UNPROTECTED: A Memoir
by Billy Porter
Harry N. Abrams. 288 pages, $28.
WHILE MANY will say that Billy Porter’s career is the stuff of legend, from his incredibly fabulous acting style to his almost godly singing voice—performing in Five Guys Named Moe, Smokey Joe’s Café, Grease, and later as the iconic Lola in the hit Broadway show Kinky Boots and as Pray Tell in the critically acclaimed TV series, Pose—one must remember that most legends are rooted in historical factuality. In his new memoir Unprotected, Porter reveals the truth, much of it painful to remember, about his formative years and early career in a book that’s a good story, a soulful ballad, and a scream for understanding, among other things.
From his beginnings in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, living as a child in a Pentecostal household, Porter recounts all the ways in which the world targeted him for being different, whether questioned for his lack of “masculinity” as a young queer kid or ridiculed for the way that he gravitated toward the arts. The latter were both a means of creative expression and an escape from the abuse inflicted by his stepfather and by the church. He finds that some of his experiences as a child have left a mark on his ability to connect with men romantically and emotionally as an adult.
Michele Kirichanskaya, a freelance journalist from Brooklyn, creates content for The Mary Sue, GeeksOUT, and other platforms.