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'It's his time,' says 'Kinky Boots' star Billy Porter, 'a black, gay, Christian, out man'

BY MARK KENNEDY, AP DRAMA WRITER

NEW YORK -- While all haircuts are important, the one Billy Porter got late last week was even more critical: It was his last one before Sunday's Tony Awards.

"I just need a trim," he tells stylist Valjean Guerra, crunching his hair with both hands to show the textured look he hopes to maintain. "I want to keep the same shape."

Porter, nominated for best actor in a musical for his role as a drag queen in "Kinky Boots," then settled into a leather chair in a chic Harlem salon for an hour of pampering before a cast album party and another grueling show.

It was nine days before the Tonys - the perfect amount of time to wash and cut what he calls his "chunky thing." If done too close to the awards, his haircut might look forced.

"I like it to breathe a little bit. I don't want it to look so clean or too perfect," he says. "I like it to look clean but not like I got my hair cut yesterday. You know what I mean? Hair is actually a little bit better when it's a little dirtier."

Smiling nearby is Brenda Braxton, a Tony-nominated actress who owns the luxury men's spa BBraxton where Porter sits. A veteran of "Chicago" and "Smokey Joe's Cafe," Braxton has known Porter for decades. After comparing foot pains and calluses, she confesses that she's giddy that people are finally recognizing his talent.

"Very seldom do you get people who know what it's about and respect the business," she says. "We don't always get it when we think we're going to get it but we get it. He's paid his dues. It's his time."

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