“Hey everybody, prepare yourself,” is how Stephen Colbert welcomed Kinky Boots and Pose star (and “fashion icon”) Billy Porter to Wednesday’s Late Show. And while that might smack of old-school timidity in the face of one of the most gloriously outrageous and talented performers out there, Colbert was more than game to let Porter both give him a quick accessory makeover, and speak feelingly about how the ball culture depicted in FX’s Pose was and remains a powerful, necessary “chosen family” for many gay people. “Sometimes our biological families are not equipped to love us unconditionally in the ways that are necessary for us to thrive when we are LGBTQ people,” explained Porter. “It’s a culture that came, that emerged out of these people being thrown out of their houses just because of who they are.”
Mixing the outrageous and the political is Porter’s métier, and the Tony and Grammy winner, in response to Colbert’s praise of the elaborately fabulous gold and frills ensemble Porter sported for the appearance, explained how his splashy scene-making is as much about statement as spectacle. Asked if fashion can be political, Porter responded, in the affirmative,“especially when it comes to gender.” Thanking Katherine Hepburn alongside Colbert for breaking that whole “women wearing pants” taboo, yet Porter claimed it was beyond time to do the same for men. Calling out the implications in the double standard, Porter told Colbert that, while a woman in pants is seen as powerful (thanks to patriarchal notions that “male” equals “power”), “the minute a man puts on a dress, it’s disgusting.” Pledging to continue his role in busting down that particular dressing room door, Porter exclaimed to a cheering Late Show crowd, “I’m a man in a dress, and if I feel like wearing a dress, I’m gonna wear one!”
While Colbert didn’t change out of his network-standard tie-and-blazer duds right on the spot, he did encourage Porter to “zhuzh” his signature look, a task Porter took to with well-prepared glee. First donning a pair of Porter’s pink rhinestone glasses in place of his own spectacles, Colbert claimed he looked like “a stuntman on Rocketman.” Still, he was more than game to then try on a zebra-striped hat (“You gotta cock that shit to the side,” Porter advised), that Porter said he’d bought for $500 back when he was very broke, leading the duo to strut their stuff to bandleader Jon Batiste’s impromptu runway jam. “Oh my God, I love you,” exclaimed Porter to the happily vogueing Colbert, admiring the host’s confidence, if not his overall fashion sense.