Emmys 2019: Billy Porter Makes History as First Openly Gay, Black Man to Win Best Actor in a Drama

Billy Porter is taking home the gold   — and breaking down barriers while doing so.

Porter, 50, picked up the Emmy for outstanding actor in a drama series on Sunday night for his portrayal of Pray Tell in FX’s Pose.

Porter is the first openly gay black man to be nominated — and to win — in this “category of love,” said the actor.

“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,” continued Porter. “Please don’t ever stop doing that. Please don’t ever stop telling the truth.”

In Pose, the Broadway veteran and Tony Award winner plays Pray Tell, the outspoken and outrageous emcee of the New York City house balls the ’80s-set show centers on. The series features the largest cast of transgender actors and LGBTQ actors in television history.

Porter also netted a Golden Globe win for his work on the show.

“I really had a hard time as an out, black, gay actor making any headway. I wasn’t having a great time living up to the heteronormative masculinity standard to get the straight male work,” he told PEOPLE after receiving the Emmy nomination. “So I wasn’t really working in film and television. And it was just frustrating, you know? It was just frustrating to sort of feel ignored and feel dismissed, and dismissed for even the flamboyant things.”

He added, “So to have this come around and to have it come around in this way is really profound and really special, and I do not take it lightly.”

The show, which also earned an Emmy nomination for outstanding drama series, was recently renewed for a third season.

Last year’s outstanding lead actor in a drama went to Matthew Rhys, who picked up his first-ever Emmy Award for his role as Philip Jennings in the FX series, The Americans. 

Porter beat out fellow nominees Jason Bateman (Ozark), Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), and Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)

The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards are airing live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles starting at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

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