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Unprotected: A Memoir

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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 s 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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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 s 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.

30 review for Unprotected: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Billy’s story is incredible. The strength and determination exhibited by him as a youth is incomprehensible. Not to mention the fact that this memoir reads like a master class in assertiveness and knowing one’s worth as he moved into adulthood.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dotty

    Fascinating story about a fascinating man. I first discovered Billy Porter on POSE. And I’ve followed him since then and his appearances at galas are always amazing!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jerrika Rhone

    Billy is finna break my heart, I just know it <3 4% Done: A gay child and a disabled mother, I can't even fathom the cruelty. I am so happy she's alive to see him accomplish EVERYTHING and more. Makes my heart happy. 23% Done: insert every applauding meme ever made! I love how he goes from stories of his life to his internal dialogue. The things he must to do to collect himself and keep it moving. It's relatable and comforting to hear that it's not just you. Billy Porter is a treasure and I stan! M Billy is finna break my heart, I just know it <3 4% Done: A gay child and a disabled mother, I can't even fathom the cruelty. I am so happy she's alive to see him accomplish EVERYTHING and more. Makes my heart happy. 23% Done: insert every applauding meme ever made! I love how he goes from stories of his life to his internal dialogue. The things he must to do to collect himself and keep it moving. It's relatable and comforting to hear that it's not just you. Billy Porter is a treasure and I stan! MF GASSSSSPPPPPPPPPP! 35% Done: BILLY JUST DROPPED MY FAVE GEM! "You can't be so heavenly bound that you are no earthly good" SWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON! What a fun and heartbreaking book. I laughed, I cried, I cry laughed through the whole thing. What a beautiful spirit <3

  4. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Holbert

    I’m so excited for this one! I’ve LOVED Billy since Kinky Boots!!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    This book is another correctly-timed step forward in Billy Porter’s illustrious career. I’ve missed stories of people who had to hustle and fight for the success they have achieved: his desire to be authentically himself is one takeaway that resonates with me. Billy Porter is an independent, strong man: we need to protect ourselves at home, in our career, and with our hearts. There are a few issues with this book (messy editing, duplicated paragraphs, a slight lack of cohesiveness in the later c This book is another correctly-timed step forward in Billy Porter’s illustrious career. I’ve missed stories of people who had to hustle and fight for the success they have achieved: his desire to be authentically himself is one takeaway that resonates with me. Billy Porter is an independent, strong man: we need to protect ourselves at home, in our career, and with our hearts. There are a few issues with this book (messy editing, duplicated paragraphs, a slight lack of cohesiveness in the later chapters), but the approachability of the story and the unapologetic writing style prevented me from putting this down.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Oh, Billy! The fact that you are such a bright light and force for good in this world is amazing considering all you have endured. Thank you for sharing your story, your truth, your gift. I see you and I am so glad you are starting to see a fraction of the appreciation and respect you deserve. All I can say is everyone needs to read this memoir. And lucky for you, it came out yesterday!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Francette Mohamed-Moore

    Read this if your resolve is waning Read Unprotected if: -You’re tired of surviving and want to thrive and want to see how someone else did it -If you need permission to unapologetically be you -If you simply want to be inspired.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Who am I to review this?! I am BOWLED OVER with admiration for this man. What a life, what a story, what a talent. An icon on and off stage, as he proves over and over again. This book broke my heart as often as it warmed it - the balancing act of searing honesty, gutwrenching vulnerability, fierce, unapologetic activism, and heartfelt humour that Billy Porter establishes here is so masterful. I loved hearing every part of his Broadway journey through the decades - as well as learned so much abo Who am I to review this?! I am BOWLED OVER with admiration for this man. What a life, what a story, what a talent. An icon on and off stage, as he proves over and over again. This book broke my heart as often as it warmed it - the balancing act of searing honesty, gutwrenching vulnerability, fierce, unapologetic activism, and heartfelt humour that Billy Porter establishes here is so masterful. I loved hearing every part of his Broadway journey through the decades - as well as learned so much about the community through his incredibly valuable perspective - loved vicariously experiencing what it must feel like to sing a room into silence with an absolute showstopper (the way he could put this feeling into WORDS), and was absolutely FLOORED by his strength and fire and passion when it came to standing up for himself in all things, in so many things - seriously, an ICON. What stands out most though is the emphasis he places on love, even in the face of the cruellest hatred, on so many heartbreaking fronts. He’ll call out all wrongs done to him or others with stunning ferocity, but just as quickly acknowledge where certain wrongs have been apologized for and what actions the person who first committed them has taken to right them and do better with a celebratory, “well, work!” I love this man so much. So much power and truth and sheer triumph and healing in his words - he defs has snatched the edges on the memoir genre with this one, and OH what a gem it is. The things that can be learned here if the whole world could read this!! Highly highly recommend!!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jessa Franco

    I hate reviewing memoirs. It doesn't feel appropriate for me to review another person's life story. However, for this memoir I have no hesitation: 5 stars across the board. Excellent writing, phenomenal audio production, and all around moving read. Billy Porter shares raw vulnerability, while never wavering in the strength of his convictions and sense of self. May we all strive to be like Billy. I hate reviewing memoirs. It doesn't feel appropriate for me to review another person's life story. However, for this memoir I have no hesitation: 5 stars across the board. Excellent writing, phenomenal audio production, and all around moving read. Billy Porter shares raw vulnerability, while never wavering in the strength of his convictions and sense of self. May we all strive to be like Billy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jai

    Thank you Billy Porter for letting us in to know you better. I first started loving you when I saw the first episode of Pose. But your book Unprotected taught me so much about you,the person who I call my Uncle in my head. I was unaware of your early days living in Pittsburgh,singing and going to acting school. A few things you talked about hit me hard and one of them was the church trauma you dealt with. Us as black folks know about the black church and how traumatic it can be for anyone who th Thank you Billy Porter for letting us in to know you better. I first started loving you when I saw the first episode of Pose. But your book Unprotected taught me so much about you,the person who I call my Uncle in my head. I was unaware of your early days living in Pittsburgh,singing and going to acting school. A few things you talked about hit me hard and one of them was the church trauma you dealt with. Us as black folks know about the black church and how traumatic it can be for anyone who they don’t seem as “right”. Listening to a few things you dealt with in your early life made me so sad. I understand your title of Unprotected because you were unprotected from a lot of sh*t growing up. Unprotected from bully’s, Unprotected from your step father and Unprotected from society as a whole. I wanted to finish the book by December 31st to say this was one of the best books that I’ve read in 2021,but here I am on January 2nd. SN: I listened to the book on Audible and I’m happy that I did. The original plan was to buy your hardcover but listening to your voice brought the book to life!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. I'm so glad I waited for the audiobook to come out. Billy reading his book is next level good. I would highly recommend reading this book, but if you can get it on audiobook. This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. I'm so glad I waited for the audiobook to come out. Billy reading his book is next level good. I would highly recommend reading this book, but if you can get it on audiobook.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Gomez41

    I love him SO much!! Pose is my all time favorite series and I need to absorb every magical, unapologetic, profound, hilarious piece of art he contributes to this world! 🤩✨🎉

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    All I can say is WOW!!! Abrams Books provided the copy of this amazing book I received through the Goodreads giveaways. When it becomes available to the general public, buy it and READ IT! I am NOT going to comment with any spoilers, here. But, if you greatly admire Billy Porter, as I do, you will love this book as I did.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Allie

    Billy, thank you for your words and your life's work. May we all learn to see the power in Art and artistic expression the way you do. Thank you for being the activist you are and for sharing your story with us. Billy, thank you for your words and your life's work. May we all learn to see the power in Art and artistic expression the way you do. Thank you for being the activist you are and for sharing your story with us.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erin Hussey

    Beautifully written.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Four stars bc he’s excellent company and has a hell of a story, not bc this is outstandingly well-written or structured. The first half was way more engrossing for me, but his voice and energy kept me reading even when it felt repetitive. Also, I have to love someone who thinks Grease is as much a piece of shit as I do. One of my friends read it and would pause to watch a video relating to the particular moment, which is a great idea. I’ll be watching ex post facto.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kenny Tran

    This book sparked my interest as this is a memoir by a well known star that told his story. It is an intense book that was true with feelings, emotions, eliving his past memories and how he overcame it. I liked the book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn (Carrie)

    I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Billy Porter. I related to Billy on so many levels - from the church to singing to drama….. Allies….. we have to be an ally! I was first exposed to Billy on POSE(one of my favorite shows EVER)….. Thankful & grateful Billy wrote this book. It spoke to my heart & soul. So well written. Billy is beyond talented! The heart of Billy is beautiful. It helped me heal a little bit. And helped me see a path…. Thank you, Billy Porter!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stef

    A true 5 stars. Billy Porter is a powerful storyteller with a compelling story to tell, infused with art, therapy, politics, and generosity. As a fellow Carnegie Mellon alum, I really appreciate his strong advocacy for the power and hope of arts education, too.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Renee Glembin

    Billy Porter is an inspiration. I know, after reading this touching memoir, how uncomfortable such a proclamation sometimes makes Mr Porter, who, because he is human and has had, and continues to have, his own struggles and is not perfect, may feel undeserving of such accolades...nevertheless, he deserves them! He must own that his story, laid bare here, in brutal, heart-wrenching, hilarious, and heart-warming scenes from his life (think: Angela's Ashes), is a testament to his resilience and his Billy Porter is an inspiration. I know, after reading this touching memoir, how uncomfortable such a proclamation sometimes makes Mr Porter, who, because he is human and has had, and continues to have, his own struggles and is not perfect, may feel undeserving of such accolades...nevertheless, he deserves them! He must own that his story, laid bare here, in brutal, heart-wrenching, hilarious, and heart-warming scenes from his life (think: Angela's Ashes), is a testament to his resilience and his continual inner drive to keep moving forward, over, around and through any and all obstacles, which includes horrific abuse, to live his life on his own terms, honoring his own truth. He refers to when he was in middle school, which he calls a "turning point in his life" when for the first time he ventured on his own outside his neighborhood as a time when,"I became practiced in the art of charting my own path." At a young age, Porter took Greyhounds to New York from his childhood home in Pittsburgh to audition for theater roles and gigs. In seventh and eighth grade, he used public transportation on Saturdays to get to all-day-arts workshops at the Centers for the Musically Talented. In addition to working hard on academics, Porter found the authentic expression of himself in theater and threw himself wholly into it, staying late nights working on a show or taking extra voice, acting or movement classes. Mr Porter's life-long work ethic and drive are undeniably dynamic. Thus, Mr Porter's story has provided me- a white, cis-gender, middle aged woman - hope that my dream of being a published book author can happen if I keep-on-keeping-on honing my craft and sending out work, no matter how many times it might come back to me. Mr Porter shares his many rejections and disappointments from the theater world. He did not just pop up onto the scene and become the iconic Pray Tell (which is how I first came to know the raw power and talent of Billy Porter). Rather, Mr Porter has spent his life in pursuit of perfecting his craft, taking the critiques, the rejections, the shows-that-get-cancelled-after-one- nights and tucking them in his arsenal before moving on to that next audition and often slaying that said audition with his prime weapon: his incredible voice - and I would add: his charisma and sass! (And I had no idea he won Star Search 1992, which, did not open the floodgates of fame for him, either, that one might think it would have.) Mr Porter has been steadily and consistently working toward actively creating his destiny his entire life, and his current day notoriety is only the result of all those years of hard work and determination. He simply never gave up. Porter gives credit to the theater and arts programs that were there for him as a young man, programs that were available largely for free because there was public funding for them. He exclaims, "Yes. Free classes. Free. Classes. I have to emphasize the miracle of this: free music classes for anyone talented enough to get in. Every Saturday afternoon, there was a staggering range of opportunities for us. There was a theory class. I had a private voice lesson. I had a private saxophone lesson. I had opera workshop, where I starred as Amahl in Gian Carlo Menotti's 'Amahl and the Night Visitors.' I had a choir class. I had eurythmics. I had percussion class. I availed myself so many facets of a music education that have shaped the artist I am today." He goes on to chastise the lack funding of such programming that began with the Reagan Administration and continues to be underfunded or not funded at all in public education. Later in the book, he shares how his recent success has allowed him to support such programs so that other youths can discover themselves in the arts that in many ways, saved him. Mr Porter gives credit to the many "angels" in his life who were there to love him and support him, emotionally, spiritually and professionally. He writes, "I speak of angels in my life very often - angels who dipped down and pointed me in the right direction." Throughout the book, he speaks of teachers, friends, family, directors and producers who have showed up in his life at just the right time to guide his way. You can tell Porter is passionate about giving back, and giving recognition to each of them and that he is fiercely loyal to those who have been there for him, guiding him and seeing him through to his current level of greatness. The best part about this book - besides all of the motivation it has given me to submit more manuscripts this year - is that while reading it, I can literally "hear" Mr Porter speaking it to me! Every inflection, every poignant, powerful paragraph in which he shares what he endured at the hands of his step-father, the rejection from the church, society, directors and at one time, his own mother, his political rants (which I happen to agree with 100% especially his no-holds barred shredding of Donald J.Trump "aka Orangina 45") to his ability to always find the humorous in all of it, is Billy Porter's voice which simply resounds from the pages making this a truly wonderful rousing, and riveting read from front-to-back! Thank you, Billy Porter! And congratulations on your much earned recognition and success!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    Unprotected: A Memoir by Billy Porter Published October 19, 2021 <3 I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE AUDIOBOOK! THIS WAS AN EPIC READ! WARNING: POTENTIAL TRAUMA TRIGGERS <3 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 Unprotected: A Memoir by Billy Porter Published October 19, 2021 <3 I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE AUDIOBOOK! THIS WAS AN EPIC READ! WARNING: POTENTIAL TRAUMA TRIGGERS <3 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.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Emmy, Grammy, and Tony winner Billy Porters sharest the story of his life with fans in this volume. This includes exploring his difficult childhood as an effeminite, black boy in a culture that doesn't appreciate boys with those characteristics. The tale is touching, interesting and empowering. Besides sharing his own tale, Porter also expains the process of how Broadway functions. This is done by explaining his own education in this area as well as the process he went through to try out for role Emmy, Grammy, and Tony winner Billy Porters sharest the story of his life with fans in this volume. This includes exploring his difficult childhood as an effeminite, black boy in a culture that doesn't appreciate boys with those characteristics. The tale is touching, interesting and empowering. Besides sharing his own tale, Porter also expains the process of how Broadway functions. This is done by explaining his own education in this area as well as the process he went through to try out for roles and even become in volved in the writing and creation of some theatrical works. Throughout the whole book, the narrative perfectly captures his voice and way of speaking. Reading it really is like you were sitting down and listening to him tell you his story. This is a book for anyone who is a fan of his theatrical work, his work on the show Pose, or even just his work in trying to support the LGBTQ+ community.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Froebel

    YES YES YES!!! My oh my was this memoir FANTASTIC! I love how Billy Porter wrote as he would speak, not hesitating to shed his voice and personality through the pages. I really admire the instances of vulnerability he shared. The organization of this book is also FANTASTIC! He bounces between the past and present in an artful way that does not anchor on time, but on a cohesive message. I simply could not put this book down. I felt like I was growing up with him through his story, feeling the imm YES YES YES!!! My oh my was this memoir FANTASTIC! I love how Billy Porter wrote as he would speak, not hesitating to shed his voice and personality through the pages. I really admire the instances of vulnerability he shared. The organization of this book is also FANTASTIC! He bounces between the past and present in an artful way that does not anchor on time, but on a cohesive message. I simply could not put this book down. I felt like I was growing up with him through his story, feeling the immense pain and the immense joy. I am so inspired by his story and will hopefully apply his resistance throughout the decades to my own life and, as he would say, WERK!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Campbell

    This... I needed a moment before writing more. This book was phenomenal. I laughed, I cried, no wept at moments, said Amen, said Yessss out loud several times. Billy Porter brought a realness and rawness to this book that you could feel. There was so much to his story of blackness and queerness that was so relatable that sometimes I thought he was talking about my experience. The Kinky Boots portion in particular really got me. I have listened to Billy sing "Not My Father's Son" for literal YEAR This... I needed a moment before writing more. This book was phenomenal. I laughed, I cried, no wept at moments, said Amen, said Yessss out loud several times. Billy Porter brought a realness and rawness to this book that you could feel. There was so much to his story of blackness and queerness that was so relatable that sometimes I thought he was talking about my experience. The Kinky Boots portion in particular really got me. I have listened to Billy sing "Not My Father's Son" for literal YEARS and there is not a listen through that I don't cry because this song could be "Not My Mother's Daughter", and the song would feel like it was written for me. He is truly a wonderful talent and gift to the world.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Yasmin

    Mote like 4.5 stars but still an entertaining, engaging and sometime haunting read. As with everything Porter does, he gave his all. The only critique was that he appeared to run out of steam and the ending felt like an award show when you’re trying to best the clock. But this is a small issue and didn’t take away from this book being my best read so far this year. While the year is still early, Im sure it will remain as one of my Top 10!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Konet

    This is definitely one of the better celebrity memoirs I have read this year. It is emotional, honest, gut wrenching (at times) but also hopeful. Who knew this talented man could also write (one heck of a story)? So glad I found a blurb of this book on my library's website. A must read. This is definitely one of the better celebrity memoirs I have read this year. It is emotional, honest, gut wrenching (at times) but also hopeful. Who knew this talented man could also write (one heck of a story)? So glad I found a blurb of this book on my library's website. A must read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Eder

    4.5 stars. FANTASTIC! I only ever knew him from Pose, which I absolutely loved. His story is heartbreaking, challenging, and tough. His navigation in figuring himself out and persevering through all of his trauma was inspiring and hopeful. Big big fan!

  28. 5 out of 5

    D'Arcy

    4.5 stars. SO good. If you love Billy Porter, you will love this memoir, it’s as simple as that.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    I listened to the audio version. I simply love hearing memoirs read by the authors. Billy doesn’t disappoint.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    A fixating story of Mr. Porter’s life and all of the challenges and triumphs he endured. A true testament to determination and a call to be better, do better. I was familiar with Mr. Porter before, but now can call myself a fan of him as a human being first, artist second.

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