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‘The category is love’: Watch Billy Porter’s powerful (and historic) Emmys speech

Billy Porter’s historic win for FX’s ‘Pose’ was matched with an equally historic speech.

‘The category is love’: Watch Billy Porter’s powerful (and historic) Emmys speech
Billy Porter accepts the award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for Pose at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards. [Photo: Phil McCarten/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images]

Billy Porter’s historic win as the first openly gay black man to take home an Emmy in an outstanding lead actor category was matched with an equally historic speech.

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Porter, who won for outstanding lead actor in a drama as the ballroom master of ceremonies Pray Tell in Pose, opened his speech by quoting author James Baldwin: “‘It took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this Earth like I had the right to be here,'” Porter said. “I have the right, you have the right, we all have the right.”

Pose chronicles the rise of New York City’s ballroom scene in the ’80s and ’90s, comprised mainly of trans and queer men and women. The show has given high visibility to the LGBTQ community, particularly the African American and Latinx members. Pose creator and executive producer Steven Canals recently told Fast Company:

“My greatest wish when I was embarking on this journey of bringing Pose to television was I didn’t want any young people to feel the way that I felt when I was coming up, which is that I have no value—that my story doesn’t matter, because I know that that’s not the truth. There are too many people out in the world who are living with the identities that we center on our show. Too many young black and brown people who are also LGBTQ, who are still struggling with various forms of discrimination and prejudice.”

And it seems Porter is spreading the message.

“We as artists are the people that get to change the molecular structure of the hearts and minds of the people who live on this planet,” Porter said in his speech. “Please don’t ever stop doing that. Please don’t ever stop telling the truth.”

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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