Exclusive: Billy Porter on How Seeing Sylvester Forever Altered His Life

“He was a gender-fluid Black man in mainstream music. That hasn’t happened since."

To Billy Porter, Sylvester is tens, tens, tens across the board!

In honor of Pride Month, Amazon Music is releasing Love Me Like You Should: The Brave and Bold Sylvester, a new mini-documentary about the trailblazing queen of disco. The short features interviews with famous fans like Martha Wash and Porter.

“When I saw Sylvester, my life was altered, my life was changed for the better,” the Pose star says in an exclusive clip from the doc. “Any glimmer of seeing one’s self reflected back at them through our culture changes lives.”

“He was a gender-fluid Black man in mainstream music. That hasn’t happened since,” he adds. “Nobody did it like Sylvester.”

Blum/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

As NewNowNext previously reported, Sylvester James Jr. was born in born in Watts, Los Angeles. He started singing in the Pentecostal church but found his way to San Francisco, where he was embraced by the queer hippie counterculture and joined the avant-garde drag troupe the Cockettes.

Breaking off into a solo act, Sylvester eventually got plugged into the disco scene of the 1970s, adopting a fierce androgynous look and releasing several albums. 1978’s Step II spawned the hits “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Dance (Disco Heat).” Sylvester died of AIDS complications in 1988 at age 41.

Over the years, “You Make Me Feel” has become an LGBTQ anthem, and it was one of the 25 American recordings added to the Library of Congress in 2019.

Below, watch the exclusive extended version of Porter’s interview from Love Me Like You Should: The Brave and Bold Sylvester, premiering this Thursday, June 18, on Amazon Music’s YouTube.
 

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer