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Billy Porter’s Stunning Oscars Tuxedo Gown Was a Tribute to This Ball Culture Legend Editors' Picks

Billy Porter’s Stunning Oscars Tuxedo Gown Was a Tribute to This Ball Culture Legend

Written by Stephan Horbelt on February 25, 2019
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It’s the morning after the Academy Awards, which means everyone can’t help but weigh in on the night’s big wins, its snubs and — but of course — the good, the bad and the ugly that took place on the red carpet. While all of last night’s celebrities looked perfectly polished on the carpet, it was the Billy Porter Oscars look — a tuxedo gown designed by Christian Siriano — that had everyone talking, and with good reason. But did you know it was inspired by a legend of New York ball culture, Hector Xtravaganza?

It’s a shame the little gold man known as Oscar isn’t also handed out before the show in honor of the most dramatic red carpet look, because Billy Porter would have taken it home handily. Both regal and extremely dramatic, the Billy Porter Oscars look blurred gender lines and proved he’s unafraid to take risks in his personal style. Bravo, sir!

billy porter oscars hector xtravaganza 2

It didn’t take long after Porter posed on the runway — he was interviewing actors and filmmakers before the ceremony as part of the Oscars pre-show — that fans were quick to point out his look’s homage to someone special to the queer community. Hector Xtravaganza, dubbed the “Godfather of Ballroom,” sadly passed away on Dec. 30, 2018, and like Billy Porter he knew how to bring a room to its feet, jaws hanging, with his own fashion choices.

A pioneering member of the New York ballroom scene, Hector Xtravaganza first attended balls in the very late ’70s, and appeared in the lauded documentary Paris Is Burning. More recently he was a consultant on the FX series Pose, which Porter stars on, all about ball culture and the queer people of color who found a community therein.

A side-by-side comparison of the Billy Porter Oscars look and a shot of Hector Xtravaganza was posted by the House of Xtravaganza last night, providing a touching backstory for the Siriano tuxedo gown.

The actor spoke to Vogue about last night’s look:

Now I’m in a space where, being on Pose, 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. He came up with a tux on the top, and a ballgown that bursts out at the bottom. I wore it with Rick Owens shoes. …

From this [Oscars] moment, I want people to understand that you don’t have to understand or even agree with other people’s authenticity or truths, but we must all respect each other. People are going to be really uncomfortable with my black ass in a ball gown — but it’s not anybody’s business but mine.

Are you a fan of this Billy Porters Oscars look and its homage to Hector Xtravaganza?

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