Why Billy Porter was not a fan of Harry Styles' 'Vogue' cover

'I'm not dragging Harry Styles, but he is the one you're going to try and use to represent this new conversation?'
October 18, 2021 12:03 p.m. EST
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Remember when Harry Styles became the first man to be featured solo on the cover of Vogue back in December? And he sported a Gucci dress while he was at it, while the accompanying profile went deep on his love of "breaking boundaries", specifically gender norms despite being a straight white man?

Yeah, well, Pose star and style icon Billy Porter isn't having it (and for good reason). In a new interview with The Sunday Times, the 52-year-old explained how he's been breaking those very boundaries for a very long time – and in an authentic way.

"I feel like the fashion industry has accepted me because they have to," Porter said. "I'm not necessarily convinced and here is why. I created the conversation and yet Vogue still put Harry Styles, a straight white man, in a dress on their cover for the first time."

He continued, "I'm not dragging Harry Styles, but he is the one you're going to try and use to represent this new conversation? He doesn't care, he's just doing it because it's the thing to do. This is politics for me. This is my life. I had to fight my entire life to get to the place where I could wear a dress to the Oscars and not be gunned now. All he has to do is be white and straight."

Amen. And if you're not convinced, when you think of Porter hitting any red carpet, what do you think of? Maybe that time at the 2019 Oscars when he wore a show-stopping Christian Siriano tuxedo gown? Or the Ben Chellal coat gown he sported at this year's Cinderella premiere, complete with a large bow? Hm, or the rainbow halter dress he wore at this year's Pride? Or the blue crystal-encrusted pantsuit he wore to the 2020 Grammys with the curtained hat? Or the red dress and matching heels he wore to the 2019 Tonys? The list is actually endless.

Bottom line, in Porter's own words, "I changed the whole game. I. Personally. Changed. The. Whole. Game. And that is not ego, that is just fact. I was the first one doing it and now everybody is doing it."

He's got a point, well, several of them. This year has already seen more men sporting womenswear on red carpets than ever before, from Troye Sivan to Lil Nas X. That's impact.

Now, to be fair, Styles did offer up some credit in that Vogue profile when it comes to his gender-bending style, saying, "The people that I looked up to in music — Prince and David Bowie and Elvis and Freddie Mercury and Elton John — they're such showmen. As a kid it was completely mind-blowing. Now I'll put on something that feels really flamboyant, and I don't feel crazy wearing it."

Styles also said, "What's really exciting is that all of these lines are just kind of crumbling away. When you take away 'There's clothes for men and there's clothes for women,' once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play. I'll go in shops sometimes, and I just find myself looking at the women's clothes thinking they're amazing. It's like anything —anytime you're putting barriers up in your own life, you're just limiting yourself."

He's also got a point, and the cover definitely made waves at the time of its release, and was highly applauded. So there's no denying Styles' own impact as one of the most popular artists in the world today, but you know, Porter did do it first, and as a queer Black man, he's been fighting for this very representation for years with far less acknowledgment.

Give the man a Vogue cover.

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