If you’ve been online at all in the past month (which you’re reading right now), most likely you’ve seen something about the Cinderella revival. Maybe it was the aspiring villagers. Maybe it was the eggshell blue pantsuit as part of a very contemporary #girlboss gag. Or maybe it was Billy Porter’s story as “Fab G”.
On August 28th, Porter will expand his offscreen tasks by moderating the livestream “Dressed for a Dream” (4:00 p.m. PT / 7:00 p.m. ET), which was created in cooperation between Refinery29 and Mercedes-Benz and in the 11 “everyday Ellas” are swept from the street onto the runway. Before his appearance at the Fantasy Fashion Event of the Year, we sat down with Porter to talk about clothing as armor, his personal fairies, and how to remember your own power when dealing with evil stepsisters (or something similar) has to do).
The Mercedes-Benz livestream “Dressed for a Dream” celebrates strong personalities and empowerment. What does it mean for you to host this event?
“As a queer person of color, I live a loud and proud life that is all about authenticity. There was less inclusion earlier in my career, but we – myself and everyone who came before me – struggled to have the right kind of representation to have all kinds of representations. And how does that work better than through our classic fairy tales? So it’s nice to be a part of this special Cinderella and also to be connected to companies like Mercedes that are really geared towards these values. “
You play the fabulous godmother in Cinderella Revival. What do you hope for from your interpretation of the fairy godmother?
“Magic has no gender. These stories are fairy tales, they are parables, and they can be told and interpreted by different types of people, genres, and communities. It’s exciting to have a Latinx Cinderella and – as I identify – to have a genderqueer man playing the fairy godmother who is usually a woman. With this it is time for the next generation to change the world. “
The story goes on
In the film, clothes function as a means of escape, i.e. Cinderella’s clothes shop, the ball gown she designed and worn that changed her life. What power do clothes have for you?
“Clothes make the man or the woman. I’m the first generation after the civil rights movement – I was brought up to think about: what’s the first impression you make? First impressions depend on what you are wearing and how you look. I also grew up in the Black Church, which is a fashion show in itself. I come from this background and family, and it’s always about doing your best. “
What is an example in your own life of someone acting as your personal fairy godmother?
“I had so many. I grew up impoverished in Pittsburgh and the arts were my salvation. I was a high school graduate of a performing arts high school, and these two women got wind that I wanted to move to New York. They came in and essentially told me that I had to go to Carnegie Mellon University because I need that to prepare for the work in my life. And they were right. With all this talk of opportunity and access, it took someone white to tell me that I was a 12-minute drive from one of the best drama schools in the world, and I had no idea. So that was an angelic moment for me. “
How do you act as a fairy godmother for others if you are not playing any on-screen?
“I have a mission to make sure I can be the fairy godmother to others in need: I work a lot with the Trevor Project, I teach a lot, and I work on a lot of projects back home in Pittsburgh – I’ve been here for the past 10 weeks to direct my first feature film. I was really excited to come here and develop programs that give back to my community. I am on this path and whenever I can help, I am there. “
In the film we see Fab G dressing Cinderella in a business suit. As someone who knows the power of a statement suit on the red carpet, what is it for you to be empowering to wear one?
“A statement suit means business. The truth of the matter is, a statement suit has always been synonymous with masculinity and masculinity was synonymous with being better than femininity. So I would like to break that paradigm and ask the real question, ‘What is your personal suit?’ What is the personal attitude towards a person that makes them feel powerful? Let’s redefine what that means – it doesn’t just mean pants and jacket, it means armor.
“On the red carpet, I stopped wearing traditional suits and started playing with gender in my fashion and it made me feel very empowered. It doesn’t have to be a thing. Now I’m in the middle of a hodgepodge of everything I’m feeling – whatever makes me feel fabulous, I’ll wear it here for the rest of the time. “
Not everyone has a wicked stepmother, but everyone has experiences that undermine their power. How do you remember your own power in these cases?
“I have to look at myself in the mirror and give myself a lift. I am doing therapy. I do meditation. I do all the things that are meant to keep you sane. Self-love must come from within. Encourage yourself in spite of yourself – it’s not easy. It’s really hard work. I’ve become more and more comfortable and savvy lately. But it takes time, so be compassionate with yourself. “
Like Cinderella and the Dressed for a Dream participants, being picked or chosen from a crowd can change your life. What advice do you have for those who are still waiting for their big break?
“Stop waiting and start working. There is a difference between waiting idly and being proactive. I will always say, ‘What do you personally do every day?’ Take a step, one active thing in one day, to get closer to your dream. My advice would be to stop waiting and activate. Be present and motivated and get what you want – that’s what Cinderella does, she goes and gets it. “
This interview has been edited and shortened for reasons of clarity.
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