Billy Porter says he’s ‘a free man, honey!’ after sharing his HIV-positive status

A woman next to a man with his hand on his chest, gazing up in prayer
Billy Porter says his role as Pray Tell in the series “Pose” helped him begin his journey to heal.
(Eric Liebowitz / FX Networks)

“Pose” star Billy Porter sat down with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” Thursday and gave a proud declaration: “Last week, I released that shame. I released that trauma. And I am a free man, honey!”

The 51-year-old performer was talking about a 14-year secret he’d revealed only a week earlier: He is HIV-positive.

Now, after telling the world — and, most important for him, telling his mother — Porter has come out the other side feeling a joy he says he’s never felt before.

Porter, who won an Emmy in 2019 and was nominated in 2020 for his performance as Pray Tell in Ryan Murphy’s hit series, said the role’s striking similarities to his life served as a proxy for him to process his own traumas.

“I’m saying, if I don’t ever do anything else — and I’m already doing a lot of things — but if I don’t ever do anything else in my life...,” he paused, his voice cracking. “I will have done it. I’ve said everything I’ve needed to say.”


Porter, who also shared that he had a severely underappreciated career as an R&B singer in the late ’90s, announced that he has hopped back in the studio to record some new music: “Move out the way, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga — all the kids, just make some space for Daddy!”

Emmy, Grammy and Tony winner Billy Porter, star of ‘Pose,’ says he was diagnosed with HIV in 2007.

May 19, 2021

Recorded over the past two months, his new catalog of songs is “exactly what I want it to be,” he said. “The music is exactly from me, what I want to say, and the message and the gift that I want to give to the world.”

Porter also revealed the first cover of his memoir, which was completed during the pandemic. The book, titled “Unprotected,” is due to come out in October.

He borrowed a line from his church to describe his newfound lightness. “‘This joy that I have, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away.’ I got it.”

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May 25, 2021

“This is what HIV-positive looks like now,” Porter told the Hollywood Reporter in a first-person piece published May 19. “I’m going to die from something else before I die from that. My T-cell levels are twice yours because of this medication. I go to the doctor now — as a Black, 51-year-old man, I go to the doctor every three months. That doesn’t happen in my community. We don’t trust doctors.

“But I go to the doctor, and I know what’s going on in my body. I’m the healthiest I’ve been in my entire life.”