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Review - Unprotected by Billy Porter

Visibility is hard. Anyone who creates and wants to be noticed by the millions of people on-line day after day can tell you that. We do what we can.

Now imagine you're a young, black gay man in the 1980's and 90's who, despite being possessed of an awesome talent, constantly has to fight against systemic and blatant racism and homophobia on his journey to follow his dream of an illustrious career.

Billy Porter has written a frank, honest and searing account of his life so far, from the triumphs to the bitter disappointments, the trauma of his early life experiences and the AIDs crisis. It's a brilliantly-written account of perseverance, self-belief and determination, told in his unique style. There isn't a lot of name-dropping, apart from the people behind the glitz and glamor, and there are true accounts of friendships made from unpromising beginnings.

I loved this book. He has a lot of vital things to say about how the Black and gay communities are still treated, even in 2022, and gives a great account of how musical theatre works; its heartbreaks and thrills, humiliation and plaudits. I was expecting a fabulous, sparkling, witty gossip-fest, but what I got was so much more. Definitely worth a read.

From the incomparable Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award winner, a powerful and revealing autobiography about race, sexuality, art, and healing It’s easy to be yourself when who and what you are is in vogue. But growing up Black and gay in America has never been easy. Before Billy Porter was slaying red carpets and giving an iconic Emmy-winning performance in the celebrated TV show Pose; before he was the groundbreaking Tony and Grammy Award-winning star of Broadway’s Kinky Boots; and before he was an acclaimed recording artist, actor, playwright, director, and all-around legend, Porter was a young boy in Pittsburgh who was seen as different, who didn’t fit in. At five years old, Porter was sent to therapy to “fix” his effeminacy. He was endlessly bullied at school, sexually abused by his stepfather, and criticized at his church. Porter came of age in a world where simply being himself was a constant struggle. Billy Porter’s Unprotected is the life story of a singular artist and survivor in his own words. It is the story of a boy whose talent and courage opened doors for him, but only a crack. It is the story of a teenager discovering himself, learning his voice and his craft amidst deep trauma. And it is the story of a young man whose unbreakable determination led him through countless hard times to where he is now; a proud icon who refuses to back down or hide. Porter is a multitalented, multifaceted treasure at the top of his game, and Unprotected is a resonant, inspirational story of trauma and healing, shot through with his singular voice.

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