Written by Leah Dolan, CNN

Since Harry Styles’ became the first man to grace the cover of American Vogue alone almost one year ago — and did so wearing a full-length dress — the British singer has come to symbolize a new, more expressive era of men’s fashion. But he’s the wrong face for the moment, according to actor Billy Porter, who has built a reputation around his gender-fluid fashion choices.
In an interview with British paper The Sunday Times, Porter argued there was a disconnect in the opportunities afforded to him as a Black, gay man and those given to Styles. “I feel like the fashion industry has accepted me because they have to,” he said. “I created the conversation (about non-binary fashion) and yet Vogue still put Harry Styles, a straight white man, in a dress on their cover for the first time.”
After he fronted the December issue of American Vogue in a full-length Gucci gown, Harry Styles was celebrated for challenging male stereotypes.

After he fronted the December issue of American Vogue in a full-length Gucci gown, Harry Styles was celebrated for challenging male stereotypes. Credit: Tyler Mitchell/Vogue

Porter, whose first autobiography “Unprotected: A Memoir” will be published later this month, spoke candidly about his delayed professional success. In the mid-aughts, the star struggled to book acting jobs after making his Broadway debut in 1991. By 2007, he was forced to declare bankruptcy. It wasn’t until the Netflix series “Pose,” for which Porter won an Emmy in 2019 for his performance of the ballroom MC Pray Tell that his career began to stabilize.

Now Porter is a red carpet regular, wearing eye-catching looks that push the conversation around gender and style forward. At the 2019 Academy Awards, he wore a voluminous black velvet tuxedo dress and followed it up at the 2020 Grammy Awards with a crystal-encrusted jumpsuit.

But proper credit is lacking, Porter told the paper, saying he “changed the whole game” when it came to men wearing skirts and dresses.

Billy Porter in full glam at the 2020 Grammy's.

Billy Porter in full glam at the 2020 Grammy’s. Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

“I was the first one doing it and now everybody is doing it,” he said. “I’m not dragging Harry Styles, but… 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,” Porter continued. “All (Styles) has to do is be white and straight.”

Top image: Billy Porter’s tuxedo dress at the Oscars in 2019.

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