Billy Porter has revived his Vogue beef with “Watermelon Sugar” singer Harry Styles. Back in 2020, the revered outlet made history by putting a dress-clad Styles on its cover, which marked the first time a man had earned the spot all by himself.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Porter has now said of the singer, “[He’s] white and he’s straight. That’s why he’s on the cover. Non-binary blah blah blah blah. No. It doesn’t feel good to me.”
To add salt to the wound, Porter told The Telegraph that he believes the Styles cover was born out of a conversation he had with Vogue’s iconic worldwide chief content officer, Anna Wintour. While speaking to Wintour and her staff at Condé Nast, “That b—- said to me at the end, ‘How can we do better?’ And I was so taken off guard that I didn’t say what I should have said.”
Porter shared that at the time, he only told Wintour, “Use your power as Vogue to uplift the voices of the leaders of this de-gendering of fashion movement … Six months later, Harry Styles is the first man on the cover.”
While the stage performer is quick to acknowledge he is not “the first” to push back against gender norms in fashion and culture, the choice of Styles as the first man to grace Vogue solo still stings years later.
That doesn’t mean he faults Styles. As Porter put it, “It’s not Harry Styles’s fault that he happens to be white and cute and straight and fit into the infrastructure that way … I call out the gatekeepers.”
Back in 2021, Porter also raised the same beef with Styles and Vogue, telling The Sunday Times, “I feel like the fashion industry has accepted me because they have to. I created the conversation (about non-binary fashion) and yet Vogue still put Harry Styles, a straight white man, in a dress on their cover for the first time.”
Porter was alluding to his 2019 red carpet appearances at the Golden Globes and the Oscars; for the latter, he donned a black velvet dress that became a moment unto itself. As he told The Telegraph, “That was the moment that changed everything, not only for me but the entire world.”
His identity as an openly queer man in the entertainment industry is one that Porter feels he’s had to fight for, which likely explains his continued resentment about Styles’ historic moment. He added, “I was told from allies and haters alike that my queerness would be my liability. And it was, for decades.”
Eventually, Porter realized he had to take a stand for himself. With words that resonate well beyond the conversation at hand, he summed it up: “You find [the drive] or you die on the vine. There’s no real choice. I choose life, period. I will always choose life.”