5 Questions for Kinky Boots star Billy Porter

Broadway

by Whitney Spaner, 07/31/2013

« »
 
  • print

In the case of Billy Porter, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. After a 13-year hiatus from the Broadway stage, he's back with a vengeance, winning a Tony Award in June for his role as Lola, the drag-queen-turned-shoe-designer in Kinky Boots. Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein's musical is based on the lauded 2005 indie film about a troubled small-town shoe factory that stays afloat by making fetish footwear. (The show also won this year's Tony Award for Best Musical.) We recently caught up with Porter to talk about his preshow routine and where he kicks his heels up in the City.

The last time you were on Broadway was in Smokey Joe's Cafe, back in 2000. Why were you gone so long?
Billy Porter:
I made a very clear and conscious choice, all those years ago, that the kind of work I wanted to do was based on characters who were three-dimensional and human. That wasn't the kind of work I was getting, so I stopped and I got very specific and very clear with what it was that I would and wouldn't do. Prior to that it was like, "I just want to work. I just want to be a star." Sometimes that means not working and things being a little financially difficult, but I'm grateful now that I get to show up back onstage on my terms.

What changes have you noticed in your life since winning the Tony Award?
BP:
People let me in some restaurants that didn't before! [Laughs] I don't know…I don't really have a whole lot of time to experience whatever they are. I'm still doing eight shows a week.

What's one thing you have to have in your dressing room?
BP:
My music. I go back and forth between soul and contemporary gospel, but 90 percent of the time I listen to contemporary gospel before I get on the stage. It's very inspiring.

Where are some of your favorite places to go after the show?
BP:
I go to 44 & X and 44 1/2—restaurants that a friend of mine owns. I've been going to them for years and years, since they opened. I also go to Bocca di Bacco, because it's close to the theater, Five Napkin Burger and Bar Centrale—that's a theater hangout. I usually stay in the neighborhood.

Is your performance as Lola inspired by any New York drag performers?
BP:
In the '90s, when I was going out in the scene, there were always drag queens around. I was here for the whole Wigstock situation, and there was Kevin Aviance and Shequida who I knew, back in the day. I did want to pay homage to those lovely ladies. They made me really respect the art form—it truly is an art form.

related venues/(6)

  1. 1
    Al Hirschfeld Theater
    302 W 45th St
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10036
  2. 2
    44 & X Hell's Kitchen
    622 Tenth Ave
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10036
  3. 3
    44 1/2
    626 Tenth Ave
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10036
  1. 4
    Bocca di Bacco
    828 Ninth Ave
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY
  2. 5
    Five Napkin Burger
    630 Ninth Ave
    New York – Midtown West
    NY 10036
  3. 6
    Bar Centrale
    324 W 46th St
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10036

check-in date

check-out date

nyc newsletters.

Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date about what's happening in NYC.