All hail the queen—no, not the one you’re thinking of. Billy Porter is royalty; you can sense it from the minute he enters a room. He oozes grace, style, and beauty in everything he does, from his number-one single "Love Yourself" to his role as Pray Tell on FX's hit show Pose to his extravagantly creative red carpet getups. Porter boasts wins from the Grammys, Emmys, and Tonys, by the way, for both his role in Pose and for the original Broadway run of Kinky Boots. We can only hope his next project, the Sony remake of Cinderella, will score him an Oscar nod. This man deserves an EGOT, people.
When we caught up with Porter, he was promoting Clorox’s aptly timed spring cleaning product line, Scentiva, which features four different scent options with fresh notes of grapefruit, lavender, jasmine, and coconut. Porter may not seem like a clear pairing for Clorox—the actor even mentioned that he’s not a big fan of doing the cleaning himself—but with a campaign name like ‘Spring Queening,’ the partnership just makes perfect sense. During our conversation, Porter shared his self-care routine, thoughts on gender-bending fashion, and love of cooking (especially Rachael Ray's recipes!).
Rachael Ray In Season: Tell us about your spring cleaning routine.
Billy Porter: I always declutter. I go to the closet first because I have a lot of extra clothing. Even before the fashion thing, I always loved clothes. So I have a lot of things that I haven’t worn, and I really need to not be a packrat and give some of that stuff away.
How does Clorox fit into your spring cleaning?
I’m a Clorox user from a long time ago. It’s brand alignment from when I was a kid—I’ve always used all the products. I’m really excited about Scentiva because it doesn’t have bleach in it. No shade to bleach, cause we need that too! But I like for the house to smell good.
What’s your favorite Scentiva scent?
I don’t know. It’s a close call between Tuscan Lavender and Tahitian Grapefruit. They’re really wonderful scents.
What does your self-care routine look like?
Um, I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m a bit of a workaholic, so I’m not so great at it. It does include cleaning my house and decluttering. Or I should say having my house cleaned. That’s a self-care payout that I’ve allowed myself to have. It’s not a luxury I had growing up so I do give myself that.
Let’s switch gears to food.
Good! I love food. First of all, I’m mad at Rachael because I have yet to be on her show! You go tell her that I’m mad at her and what is she waiting for?! But thank you for bringing up food because I’m a cook. That’s how I express love—for others and myself. Rachael has actually been really instrumental in that. I’ve always known how to cook. My grandmother, great-aunt, and mom taught me how to do that. I was always in the kitchen from the time I was little, so I have no fear of it. But I learned to cook for tons and tons of people, so when I got by myself, it’s like the only thing I understood how to do was cook for 10 people. So I would always have leftover food! And Rach’s 30-minute meals changed that. I also learned variety from her. Literally, I have a computer full of recipes and 80 percent of them are from Rachael Ray. They’re just great recipes! And they’re easy to do. Cooking is really a big deal to me.
What’s your favorite food to cook?
It’s not like that. What I love is having recipe variety. And I’ll try anything that I know I’ll like. It’s not really about favorite; it’s just about new and interesting.
Is there anything you grew up eating that you still like to make now?
I grew up with soul food and a lot of bad things. We overcooked the vegetables, so I don’t really eat like that anymore. Yes, we had fried chicken, collard greens, mashed potatoes—I’m a walking stereotype. I’ve learned how to cook those things in a healthier way. Especially vegetables.
Broccoli, broccolini, anything broccoli- or kale-based. I love vegetables, interestingly enough. I really do.
What do you eat during long days on set?
I try to be as healthy as possible. I’ll usually carry turkey jerky on me, protein bars, those little tuna packages. Working on sets, I try to go for the healthier stuff, whether it’s the salads or the nuts, just to keep the energy going. I’m also diabetic so I have to be careful. That’s been instrumental in my choices.
How are things going with the Cinderella remake?
It’s great! I just shot last week. What I love about it is that it’s really a modern take on the story. It’s not about this idea that a woman needs a man to exist. It places that stereotype in the forefront and changes the narrative, and I think it’s going to be really great for lots of young people coming up—both men and women.
What’s your favorite role you’ve played so far?
You know, I don’t like that! I don’t like that game. I always say that what I’m doing right now is my favorite. I love Pray Tell. But I’ve loved all of them for different reasons.
Your red-carpet fashion is amazing. Is there another fashion boundary you want to break next?
I think I’ve broken them all, boo! I don’t know what else I have to break. I love what has happened because it’s just an extension of who I am. I’m not putting anything on. This is who I’ve always been. So, as I put one foot in front of the other, it’s not about topping myself—it’s just about being. That is the greatest part of it, that I just get to be in a space where that wasn’t always the case.
I think you’re inspiring other actors to do the same.
I hope so. And other people, other human beings, not just actors. I think there’s this gender "thing" that we’ve all placed on fashion and clothes, and we forget that those rules were created by whomever to control and separate. When you go back into the history of fashion, there was a time when men wore makeup and wigs and heels and that was the highest status. The same goes when you look at other cultures, like the status of a robe in African, Muslim, or Asian cultures. Men don robes—and robes are dresses. Say what you want, but they’re dresses. We have to crack open the conversation and have a different one. We’ve gotten over the problem of women wearing pants, and I think that's because pants represent the patriarchy, which runs everything. So when women wear pants it’s about strength and power. But if a man wants to wear something that’s feminine, then he’s weak and disgusting. What is that saying? Playing Lola in Kinky Boots, it was the first time that I was required to embrace the totality and spectrum of gender. When I put on the heels and clothes and wigs, it was interesting—I felt more powerful. I was allowing myself to just be. I’ve been able to take that and move forward in my real life. Now, I’ve never felt more in my skin. And that’s been very special.