Music industry was violently homophobic: Billy Porter opens up about his initial days in showbiz

Billy Porter shared that his pop music career also suffered because of his sexual orientation. (Photo: Billy Porter/ Instagram)

Emmy-winner Billy Porter has emerged as a strong voice in creating a more inclusive entertainment industry, but the actor initially faced a tough time navigating the divide.

Porter, who tried to break into the Hollywood scene in the 1980s, said at that time the industry was only looking for three types of African-American actors — “James Earl Jones, the patriarch; Denzel Washington, the sex symbol, or Eddie Murphy, the genius clown.”

He added his pop music career also suffered because of his sexual orientation.

“The music industry was hugely, violently homophobic. It just was never about the music. It was about trying to fix myself so other people would feel comfortable around me,” Porter said at the New Yorker Festival.

The 55-year-old actor then asked himself, “Where am I fitting in?” and became a character actor “to hide behind little weight and work so I could eat.”

Porter soon became bankrupt and it took him 13 years to bounce back with the revival of Angels in America.

He followed it up with his Tony Award-winning run as Lola in Kinky Boots (2013) and then came Pose, which earned him in his first Emmy award. Porter also made history as he became the first openly gay, black man to win the trophy.

“We must speak life into ourselves, even when everyone around us is doing the opposite. I never saw anything that looked like me, and visibility… when we see ourselves reflected back… is so important,” he said.