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Pose’s Billy Porter makes LGBTQ history with his Emmy win

The multitalented actor is one step closer to an EGOT.

Billy Porter took home an Emmy for his role on Pose.
Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Pose’s Billy Porter got one step closer to winning an EGOT on Sunday: He took home his first Emmy, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. And in doing so, he made Emmy history.

Porter is the first openly gay black man to win in this category. On Pose, he plays the gregarious emcee Pray Tell, the father figure of FX’s drama about found queer families living through the AIDS crisis. Pray himself struggles with an HIV diagnosis, and in the episode Porter submitted, his character performs a soul-stirring musical number at an AIDS benefit that wraps every one of his hopes and fears into a single song.

Porter can put his Emmy on the shelf next to a seriously impressive array of awards he earned playing Lola in the Broadway production of Kinky Boots, including the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical, a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award in 2013, and a Grammy in 2014 for the cast album. (To earn the elusive “EGOT” — Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony — all he needs to do now is win an Oscar.)

Earlier this year, Porter was also nominated for a Golden Globe for his Pose role.

In his acceptance speech at the Emmys, Porter quoted James Baldwin, who wrote in his 1960 essay “They Can’t Turn Back” that “it took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as if I had a right to be here.

“I have the right,” Porter said. “You have the right. We all have the right.”

After thanking his husband, his manager, the cast of Pose, and others, an emotional Porter ended his speech with a call to action. “We are the people,” he said. “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. Please don’t ever stop doing that. Please don’t ever stop telling the truth.”