Billy Porter on Why He Owes His ‘Pose’ Emmy to Janet Mock

Janet-Mock Billy Porter
Matt Sayles for Variety/Matt Baron/Shutterstock

For Variety’s latest issue, we asked Billy Porter to write a tribute to Janet Mock, one of 50 people to make our New Power of New York list. For the full list, click here.

Janet Mock first came into my world in 2014. I saw her on MSNBC, discussing her New York Times best-selling book “Redefining Realness,” and I was obsessed with her. She represented something I had really never seen. As a gay man who came out in 1985, the “T” in “LGBTQ” was largely absent from my queer knowledge, and I was just so moved by this woman. One day, I walked into Dos Caminos in the Meatpacking District, and she was sitting at the bar. I went up to her and fangirled. I said, “I want to work with you one day, and I want to soak up your presence.”

I first worked with Janet on “Pose.” When I heard Ryan Murphy had reached out to her, I knew we were going to be OK. Putting together a show like “Pose” is specific, and you need the right people to tell the story.

It was Episode 6 of Season 1 — the first thing she directed — and I remember looking her in the face and seeing her eyes. I just said, “Baby, I got you. We’re going to turn this s— out.” We took a breath together, and we took a hug together. And that’s why I won an Emmy. For real. That episode is why I won the Emmy.

I have been able to witness a real transformation within her that is even beyond anything that she ever thought she could or would be — and that’s fascinating because she’s already powerful to begin with. She was a journalist. This is not what she was going for. Television was a left turn for her that came out of nowhere, and she rose to the call. And now, she has a multimillion-dollar creative deal at Netflix. As a person who has spent a lot of time with no opportunity, I feel safer, and the world is a better place because we have somebody like Janet at the helm, telling the stories that would not otherwise be told or get told.

Billy Porter, the star of FX’s “Pose,” is the first openly gay black man to win an Emmy for lead actor in a drama.