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Nylon Nights

Elle Fanning & Sarah Paulson’s Late-Night Tonys Postgame

In which NYLON’s nightlife reporter receives a kiss from Billy Porter.

by Tim Latterner

The telecast for the 77th annual Tony Awards ended 11 p.m. on June 16. I figured that gave guests about an hour and a half to leave the venue before heading to the afterparties. Surely there’d be red-carpet reporters who would have questions. Then a cab to the hotel. A celebratory drink in the room with their closest friends. And another cab to the party. So I’d see people at 12:30 am. When I walked into the afterparty at Pebble Bar at 12:20 a.m. — admittedly on the early side — only four guests had arrived. They sat at a table in the back, and when one got up to grab a drink from the bar, I saw the spinning disc of a Tony Award.

I thought maybe it belonged to some lighting engineer who had gotten there early (and maybe whom I could ask to hold the Tony for, like, just a second). Then, its owner reentered the room. I stammered out a hurried “Congratulations!” He beamed, thanked me, and kissed me on the cheek.

It was Billy Porter.

Being kissed on the cheek by Billy Porter the night he’s awarded a Tony must be kind of like how Catholics feel being kissed by the Pope. While other guests filled the room, we talked about the meaning and weight of his Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award, given for his activism for LGBTQ+ communities and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Billy PorterDaniel Zuchnik/WWD/Getty Images
Elle FanningRupert Ramsay/
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“I have always been an activist,” Porter tells NYLON. “My mom taught us that we were supposed to show up for other people as well. It’s just been natural to me. So to receive an award for it is amazing, it’s icing on the cake. I never did it for that, but it’s lovely to be seen. I remember watching Oprah years ago. It was the year she changed everything and went into ‘Live your best life.’ You have to know what your purpose is, what your calling is. I know what my calling is, and I’m sitting in it. I’m standing in the fullness of that.”

As he excused himself to grab a drink, I noticed the host of the party, Arian Moayed, greeting people near the door. He was talking with William Jackson Harper, who’s brought new life to Astov in the Lincoln Center production of Uncle Vanya.

By 2 a.m., the sugar content in the (great quality) champagne wasn’t doing enough to keep me awake. Luckily, at that moment, a fleet of waiters start crisscrossing the room with plates of Fini pizza slices, each with a hefty dollop of Petrossian caviar in the center. Once the pizza circulated enough, I noticed two guests helping each other spread the caviar over their slices. It was Sarah Paulson and Elle Fanning. Hours earlier, Paulson had won her first Tony for Best Actress in a Play for Appropriate. She’s all smiles, hugging, jumping, and dancing with friends and colleagues.

Elle FanningDaniel Zuchnik/WWD/Getty Images
Sarah Paulson, Corey StollRupert Ramsay/
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After one last drink and a flutter of BFA flashbulbs, I figured it was time to call it a night. In the elevator down, another guest had also remembered they have to be at work in the morning: Fanning, who was flying to Norway for a work thing tomorrow.

“It’s been such a great night,” she said. “I had never been in a show like this one before. I was so, so happy for Sarah. I so wanted this for her because she’s just amazing.”