He’s famous for breaking barriers with gender-fluid fashion, but Billy Porter didn’t like Harry Styles’ Vogue cover.
In the December 2020 issue of the revered fashion magazine, Styles was actually the first solo male star on the cover of Vogue, photographed by Tyler Mitchell. He was styled in all Gucci on the cover, a lace-trimmed gown under a double-breasted tuxedo jacket created by his friend, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele. “When one of the best gowns of your show ends up on one of your best friends,” Michele wrote on Instagram. Styles fans went crazy for the look, praising the triple threat for ignoring gender norms to wear really beautiful clothes throughout the spread.
The pop star himself told Vogue how he likes “playing dress-up in general.” And boy is he great at it. How could we forget when Styles cohosted the Met’s 2019 “Notes on Camp” gala wearing a black organza blouse and lace jabot? It was also designed by Alessandro Michele.
“You can never be overdressed,” Styles told the magazine. “There’s no such thing. The people that I looked up to in music—Prince and David Bowie and Elvis and Freddie Mercury and Elton John—they’re such showmen. As a kid, it was completely mind-blowing. Now I’ll put on something that feels really flamboyant, and I don’t feel crazy wearing it. I think if you get something that you feel amazing in, it’s like a superhero outfit. Clothes are there to have fun with and experiment with and play with.”
Billy Porter had some strong words to say on Harry Styles’ Vogue cover. In an interview with the Telegraph published on August 13, 2023, Porter criticized the magazine for their choice of a “white and straight” cover star.
“It doesn’t feel good to me. You’re using my community—or your people are using my community—to elevate you. You haven’t had to sacrifice anything,” he said, recalling that several months before the cover was unveiled, he sat down with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and she asked him his thoughts on how to lead the magazine into a new future. “That bitch 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,” he told The Telegraph. What he should’ve said was: “Use your power as Vogue to uplift the voices of the leaders of this de-gendering of fashion movement. Six months later, Harry Styles is the first man on the cover,” he added.
Porter went on to explain that he didn’t blame Styles for the magazine’s decision to put him as their first male cover start. “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,” Porter said.
Porter has expressed his disappointment in the Vogue cover before. In an interview with The Sunday Times in October 2021, he said: “I feel like the fashion industry has accepted me because they have to. I created the conversation [about nonbinary fashion] and yet Vogue still put Harry Styles, a straight white man, in a dress on their cover for the first time.”
He continued: “I was the first one doing it and now everybody is doing it,” Porter added. “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.”
Porter faced some backlash against his opinion, so on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert: “It is about the systems of oppression and erasure of people of color who contribute to the culture,” he explained, adding an apology for Styles: “I’m sorry, Harry. I didn’t mean no harm. I’m a gay man. We like Harry. He’s cute.”
Porter made waves when he chose to wear his Christian Siriano dress from the Oscars on an episode of Sesame Street, but he was unflappable in the face of it. “Sesame Street has always been there to teach children the ways of the world. They asked for the Oscars dress. I’m singing a song with the puppets, talking about friendship. It really pushes the conversation that there are different people on this planet. That’s what it’s about,” he told StyleCaster. “How people respond to me is none of my business. God bless them. This is a free country. You can respond however you want. But my message is about love. My message is about peace. My message is about respecting everyone’s humanity.”
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