‘Call me Cinder-fella’: How to rip up the red carpet rulebook

Lifestyle

‘Call me Cinder-fella’: How to rip up the red carpet rulebook

Billy Porter’s Christian Siriano tuxedo dress goes viral

Caroline Leaper


The red carpet has always been a place for boundary-pushing fashion and the Oscars has long been seen as the biggest platform to showcase new takes on glamour. With a bold dress, or a strong message behind one’s look, an Oscars appearance is perhaps the fastest route to a viral fashion moment. More than 26 million people tune in to watch the ceremony, and more still follow every star’s arrival on Twitter, commenting on the outfits as soon as they arrive.
At the 91st Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Pose actor Billy Porter made a deeply personal sartorial statement, expressing how he feels he can use fashion to articulate his views on his queer identity and representation in the entertainment industry.
His message and his image were picked up immediately on social media, with fans quick to dub him the night’s best dressed before anyone else had even arrived. Naturally, Porter had prepared a statement on his look, which his people released to American Vogue as he hit the red carpet, and a photographer was present to document his process as he got ready.
“[At the first fitting in the gown,] I felt alive,” he explained. “I felt free. And open, and radiant. And beautiful! Which has not always been the case for me. I haven’t always felt so good about myself. It really is astonishing how much of an effect clothes have on your spirit.”
The actor’s stylist, Sam Ratelle, had worked with New York designer Christian Siriano to develop the bespoke hybrid tuxedo dress for the star. The upper half of was a sharp tailored jacket, with a velvet strapless ballgown underneath. Porter added a white shirt, bow tie and Oscar Heyman diamonds.
“When you’re black and you’re gay, one’s masculinity is in question,” Porter said. “I dealt with a lot of homophobia in relation to my clothing choices. [Now] I’m invited to red carpets and I have something to say through clothes. 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? Women show up every day in pants, but the minute a man wears a dress, the seas part. We wanted to play between the masculine and the feminine. This look was interesting because it’s not drag. I’m not a drag queen, I’m a man in a dress.”
Porter said he hopes his choice might encourage other actors to express themselves more on the red carpet, breaking away from wearing traditional tuxedos in favour of something more creative and expressive.
“This industry masquerades itself as inclusive, but actors are afraid to play, because if they show up as something outside of the status quo they might be received as feminine, and, as a result, they won’t get that masculine job, that superhero job,” Porter said. “And that’s the truth. I’ve been confronted with that.”
Porter’s vision, ultimately, has worked. He has started a conversation: more than 9,000 people have posted his image on Instagram so far.
“I had the courage to push the status quo,” he said. “I believe men on the red carpet would love to play more.”
- © The Daily Telegraph

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