He's the biggest fashion icon in the world right now but, as Siena Yates, discovers, Billy Porter is also a fervent LGTBI+ activist.
The category is: a fashion and activism extravaganza, and the belle of the ball is Billy Porter, serving a side of Emmy-award-worthy realness for tens across the board.
If you're not familiar with Billy Porter, his television series Pose or queer culture in general, that sentence will make zero sense to you. That's what Porter is here for.
The superstar, who has been gracing the well-trodden halls of Broadway for decades, dipped a stilettoed toe into the mainstream playing ballroom MC Pray Tell in Ryan Murphy's trailblazing series, Pose.
But it wasn't the show that launched him into the spotlight - it was what came after.
With two parts of an EGOT (an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony sweep) under his belt and Pose putting him on track for a third, Porter soon started gracing the red carpet at all of Hollywood's major awards ceremonies and parties.
It started at the Golden Globes in January, when he swept the (literal) red carpet in a silver cape with a hot pink lining. But it was his appearance at the Oscars, in an iconic tuxedo gown, which saw Porter splashed all over the headlines and best-dressed lists as mainstream media and fashionistas tripped over themselves to get to the man in the best dress at the Oscars.
By the time May and the Met Gala rolled around, fashion lovers were waiting to see what Porter would bring and with this year's theme directly at the centre of his wheelhouse - "Camp: Notes on Fashion" - he did not disappoint, entering the event on a gold chaise longue carried by six shirtless men, before lifting his arms to reveal golden wings.
When the Tony Awards hit in June, Porter pushed the boat out even further, wearing a hot pink gown designed to represent a uterus, in support of women's rights in the wake of the outcry over Georgia's new abortion laws.
For Porter, fashion is not just art, but activism.
"When I knew that I would be on the world stage in fashion, I made it very clear when I hired my stylist that this was my intention: to be a walking piece of political art every time - or as many times as possible - that I show up," he says, speaking over the phone from New York.
He says he always "played" with fashion and thought out of the box, but he really realised fashion could be a powerful tool when he saw people's reactions to it.
"I would see how people would respond to me and my choices … I'd see how offended some people would be by things I would wear … and I thought, 'Wow, it's just a piece of clothing' but it's garnered such a visceral reaction so often that I knew if I played in that world stage space, I would be able to create conversation and do something special - I hope."
Besides, no one else was doing what Porter wanted to do. Women get to use fashion to make statements all the time - just look at the Time's Up blackout at 2018's Golden Globes - but, says Porter, "Men don't get to play like that.
"And so I thought, that's a lane that's wide open and empty, why not take it?"
There is a reason, and it's the same reason many other men don't do what Porter does - it could literally lose them work.
"I just feel like, as a black gay man in particular and being in showbusiness, that's just the culture in general. There's a performative aspect to masculinity that, if one doesn't live up to that hetero-normative construct, then you're immediately labelled a faggot and thus less-than," he muses.
"And I just got sick of it. I got sick of trying to live up to that. In relation to casting especially; you know, one of the reasons why men don't play on the red carpet is because of the microscope that men - especially leading men - are under in terms of, one false move and your masculinity is in question. And if your masculinity is in question then you can't get your superhero part and 99.9 per cent of the jobs for men are that. So it becomes, 'If I don't wear the monkey suit then someone's gonna think I'm gay or feminine and if they think that then I'm not gonna work.'"
Porter has even had the same conversation with his manager, who feared that Porter's statements on the red carpet would affect his work.
"And for the first time in my life I said, 'I don't care.' I don't want to work with them if they can't receive my work. If they're judging me for what I wear and they see my work and decide that something is wrong with me, I don't want to work with that."
Porter suddenly interrupts our chat, dropping his impassioned tone - and volume - to politely address his driver.
He's travelling between the back-to-back engagements he's found himself booked on since becoming 2019's king of the red carpet, and stops to direct the driver up Ninth Avenue, to a particular smoke shop he wants to visit.
"I love that you're multitasking like this," I say.
He laughs: "I'm on the move, honey."
And he is. This year has seen Porter gracing magazine covers, talk shows, Hollywood parties and queer events - and at every one, he's pushing the same message: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."
It is the argument that if we want things to change, we have to stick to our mission statements for as long as it takes, no matter how hard it gets or who pushes back.
Porter has lived his life by this mantra. It's why he doesn't mind that despite the fact that he's been hustling for the better part of 30 years, the world is only just catching up to his greatness.
I ask if he's at all mad that it's taken so long to get the recognition he has long deserved, and he laughs.
"No! Listen honey, I don't have time to be mad. I live in a joy state, I choose the joy state you know, because living in the mad state is taking away from the moment that I'm in, taking away from the focus that I have to make sure that I use this moment to the best of my ability. So no, I don't have any of that. No, not at all.
"I just think that we're at a tipping point in the culture," he says. "I've always been doing this, I just wasn't on a television show, so I didn't have a spotlight on me."
Now that he does, he's not going to let it go to waste - he's also not letting it go to his head. Yes, Porter is having one hell of a moment right now, but for him it's just an opportunity to be heard.
"I really am trying to keep it about the work and keep it about the mission statement. My ministry is about making the world a different place, changing the world, changing minds and really using my art as activism to make a difference. But I can't do that with an ego involved. I've got to keep my ego out of it," he says.
If it sounds like a lot to take on, it's because it is.
Porter came out in 1985 when was just 15 years old and, as he tells it, went "straight to the front lines" of activism, in the midst of the Aids crisis in the US. "We had no choice".
He attended his first gay pride at 19, when he was taken along by friends.
"We started marching down Fifth Avenue chanting, 'Act up, fight back, fight Aids.' That's just how it was; we were called. We were called to duty and, you know, we show up. That's all I know. That's my life. All I know is activism. All I know is, you know, you fight for what you believe in, you stand up for what you believe in. And you make sure that the world hears you."
As someone who also attempts to use their (albeit infinitely smaller) platform for change, I have to ask Porter whether now, after 49 years of taking two steps forward and one step back, it's starting to feel like a burden.
He is quick to rebuke me.
"No! What? No! Do you know how many people came before us? I'm a descendant of slaves. It's not a responsibility, it's my duty. It's what we're here for on the planet. Like, no, not at all! That's what life is; eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," he says, dropping his (no doubt soon-to-be-trademarked phrase).
"That's just what life is. I don't even think about it in terms of that ... because I don't know how. I'm a gay black man in America, there was never a moment in my life when I wasn't fighting."
It's an incredibly valid point, so I rephrase: "Aren't you tired, though?"
"Yeah," he laughs.
"Hell yeah! But that's a different question. Yes, it's exhausting. Yes, I'm tired. So what? You think Harriet Tubman wasn't tired? It's like, 'Who am I?' There are far, far worse things that have happened to people that have come up in this world. I've got to show up. We've got to show up. There's no other choice.
"You know, I've been saying it in my press all day: those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it. It's like we're in the middle of going right back to Nazi f***ing Germany with this hate and this rhetoric; and the silence and the complicitness -'Oh you know, somebody else will take care of it. Oh well, I can't do it.'
"But no! We actually can do something about it. That's how something has always been done, is when the people rise up. The people have to rise up though, honey. We really do."
Anyone familiar with any ounce of queer culture will know that if ever there were an ideal time for Porter's revolution, it's now.
Queer culture, and particularly black queer culture, is the hottest "trend" in Hollywood right now. Suddenly everyone is spilling tea and throwing shade and snapping their fingers yelling, "Yass honey" and "Work bitch." Even Taylor Swift is writing songs in their vernacular.
Surprisingly, this is not something that bothers Porter - indeed, it plays right into his hands.
"Listen, appropriation is a form of flattery … of representation. It's up to us to take what that is and make something of it. Now that we have your attention, stop voting for [Donald] Trump. Now that we have your attention, stop voting against our humanity. You like this? All right, now see us as human beings and not just vessels for your f***ing entertainment. Now let's take it to the next place - you want to talk like me? Then understand who I am.
"I'm so excited about this platform that I have right now because I know what to do with it now. I'm going to be 50 in September… I've seen all my friends get famous ... I've seen all my idols, I've seen what they do, I know what they do. And I know how to harness the power that I have now. I know exactly what I'm doing."
Pose season 2 is now streaming on Neon.