Billy Porter offered a sharp of critique Harry Styles’ 2020 Vogue cover — the pop star became the magazine’s first male cover star and appeared in a dress — noting in an interview with The Sunday Times that queer people in fashion have not been given similar opportunities.
In the interview, Porter’s criticism was couched in his broader frustrations with the fashion world. He noted his own history of sporting androgynous looks on red carpets, proclaiming, “I changed the whole game… And that is not ego, that is just fact. I was the first one doing it and now everybody is doing it.”
Despite the acclaim he’s garnered for his style, Porter said, “I feel like the fashion industry has accepted me because they have to. I’m not necessarily convinced and here is why. I created the conversation [about non-binary fashion] and yet Vogue still put Harry Styles, a straight white man, in a dress on their cover for the first time.”
Porter continued: “I’m not dragging Harry Styles, but he is the one you’re going to try and use to represent this new conversation? He doesn’t care, he’s just doing it because it’s the thing to do. This is politics for me. This is my life. I had to fight my entire life to get to the place where I could wear a dress to the Oscars and not be gunned down. All he has to do is be white and straight.”
Reps for Styles and Vogue did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
Although Porter’s critiques of the fashion world and who it chooses to highlight are valid, it should be noted that Styles was making androgynous and non-binary fashion choices well before last year’s Vogue cover (which primarily drew criticism from conservatives concerned about threats to masculinity). For instance, he donned a full ballerina tutu for a Saturday Night Live photoshoot in 2019, while that same year he appeared in several dresses for a Guardian profile.
As for his sexuality, Styles has dated women during his time as a public figure but has not identified himself specifically as straight. In The Guardian, he said, “Am I sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting? No…. [I]n terms of how I wanna dress, and what the album sleeve’s gonna be, I tend to make decisions in terms of collaborators I want to work with. I want things to look a certain way. Not because it makes me look gay, or it makes me look straight, or it makes me look bisexual, but because I think it looks cool. And more than that, I dunno, I just think sexuality’s something that’s fun. Honestly? I can’t say I’ve given it any more thought than that.”