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After Billy Porter revealed his HIV-positive status to “The Hollywood Reporter,” he opened up further about his diagnosis to Tamron Hall in his first TV interview on the subject.
Porter, 51, taped his talk with Hall on Monday for Wednesday’s show. We’re told they discussed his diagnosis for nearly two hours.
In the interview, the “Pose” star said he felt shame about his 2007 positive diagnosis because he was of the generation that was “supposed to know better.”
“The shame is debilitating… The shame engulfed me. I had stomach issues for 14 years and nobody could figure out what or why. My stomach just felt like it was always in knots,” he said. “It felt like there was a hand on my heart squeezing every day, all day, every morning … Shame is a destroyer. It destroys everything.”
Hall revealed on the show that Porter “called me a couple of weeks ago” and she assumed he wanted to “team up on Zoom” for a charity event “to lift spirits.” But Porter said instead, “I got something else to share that I’ve been holding for 14 years.”
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“The [phone] conversation was just as tearful as the interview. He came to grips with how it was all coming out, and he was very emotional. He didn’t want the story to get lost. There was a sense of relief,” an insider told us.
Porter, whose “Pose” character Pray Tell is positive, said their stories are parallel and that he had the same response to his diagnosis as the character did.
In the episode, Pray learns of his positive status and responds: “This is the moment that I dreaded most. Dodged it. For years. And, now the son of a bitch has finally caught up with me.”
A tearful Porter told Hall it wasn’t just acting, and that it was “both” his real life and the character.
“That’s what I speak of when I speak of the gift that ‘Pose’ has been for me — the idea of understanding that trauma is not something that you compartmentalize or disassociate from, which I am so good at doing,” he said. “The trauma started so early for me — the only muscle I had until recently was to disassociate and compartmentalize, and keep moving forward.”
He added that “thanks to COVID” and his therapist that he was forced to “sit in it.”
“She said, ‘Billy, you have been able — in action — to manifest a life for yourself, while your mind is still stuck in the trauma. We got to catch your mind up to your actions,’” the actor said. “That is what ‘Pose’ has done for me … It made me sit in it. Sit in it, and go through it, so that I can heal and maybe be a blessing to someone else.”
Porter has received an outpouring of support from entertainment industry peers including Matt Bomer, Nia Long, Naomi Campbell, Leslie Jordan, Big Freedia and “Pose” co-star MJ Rodriguez.
“The whole experience has opened him up to limitless possibility. He has no more shame. He said at one point his sexuality felt like a liability, and then he was diagnosed with HIV, and now opening up about the experience… he’s his full authentic self,” an insider told Page Six of the Hall interview.
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