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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

    Natalie Holbert

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

  2. 5 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

    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!

  4. 5 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erin Hussey

    Beautifully written.

  6. 5 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Scott Flanary

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 4 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Mummy Wallig

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Disclosure: I received a copy of Unprotected: A Memoir from Abrams Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Abrams Books. Trigger warning. This book is so powerful. Kinky Boots fan here, so I knew that I needed to buckle up for a bumpy ride. Wow. Just. Wow. Much respect to Billy Porter for sharing this story. My advice? Keep a box of tissues nearby. You're going to need them. Disclosure: I received a copy of Unprotected: A Memoir from Abrams Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Abrams Books. Trigger warning. This book is so powerful. Kinky Boots fan here, so I knew that I needed to buckle up for a bumpy ride. Wow. Just. Wow. Much respect to Billy Porter for sharing this story. My advice? Keep a box of tissues nearby. You're going to need them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kathrin Rades

    This memoir is EVERYTHING!! Best book I’ve read in a while, super emotional but written so that it isn’t too hard to read. Billy Porter has been a favourite of mine for a while now in regards to fashion, and just his work in general, and reading how he got to where he is today was so eye opening.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    I finished this last night and am still thinking about it, which is not the norm for me with celebrity memoirs. I have been a fan of Billy Porter's talent for years, and my admiration for him in that regard has only grown as his career has continued. I really did not know much about his personal life aside from a few headlines, and I found his story to be very powerful. Billy is quick to point out the people who helped him over the years, but he also makes clear the hard work he put into getting I finished this last night and am still thinking about it, which is not the norm for me with celebrity memoirs. I have been a fan of Billy Porter's talent for years, and my admiration for him in that regard has only grown as his career has continued. I really did not know much about his personal life aside from a few headlines, and I found his story to be very powerful. Billy is quick to point out the people who helped him over the years, but he also makes clear the hard work he put into getting where he is (deciding to take Russian in middle school to go to the better high school comes to mind as an example). I really admire the stance he has taken with his career in terms of the roles he will and will not take as welll as the way he demonstrates consistently standing up for himself and his talent. I also really admire his calling out the politics of a certain family of Broadway producers, despite their close ties to his work. Billy is very honest and vulnerable in this (as the title suggests). He delves into past abuse and also the impact that is having on his life currently, including the impact on his marriage. Reading about his experiences (which I had some idea of but not a complete one) was moving. I ended up having a lot of conversations about representation and trauma as a result of this book. I got significantly more out of this than I generally do with celebrity memoirs. It's entertaining, but it's also not an altogether "easy" read. Billy's voice is clear throughout. I recommend if you are a fan of him or any of his work.

  15. 4 out of 5

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  17. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    Serving up REALNESS in a courageous, honest, masterful, eye-opening way. Billy maps out how to come into your own despite all odds and persevere. Unprotected is unfiltered and everyone has something to learn from Billy’s life story. He dismantles assumptions with his authenticity. He makes it ok to not be palatable to everyone and push on, and that’s refreshing. Prepare to run through the gambit of emotions. Funny, sad, inspirational, frightening, shocking, endearing, and ending with love. It’s Serving up REALNESS in a courageous, honest, masterful, eye-opening way. Billy maps out how to come into your own despite all odds and persevere. Unprotected is unfiltered and everyone has something to learn from Billy’s life story. He dismantles assumptions with his authenticity. He makes it ok to not be palatable to everyone and push on, and that’s refreshing. Prepare to run through the gambit of emotions. Funny, sad, inspirational, frightening, shocking, endearing, and ending with love. It’s such a journey that by the end you can’t help but feel love and compassion for someone you it feels like you know so intimately now. Only criticism is at under 300 pages I wish it were longer- it felt like we were having one of those fulfilling heart to heart nights that goes by too fast! Pair with FX’s Pose Season 3 episode 4.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Living in Switzerland and not following the happenings on Broadway, I had no idea who Billy Porter was until he appeared on the red carpet in that stupendous Siriano tux/gown. So I wasn't sure I would read this book but I'm glad I did. He is a real trailblazer, both on Broadway and for the LGBTQ+ community. His story is hard to read in parts and quite sad. I actually filled up with tears reading about his first day of first grade. Billy was fortunate to be in public school back when the US actua Living in Switzerland and not following the happenings on Broadway, I had no idea who Billy Porter was until he appeared on the red carpet in that stupendous Siriano tux/gown. So I wasn't sure I would read this book but I'm glad I did. He is a real trailblazer, both on Broadway and for the LGBTQ+ community. His story is hard to read in parts and quite sad. I actually filled up with tears reading about his first day of first grade. Billy was fortunate to be in public school back when the US actually still cared about educating its children and he points that out. I had forgotten what the Reagan years had wrought in education. And much else. Bravo to Billy for rising above his childhood. I am going to seek out some of his performances. Can't wait to hear him sing!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Excellent, excellent book....I loved him in Kinky Boots....as I think I did see him in that.....I love him in Pose...He is truly talented and he really exposed everything in this book. I really enjoyed reading this book because he wrote it the way he speaks.....I mean honestly as I was reading it, I felt like I could hear him saying it in my head. I love how he refers to the previous president as Orangina 45. He really minced no words, but I would expect nothing less. He also gave me my next book t Excellent, excellent book....I loved him in Kinky Boots....as I think I did see him in that.....I love him in Pose...He is truly talented and he really exposed everything in this book. I really enjoyed reading this book because he wrote it the way he speaks.....I mean honestly as I was reading it, I felt like I could hear him saying it in my head. I love how he refers to the previous president as Orangina 45. He really minced no words, but I would expect nothing less. He also gave me my next book to read; Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany. Something else I am intrigued about reading, the Holocaust since I'm Jewish. Already started reading and am already riveted.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lee Ann

    3.5 stars I had the privilege of seeing Billy Porter on Broadway in both Kinky Boots and Shuffle Along. I enjoy his fashion on the red carpet and liked his portrayal of Pray Tell on Pose. I felt like Pray Tell, especially in the final season, was somewhat autobiographical and it was. Unprotected is more than a memoir. It details the insincerity in the theatre, film, and television community. It reveals the hypocrisy of the Christian community. It is BLM and politics. I also like that Porter and I 3.5 stars I had the privilege of seeing Billy Porter on Broadway in both Kinky Boots and Shuffle Along. I enjoy his fashion on the red carpet and liked his portrayal of Pray Tell on Pose. I felt like Pray Tell, especially in the final season, was somewhat autobiographical and it was. Unprotected is more than a memoir. It details the insincerity in the theatre, film, and television community. It reveals the hypocrisy of the Christian community. It is BLM and politics. I also like that Porter and I are on the same page when it comes to the musical Grease: "...the ultimate message of the piece, which essentially tells women to give in to peer pressure and dress like a hooker to be accepted by the popular kids, [is] toxic and problematic at best."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    The book cover attracted my attention as it sat on the U-pick shelf in my library, a shelf reserved for the books with long waiting lists. I had never heard of Billy Porter so I read the book jacket and it sounded interesting. It was. Such an unbelievable talent who suffered from trauma inflicted upon him from his stepfather and his church. His unsinkable desire to be heard and seen, coupled with talent oozing from every part of him lead him to success. It's a story of triumph and a walk through The book cover attracted my attention as it sat on the U-pick shelf in my library, a shelf reserved for the books with long waiting lists. I had never heard of Billy Porter so I read the book jacket and it sounded interesting. It was. Such an unbelievable talent who suffered from trauma inflicted upon him from his stepfather and his church. His unsinkable desire to be heard and seen, coupled with talent oozing from every part of him lead him to success. It's a story of triumph and a walk through the world of a gay black man who lived in this world set against his success. Fortunately, he had angels who helped along the way. But the success is his.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I had no idea who Billy Porter was until 2014 when I saw him as Lola in Kinky Boots. I loved the show and Billy won a Tony for his role on that show. So needless to say it was pretty amazing. I even got to meet him after the show. Since then I've enjoyed him on Pose and seen lots more of him in the media relative to his fashion. So when his memoir came out I was definitely curious about his story. As you read it you can tell its definitely his voice and it makes it even more entertaining to read I had no idea who Billy Porter was until 2014 when I saw him as Lola in Kinky Boots. I loved the show and Billy won a Tony for his role on that show. So needless to say it was pretty amazing. I even got to meet him after the show. Since then I've enjoyed him on Pose and seen lots more of him in the media relative to his fashion. So when his memoir came out I was definitely curious about his story. As you read it you can tell its definitely his voice and it makes it even more entertaining to read. The book tells of his struggles to be accepted from school, to church, even to Broadway and TV. I enjoyed getting more educated and hearing about his journey thus far.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Offbalance

    I had been aware of Billy Porter since I witnessed a Tony Awards audience burst into a standing ovation when he won for Kinky Boots. Since Pose, I've been a massive fan. But this book ensures that I will be an admirer of his for years to come. He discusses his past achievements and past struggles with such emotion - ranging from rage to pride to grief to humor - that the book was nearly impossible to put down. Also, if he reads the audiobook version, give that a shot - this is so very much in hi I had been aware of Billy Porter since I witnessed a Tony Awards audience burst into a standing ovation when he won for Kinky Boots. Since Pose, I've been a massive fan. But this book ensures that I will be an admirer of his for years to come. He discusses his past achievements and past struggles with such emotion - ranging from rage to pride to grief to humor - that the book was nearly impossible to put down. Also, if he reads the audiobook version, give that a shot - this is so very much in his voice that actually hearing him can only add to the experience. Billy's gonna let these children know what time it is!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marianne Kaplan

    Amazing story of a flamboyant gay, black man and his struggles to make it as himself in the entertainment scene. As a multiple awards winner he fought racism and homophobia throughout his career. He overcame poverty and childhood abuse to become the man and star he is today. His writing style is unique in that it feels often like he is having a chatty conversation with the reader. At times his tale is amazingly poignant and at times heartbreakingly salad. Overall the book left me wanting to see Amazing story of a flamboyant gay, black man and his struggles to make it as himself in the entertainment scene. As a multiple awards winner he fought racism and homophobia throughout his career. He overcame poverty and childhood abuse to become the man and star he is today. His writing style is unique in that it feels often like he is having a chatty conversation with the reader. At times his tale is amazingly poignant and at times heartbreakingly salad. Overall the book left me wanting to see more of Billy and to hear him sing. Powerful tale of human resilience.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Billy Porter is an amazing human being. Reading about what he lived through to become the super star he is is heartbreaking, revealing and amazing. My only wish is that there was at least a chapter on his work with Pose. But maybe that's not the story he wants to write because reading this I see that Pray Tell and Billy Porter are one and the same, their struggles the same. But they both rise. Let's hope the world hears the message of equality, inclusiveness and love - sooner rather than later. Billy Porter is an amazing human being. Reading about what he lived through to become the super star he is is heartbreaking, revealing and amazing. My only wish is that there was at least a chapter on his work with Pose. But maybe that's not the story he wants to write because reading this I see that Pray Tell and Billy Porter are one and the same, their struggles the same. But they both rise. Let's hope the world hears the message of equality, inclusiveness and love - sooner rather than later.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Spencer Inskeep

    I've never seen (or heard of) POSE. I didn't know Billy Porter earned a Tony Award for Kinky Boots on Broadway (and haven't seen it either). I had no idea who Billy Porter even was...but I a few weeks ago I saw a video of him on IG and was curious. When I googled him I saw that he had recently released this memoir: Billy Porter Unprotected, so I picked it up. 5 stars! This man is fascinating and extraordinary. He has been both broken and triumphant. He is Raw. Ballsy. Fierce. Sassy. Unapologetic. I I've never seen (or heard of) POSE. I didn't know Billy Porter earned a Tony Award for Kinky Boots on Broadway (and haven't seen it either). I had no idea who Billy Porter even was...but I a few weeks ago I saw a video of him on IG and was curious. When I googled him I saw that he had recently released this memoir: Billy Porter Unprotected, so I picked it up. 5 stars! This man is fascinating and extraordinary. He has been both broken and triumphant. He is Raw. Ballsy. Fierce. Sassy. Unapologetic. I couldn't put it down.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    What an amazing awesome interesting brilliant book. And person!! Billy Porter is the true definition of the "American Dream". Yes an antiquated term but he had EVERY hardship and very very few advantages (if any?) and he persevered This book and story should be held up and taught in regards to what has truly happened in this country and to teach everyone to keep fighting keep taking up space. He writes like he he is! You want to be his friend and lift him up and fight the good fight with him. Th What an amazing awesome interesting brilliant book. And person!! Billy Porter is the true definition of the "American Dream". Yes an antiquated term but he had EVERY hardship and very very few advantages (if any?) and he persevered This book and story should be held up and taught in regards to what has truly happened in this country and to teach everyone to keep fighting keep taking up space. He writes like he he is! You want to be his friend and lift him up and fight the good fight with him. Thank you Billy Porter!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Savannah

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  29. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    So much perseverance in this story. I enjoyed learning about Billy's and seeing how he worked so hard and waited so long for the times to catch up with him in acting roles. His voice really comes though in the book and he opens up about a lot of really hard situations which could be triggering to people with a sexual abuse history. I'm thankful we have working actors like him on TV showing newer generations that you can be whoever you wanna be in this world. So much perseverance in this story. I enjoyed learning about Billy's and seeing how he worked so hard and waited so long for the times to catch up with him in acting roles. His voice really comes though in the book and he opens up about a lot of really hard situations which could be triggering to people with a sexual abuse history. I'm thankful we have working actors like him on TV showing newer generations that you can be whoever you wanna be in this world.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Barney

    I love Billy Porter, and this book was like hanging out one on one for a few days. His voice is unmistakable and his passion for his art shines through in every word. I wish that he spent more time discussing how he dealt with his HIV+ diagnosis so that others in a similar situation would have his outlook and guidance, but I understand that is a very personal matter and respect his privacy.

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