Paola Kudacki for TIME

Growing up, I was an outcast. I didn’t fit in. I was lonely. But what I had was imagination and creativity. When Billy Porter and I met, we were instantly kindred spirits. We both moved through the world as people who didn’t fit in, and we made use of what made us different as an asset. When you can embrace those things about yourself that don’t fit in, that is when the magic happens.

When I wrote the songs for Lola for Kinky Boots and then met Billy, I knew he was Lola. He brought her to life. His portrayal was one of the most important reasons for the show’s success. Billy can sing anything. He brings electricity into a room. When you watch him on Pose, you experience that same magic.

Look at this guy. You want to see living proof of talent, perseverance, tenacity, resilience, dedication to craft? When he couldn’t get in the front door, the side door or the window, he found a whole other route. And now—especially since his historic Emmy win for Lead Actor in a Drama Series last fall—the whole world has found him, and that makes me so happy.

Lauper is an Emmy-, Grammy- and Tony Award–winning singer-songwriter


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