Pose star Billy Porter swept the Oscars red carpet in an homage to ballroom icon Hector Xtravaganza’s gender norm-twisting tuxedo-dress look. “I grew up loving fashion, but there was a limit to the ways in which I could express myself,” Porter told Vogue when asked for comment on the outfit. “When you’re black and you’re gay, one’s masculinity is in question. I dealt with a lot of homophobia in relation to my clothing choices.”
Porter’s look was designed by Christian Siriano, who invoked the father of the first mostly Latinx ballroom house in New York City for this tulle-skirt original with a neck-to-heel velvet look. Hector Xtravaganza, who became a grandfather emeritus for the house he helped to lead, was a consultant to the creators of Pose before he died of lymphoma at age 60 in late December. Since joining the ballroom community in 1979, he was a key figure in the scene, which continues to provide safety and family structure to untold numbers of Black and Latinx queers. He designed outfits for stars like Lil’ Kim and remained active around HIV awareness since at least the 1990s. According to Out, he continually participated in the Latex Ball, which raises HIV awareness in the ballroom scene specifically.
“We wanted to play between the masculine and the feminine,” said Porter. “This look was interesting because it’s not drag. I’m not a drag queen, I’m a man in a dress.” Best supporting actress nominee Glenn Close was among the red carpet admirers of the concoction.
“Now I’m in a space where, being on Pose, I’m invited to red carpets and I have something to say through clothes,” Porter continued. “My goal is to be a walking piece of political art every time I show up. To challenge expectations. What is masculinity? What does that mean?”
New York City continues to grieve the loss of its legend — on March 9, a celebration of life will be held for Hector Xtravaganza at El Museo Del Barrio.