Billy Porter builds on his resurging career with new tour and album

RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer

On Saturday, April 29, Billy Porter kicks off six weeks of his first-ever tour in support of his newest album, Black Mona Lisa. He will visit 25 U.S. cities on this tour, stopping in Dallas on May 10 to perform at the Winspear.

This tour is the latest in the actor/singer’s amazing renaissance over the past few years — from Broadway to red carpets and Emmys and now his newest pop album and first time tour.

Porter’s recent firsts are many: He made his directorial debut in 2022 with the Amazon Prime movie Anything’s Possible. In 2021 he became the first queer Black man to win the 2019 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, getting the trophy for his role as Pray Tell in the groundbreaking series Pose. And also in 2021, he was the first genderless fairy godparent, starring as Fab G in Amazon’s Cinderella with Camila Cabello.

Now he has released Black Mona Lisa, his first album of original music in over 25 years.

“It’s really the first time that I’ve been able to fully express myself and who I am through my music, through my mainstream pop music space,” Porter said of the new album in a press release. “It’s like my magnum opus. It’s everything to me. You’ll really get a glimpse into who I am even deeper with this music.”

His live show will feature his hits “Love Is on the Way” and “Love Yourself,” a hint of Broadway and nods to Pose and certainly a healthy dose of his new pop music, including his recent banger “Baby was a Dancer.”

As he makes his way to Dallas and finalizes the live performance, Porter took the time to talk with Dallas Voice about creating this new album that reflects his true self and how it compares to his first album. Porter also gave us hints of what to expect from his live show.

Vist for tickets to the Black Mona Lisa Tour: Vol. 1.

Dallas Voice: This must be an exciting time for you in so many ways with the new music and tour. How does it feel for you? Billy Porter: I’ve waited a long time for this, so it’s great. I have new mainstream music coming out on my own terms, finally — especially after decades when my first album came out.

That was in 1997. What are the differences you see since then? It was a very homophobic world — even worse than now. The recording part just didn’t work out so well. I was just in the room writing and trying to tell people what I wanted. No one would listen to me. Now, people listen.

What’s great about your upcoming album is that you worked with Justin Tranter, the queer front man for Semi-Precious Weapons. So Black Mona Lisa should be quite the gay album. I like that! We wrote a bunch of songs together, and it was magical. He is the fiercest in terms of being an unbelievable songwriter.

These two dynamic gay artists collaborating on one album says so much. Two queer people out of the closet — I never had that before. He’s out; I’m out. We’re a team unmatched.

I also wrote with Angela Martin and Annie K., and we have this album that’s an expression of who I am and exactly how I want to represent myself musically. So different from the first album.

Why was now the time for this album and tour? The universe reveals to me what it is. I don’t go with any expectations anymore — or try not to.

That’s what gets me tripped up.

I wanted to be the male Whitney when I was a kid, and this idea came back around to me. And so I was waiting for the right time, and something told me: It’s time.

As of press time, you’re still working on creating the live show. What can you say about it now though? It’s this show of life, love, joy, hope, peace. It’s a retrospective of my life and career. I’ll have songs from the new album, some old R&B, some Broadway. People are gonna get some gospel, and they are gonna get to party.

We’ve truly seen a new fire in your career the last few years. You’re everywhere. What led to that? At 30, I took a break. I did not like the trajectory of my career, and the work dried up. But seeing Jeffrey Wright in Angels in America in 1994 was a big moment — seeing someone who looked like me in a positive light. It wasn’t until 2000 that I was ready. Ten years later I was in a revival of Angels in my return to theater.

That was followed by a Tony for Kinky Boots, then an Emmy for Pose. You’ve become a true fashion icon. Now you’re directing and writing … I also have my own production company, Incognegro. So I’m pitching shows and ideas. I am trying to run everything! I’m blessed to have a great team and that’s how I get to do this – with a team that helps me along.

The album comes out later this year, but what can you tell us about it now? This mainstream pop music is truly grounded in my personal queerness. That is at the forefront.

It’s about self-acceptance and self-love. I want to use my art to heal trauma. I think I’m setting myself free with this album, and I hope others can be set free from whatever they need to be free of.

That’s what I’m doing with this album.

Sounds like a bigger message than just some new pop music with this album. I will choose my queer authenticity, no matter the cost. I stand on the shoulders of Black queer men before me like James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin and Sylvester. I’m the first queer generation to have rights, and everyone needs to understand we are not going back. We are not going anywhere.