Billy Porter recalls his anger at his record label giving one of his songs to Celine Dion

Billy Porter recalls his anger at his record label giving one of his songs to Celine Dion

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Billy Porter
Billy Porter (Photo: Shutterstock)

Billy Porter dropped a new studio album last Friday called Black Mona Lisa. In an interview with Vulture, Porter talked about his earlier attempts to make it big in the music industry in the 1990s.

Porter, 54, says that he quickly grew frustrated with how music executives tried to mold him into something he is not. However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when his label took a song he’d recorded and gave it to Celine Dion.

Porter grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He first came to national attention in 1992 on the talent show Star Search in 1992. He won $100,000 and interest from the music industry. Despite already appearing on Broadway, Porter still had dreams of becoming “the male Whitney Houston.”

This led to him releasing his first album, the R&B-influenced Billy Porter, in 1997. However, he was already growing disillusioned.


“​​It was traumatizing,” he now recalls. “The industry was very homophobic. I had an R&B deal on A&M, and nobody would do anything that I wanted. It was all about the smoke and mirrors of trying to make the world think I was straight, that I was masculine enough to exist.

“It was traumatizing, since my voice, my singing voice, had been my savior … and then for the first time in my life, my voice didn’t matter. All they were concerned about was who I was f*cking behind closed doors on my own private time.

“I woke up after six or seven years of being in the business and didn’t recognize myself,” he continues.

And then the label took one of his songs, “Love Is On The Way” and gave it to Celine Dion. The song is by Denise Rich, Tina Shafer, and Peter Zizzo. Porter released his version in 1996.

“Then my label gave my song to Celine Dion for The First Wives Club! They gave it right over to her! Same producer produced it for her. I was like, ‘I did not come here to be a demo singer for f*cking Celine Dion! I’m done!’.

“No shade, she’s fabulous”

Porter stressed that he had no beef with Dion herself.

“I love her, no shade, she’s fabulous, this isn’t about Celine Dion. It’s about the systems of oppression that mute and dismiss our contribution to the world. It happened in that moment, and I said, ‘I’m done. If this is all the music business has to offer me, I’m done. She can have it, y’all can have it, I’m out’.”

Fortunately, Porter had his career as an in-demand actor and singer on Broadway to fall back upon. He also went on to self-release three albums over the last couple of decades. Black Mona Lisa was released via Republic Records in the US. And the label allowed him to do it as he wanted.

“Mainstream pop on my Black faggoty-ass terms, yes!” Porter quipped. “You can see it now! She free, bitch!”


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