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In an exclusive interview published on Friday by The Telegraph, Billy Porter voiced his opinion that the responsibility for selecting “As It Was” vocalist Harry Styles as the first solo male cover star of Vogue does not lie with Styles himself, but rather with the industry’s decision-makers.
Reflecting on Styles’ appearance in a dress on the 2021 Vogue cover, Porter noted that it was these “gatekeepers” who played a significant role in positioning Styles in this role, not his individual characteristics.
Gatekeepers’ Role in Selection
Billy Porter, who caught attention in a tuxedo gown at the 2019 Academy Awards, asserted, “It’s not Harry Styles’ fault that he happens to be white and cute and straight and fit into the infrastructure that way. I call out the gatekeepers.”
He further conveyed that Styles’ selection was driven by his being “white and straight,” asserting that the utilization of terms like “non-binary” was a disingenuous attempt to associate with marginalized communities for the purpose of elevation. Porter underscored that Styles had not made any personal sacrifices in this regard.
During the interview, Billy Porter recounted a past encounter with Anna Wintour, where he participated in a Q&A session. He recalled that Wintour had inquired about ways to improve, a question he felt unprepared to address at the time.
Porter revealed, “That [expletive] said to me at the end, ‘How can we do better?’ And I was so taken off guard that I didn’t say what I should have said.”
Billy Porter Expressed Regrets: Recognizing Deeper Issues
He expressed regret that he hadn’t urged Wintour and her team to use their influence at Vogue to amplify the voices of leaders driving the movement towards gender-neutral fashion.
This isn’t the first instance of Porter revisiting his remarks on Styles’ Vogue cover. In a 2021 episode of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” Porter offered an apology to Styles for his initial response to the landmark Vogue shoot. He clarified that his concern was less about Styles as an individual and more about the larger systems of oppression and erasure affecting people of color within the cultural sphere.
Billy Porter’s critique initially surfaced during a 2021 interview with the Sunday Times, where he expressed his dissatisfaction with Vogue’s decision to feature Styles on the cover. He stressed that while he doesn’t intend to disparage Styles, the choice seemed emblematic of a broader issue, with Styles being used as a representative figure without actively engaging in the conversation.
In the ongoing discourse surrounding gender-neutral fashion and representation, Billy Porter’s candid commentary highlights the intricate dynamics at play within the fashion industry and the conversations it sparks.