Soundtrack Of My Life: Billy Porter

'Pose' icon who's only one award away from EGOT status

The first song I remember hearing

‘Jesus Loves Me’

“This is the first song I sang in church when I was five. I always loved singing. When you’re a queen and people look at you like you’re the devil and an abomination – and you don’t understand why because you’re five – singing is a real gift. Because when I opened my mouth to sing, suddenly all of that tension went away. And I knew I was good because people started being nice to me.”

The first album I bought


Donny Hathaway – ‘The Best Of Donny Hathaway’

“People started saying to me, ‘You remind me of Donny Hathaway when you sing.’ And I was like, ‘Who’s Donny Hathaway?’ So the first album I bought with my own money was a Donny Hathaway compilation so I could hear what he sounded like. And I mean, I just wept when I heard him. I was like, ‘People think I sound like that?! He has one of the greatest voices I’ve ever heard!'”

The first gig I went to

The Manhattan Transfer – Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh, around 1980

“You know, for a long time I was only around Black people. And growing up in the church, everybody can sing, so I was blown away whenever I heard white people who could really sing. I’m not sure how this group entered my space but I remember being very impressed with their harmonies and taking myself downtown to see them. And honestly, they were fabulous.”

The song that makes me want to dance


Whitney Houston – ‘I’m Every Woman (C + C Club Mix Radio Edit)’

“This record takes me back to my high party days, especially the remix. It was the time of my life! Whitney’s voice is incredible – she is at the absolute peak of her powers here. And I love that she pays homage to Chaka Khan, who had recorded the original version of the song. The way she sings “Chaka Khan! Chaka Khan! My girl” is magic to me.”

The song I wish I’d written

Dolly Parton – ‘I Will Always Love You’

“This song is stunning in its simplicity, and the breadth of its appeal is incredible. I mean, it reaches everybody. And I’m a big justice person so I love that Dolly turned down Elvis‘ request to cover it [because his manager asked for half the publishing]. Dolly was like, ‘No, you do not get to take credit for my shit. You didn’t write the song – I did.'”

The song that makes me cry

Shoshana Bean – ‘All To Me’

“The lyric is essentially about being vulnerable in a relationship and giving all of yourself to another person without fear. It really became a theme song for me because I was trying to make my marriage work when it came out. Ultimately, it did not – I’m in the process of a divorce – so this song hits me really hard. But it also reminds me that I need to remain vulnerable and open if I want to get to the next level in a relationship.”

The song that reminds me of ‘Pose’

Billy Porter – ‘Home’

“I have a long history with this song. Back in the day, it used to be my audition song, but then I sang it with my co-star Michaela Jaé Rodriguez in season one of Pose so now it’s my Pose song. And it always gets such a great response at my concerts.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Lizzo – ‘About Damn Time’

“I’m obsessed with this song, and that doesn’t happen very often these days because I’m too busy – I have too many hats on too many stands! But when this song comes on, wherever I am, I have to pause and give it my full attention. And probably get up and dance!”

The song I want played at my funeral

Shirley Horn – ‘Here’s To Life’

“This song is a celebration of life. When she sings, ‘No complaints and no regrets/I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets,‘ I feel that. I believe you have to approach life with hope, even though it gets harder as the years go by and our world gets more cynical. Shirley Horn’s version [of this song] is my favourite because she has such a lived-in voice – it’s a three-packs-of-cigarettes-a-day voice, and there’s a wisdom in it that cannot be denied.”

Billy Porter’s latest single ‘Broke A Sweat’ is out now. His album ‘Black Mona Lisa’ is coming soon

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