant and ever brave Billy Porter?”

Porter originated the role of Lola in the musical “Kinky Boots” on Broadway, for which he won a Tony Award in 2013 and a Grammy Award in 2014. He won an Emmy Award in 2019 for the FX series “Pose.” This year, he appeared alongside Rita Moreno, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field and Jane Fonda in the movie “80 for Brady.”

Though he can’t talk about it because of the entertainment industry strikes, upcoming projects include co-starring with Luke Evans in the movie “Our Son” and starring in and co-writing a biopic about American writer James Baldwin.

Here are excerpts from a brief telephone interview with Porter, edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Why is the Stonewall National Education Project important to you?

A: I am apoplectic about what is going on in this world and in our country. I find it really upsetting that the law is being weaponized and manipulated against people again. The fact that what (Gov.) Ron DeSantis is doing is … legal is where the conversation needs to begin. We are not starting this conversation where it needs to begin. The law is not about (what is right). It’s about who can tell the better story. As an artist, all I can do is show up and speak truth.

Q: Why do you think the attacks on Black history and LGBTQ+ culture have been so successful in Florida?

A: I don’t know. The short answer, I guess, is that racism is alive and well in America. We as a culture, we want to move on, but it’s not time to move on. We still have a lot of work to do. Some people want to act like s*** didn’t happen. It’s consistent. If there’s one thing about America; We are consistent in our (denial) of our horrors — the education. And it’s on purpose. Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. They want to repeat Jim Crow. They want to repeat slavery. We are already there. The Civil War is already happening. But the change has also already happened. I like to speak in positive terms. The change has already happened. That’s why the pushback is so severe. It’s never going to be the same. It’s not going to be easy. There will be blood spilled.

Q: Have you ever previously spent time in South Florida and, if so, where do you hang out?

A: I usually spend time more in Miami than Fort Lauderdale. I really enjoy Soho House. I go to Miami, South Florida, to relax really.

Q: This event coincides with your birthday, so are you going to do anything else in South Florida to celebrate?

A: I’m going to meet up with my South Florida friends, probably for a little dinner situation. Nothing big, just dinner.

Q: Of course the strikes have put a pause on so many entertainment projects, but are you working on creating any content for much later, perhaps writing another one-man-show like “Ghetto Superstar” or recording an album?

A: I can’t talk about acting projects because of the strike, or any roles in development. I’ve been working on my new album. I had a listening party yesterday. I got four songs out. It’s off to the races.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to your sizable fan base here in SoFlo?

A: Thanks for the love and let’s keep fighting.


WHAT: Back to the Drive Celebration with Billy Porter

WHEN: 6-10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21

WHERE: The Venue (aka The Manor), 2345 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors

COST: $200 (general admission), $250 (downstairs table), $500 (downstairs VIP tables) and $1,000 (upstairs VIP area); all tickets include access to full open bar, food stations and dancing.

INFORMATION: Visit stonewall-museum.org/snep-fundraiser or email monique@Stonewall-museum.org.