Billy Porter Reveals He Will Play Fairy Godmother as 'Genderless' in Upcoming 'Cinderella' Remake
By Caitlin O'Kane, CBS News
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Billy Porter is set to play the Fairy Godmother in an upcoming remake of Cinderella, due out in 2021. Porter is perhaps the first man to hold the role in a mainstream adaptation of the tale, and he calls it "a classic fairytale for a new generation."
Aside from being uber-talented (Porter has won an Emmy, Grammy and Tony award), the star also expresses gender fluidity in statement-making gowns on almost every red carpet he steps onto.
"It hit me when I was on the set last week, how profound it is that I am playing the Fairy Godmother — they call it the Fab G," Porter told CBS News on Monday. "Magic has no gender."
"We are presenting this character as genderless — at least that's how I'm playing it. And it's really powerful," he said, adding this Cinderella is going to be "a classic fairytale for a new generation."
"I think the new generation is really ready. The kids are ready. It's the grownups that are slowing stuff down," he said.
If anyone can breathe new life into the old fairy godmother, it's Porter. He's already cemented himself as gender-bending fashionista and a history-making actor.
Last year, Porter became the first openly gay black male to win an Emmy for a leading role. It's not something he necessarily set out to do, but he understands the significance.
"I'm an artist. When you're inside of something, as an artist, the outside stuff ... has to fall away. Because if you think about it too much, it's really heady," said Porter, who won for his role as Pray Tell on Pose.
The greatest part of that historic Emmy win, for Porter, was the representation, he said. "I represent something that I, as a young man, never had. That's the greatest news. That's where I have to leave it though so that I can continue to do the work."
While Porter's character on Pose is part of New York City's gender-nonconforming ballroom scene, life did not always imitate art for the actor. It wasn't until Porter played Lola in Broadway's Kinky Boots (for which he won a Tony) that he began challenging gender norms with his fashion.
"Playing that role made me feel grounded and more powerful," Porter said. "Putting on those heels, putting on those dresses, putting on those wigs, made me feel more powerful, grounded and — dare I say — masculine, than I've ever felt in my whole life."
Porter said that there is often a competition to be masculine, especially in the black community, but what is typically seen as "female clothing," is what made him feel more powerful and strong.
"It never occurred to me, though, in that process [of doing "Kinky Boots"] that I would carry that energy into my own life by challenging gender norms and gender stereotypes with my clothing. That came two years after I left the show," he said.
Now, red carpet photographers and at-home spectators alike wait with bated breath for Porter to arrive at awards shows and premiers. For the Tonys, the star wore a vibrant red gown made out of the curtains used for the Broadway musical Kinky Boots.
He notably wore an eye-catching tuxedo gown to the 2019 Oscars, too. The dress, designed by Christian Siriano, received widespread attention well after the awards ceremony ended.
The gowns he wears often take a month to four months to create, Porter said. It just depends on the event. "We find ourselves – especially the custom pieces – projecting and hoping that I'll be at a particular event, like the Emmys or the Oscars or the Golden Globes or something. It's really weird, because you're like, 'What if we get there and I'm not [invited.]'"
With that much star power, Porter probably won't be left off of many guests lists coming up. He said while many of his outfits are often elaborate and make a bold statement, they're not hard to commit to. "I know who I am and I know what I like, so I can make decisions quickly," he said.
Porter said too many limits and restrictions are placed on what people wear. "This idea that pants are strong and dresses are weak – I'm not interested in that conversation any more," he said. "So, hopefully, I can be at the forefront of having a new conversation."
Porter also talked about the importance of self-care — and how spring cleaning could be an excellent way to take care of oneself.
"The biggest tip for me is the decluttering," said Porter, who is a spokesman for Clorox Scentiva products. "Once you declutter, then use the Scentiva products to make it smell good. But the decluttering is a really big thing for me ... When you declutter the space, you declutter your mind."
"I know I'm much more productive when my mind is decluttered," he said. With several projects coming up, including the release of "Pose" season 3 and "Cinderella," productive is a good way to describe Porter.
This story was originally published by CBS News on March 3, 2020 at 8:52 a.m. ET.