Before Billy Porter was slaying red carpets and giving an iconic Emmy-winning performance in the celebrated TV show Pose; before he was the Tony and Grammy Award-winning star of Broadway's Kinky Boots, Porter was a young boy in Pittsburgh who was seen as different, who didn't fit in.
Porter has built a career on blending theater excellence, gospel grandiosity and reading-for-filth realness, all through the astonishing instrument of his voice. This combination is vividly translated in Porter’s new memoir, Unprotected, which recounts his lifelong struggle to heal the deep wounds buried under the sheen of his charismatic presence ... Porter’s voice on the page aptly matches his go-for-broke vocal instrument. He holds little back, never shying from raw emotionality, but avoiding histrionics. He writes bluntly about not being accepted by his church, as well as his quest to heal from years of sexual abuse by his stepfather in his preteen years ... This is not just a memoir, saints; this is a testimony. He is telling a story and he is spilling the tea and he is working through deep wounds in pursuit of a clearer path to a full experience of personhood ... Some stories one wishes Porter would linger on. His marriage and recent career successes, for instance, rush by in a blur of boldfaced names and viral moments. But in Unprotected, Porter is reaching for a loftier objective than just delivering a happily ever after ... In embracing his fullness, faults and all, Porter positions himself atop an altar, as he was memorably seen in the recent video for Lil Nas X’s That’s What I Want, and simultaneously at the foot of it, like a lost soul who races up the aisle of a church looking for transcendence or hope or salvation or healing on an extraordinary Sunday.
... stirring ... Through his experience as a gay Black man, repeatedly subjected to unspeakable pain, Porter delivers a searing indictment of how America treats race, sexuality and anyone outside the norm. Clear and piercing, his justified indignation is as defined as his singular singing voice and flashy fashion ... With raw vulnerability, Porter opens up on how the effects of childhood abuse long prevented him from loving Black men romantically ... Porter’s recollections are vivid and his prose playful, packed with amusing colloquialisms and no shortage of sass ... Even if Porter’s sharpest barbs seem saved for the church and the GOP, he doesn’t hold back when confronting Broadway’s and Hollywood’s systemic shortcomings ... Porter is also refreshingly candid on the allure of fame and industry accolades ... Whether he’s reliving triumphs or trauma, Porter bears his soul — just as he did all those years ago on that high school stage, bloodied and bruised. When faced with such honest audacity, one can only applaud.
... an unfiltered look at many of Porter’s highest and lowest moments, some of which seem designed to make readers as uncomfortable as he was. Others show what can be achieved via hard work and a steadfast dedication to authenticity ... Much of Porter’s story has been out there for years, but never presented in such a raw and concentrated manner as a memoir...you’ve definitely never experienced 278 pages of how those life-changing events added to emotional trauma that he’s still working through to this day ... It’s impossible to read Unprotected in anything but Porter’s extremely distinctive voice ... This is the kind of memoir that has no desire to sway how you feel about its author. If you weren’t a big Porter fan before Unprotected, this memoir won’t change your mind. However, those who enjoy his work and want to learn more about his story will come away with a deeper understanding of how, as Porter puts it, 'my life is a testimony to the power that art has to heal trauma.'