Billy Porter at the 2019 Academy Awards Source: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Billy Porter Slams Harry Styles' Gender-Bending Magazine Cover, 'That B***h' Anna Wintour

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Years after Harry Styles broke new ground by covering Vogue in a dress, fashion pioneer Billy Porter still has hard feelings – and he has hard words for Anna Wintour, calling her a "b***h" in a recent interview.

People Magazine reported that Porter spoke his mind in an interview with UK newspaper the Telegraph. Styles – who has recently been moving into film work as well as music – is a straight man whose gender-porous sense of fashion has been met with acclaim, but also accusations of queerbaiting.

Porter seemed to call those criticisms to mind, telling the Telegraph that the reason Styles got the cover – the first man to be so featured by the magazine – was that Styles is "white and he's straight."

"That's why he's on the cover," Porter declared. "No. It doesn't feel good to me. You're using my community – or your people are using my community – to elevate you. You haven't had to sacrifice anything."

Porters' critiques mirror what he said at the time, when that famous Vogue cover first appeared. "I'm not dragging Harry Styles, but he is the one you're going to try and use to represent this new conversation?" The Hollywood Reporter recalled Porter telling The Sunday Times in late 2021. "He doesn't care, he's just doing it because it's the thing to do." But for Porter, such fashion statements were "politics."

"This is my life," Porter told The Sunday Times. "I had to fight my entire life to get to the place where I could wear a dress to the Oscars and not be gunned now. All he has to do is be white and straight."

To make himself perfectly clear as he reiterated his feelings, Porter took pains to say he's not blaming the English recording artist and "My Policeman" star. "It's not Harry Styles's fault that he happens to be white and cute and straight and fit into the infrastructure that way," Porter told the Telegraph. "I call out the gatekeepers."

Indeed, Porter was at the vanguard of challenging binary notions in fashion. The Telegraph recalled that "In January 2019, Billy Porter stepped onto the red carpet at the Golden Globes, crossed one Gucci slipper over the other, flicked his arms up from under the silver cape that matched his suit, and revealed a giant swathe of fuchsia satin with a flourish."

"An invite to the Oscars arrived shortly after, to which Porter wore a black velvet gown with a skirt to rival Deborah Kerr's in 'The King and I,'" the profile added.

"That was the moment that changed everything, not only for me but the entire world," Porter told the newspaper. Recent celebrity styles confirm he's not exaggerating. The Telegraph said that "Brad Pitt wore a messianic skirt to a premiere, Oscar Isaac has made a pleated kilt his preferred red-carpet look, while the annual Met Gala has rapidly become a competition for who can arrive in the most boundary-crossing, gender-switching outfit..."

Looking back on that cultural watershed, Porter recalled how, only a few months prior to the Styles cover, "he'd done a Q&A with Anna Wintour in front of Condé Nast staff," the Telegraph related.

"That b---- said to me at the end, 'How can we do better?'" Porter recalled. "And I was so taken off guard that I didn't say what I should have said."

Namely: "Use your power as Vogue to uplift the voices of the leaders of this de-gendering of fashion movement," Porter said.

And yet: "Six months later, Harry Styles is the first man on the cover."

But it's not like Porter wants people to think he was the absolute beginning for gender-creative fashion statements. "I know David Bowie existed," the singer, Broadway star, and film and TV actor told the Telegraph. "I know Sylvester existed."

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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