An 11 p.m. chitchat appointment at New York’s Hotel 17 might be interpreted several ways. But when you’re dealing with the iconic Amanda Lepore, all preconceptions practically fade away and rest in oblivion. It’s just another night in the busy schedule of an international club-circuit veteran. She’s a muse for artists of all kinds, but more than anything, a woman who’s been to hell and back, owning her ultra glamorous style through and through.
I want to go back to the beginning of everything with you. I’d like to know when did Armand become Amanda?
When I was a little kid, as far as I can remember, I really felt that I was a girl. I didn’t understand why my parents were cutting my hair and not letting me look for party dresses in the Girls’ department. I would get upset and a lot of times I cried. It was very confusing. When I was 12, I saw a lot of talk shows about transsexuals and I knew about the hormones. I read books and did research about it, so I pretty much knew that I had to take them to become a girl. Later on, as a teen, I had a friend who worked at a go-go bar and I would make her little outfits, like pasties and G-strings. I’d go over there and one of her buddies was a transsexual; she thought I was really pretty. I told her, “I’ll make you an outfit if you trade me for hormones,” and she said,”Just don’t tell your parents.” I guess my father was hoping I’d be a girl on weekends and a boy for the rest of the week, ‘cause he was concerned I’d get more masculine as I got older. That was his concern but I just didn’t listen to him and got more girly [laughs].
When you decided to undergo a sex change operation, what happened inside of you when the true feeling of being a girl translated into a more physical manifestation?
I didn’t know what a vagina looked like and I remember my boyfriend would buy me Hustler and I would see the pictures and say, “Oh I hope mine comes out like that one or that one.” I was so happy when they cut the penis off ‘cause I just didn’t want it. I don’t know if I wanted the vagina more or the penis off more. I always wanted a man on top of me, inside me, so that was really exciting, to party like the rest of them (laughs).
It’s no secret the inspirations you had for your whole look – Marilyn, Jayne Mansfield, 50s bombshells.
I always liked blonde hair, and so when people told me I looked like Jean Harlow, I would research her. I really got into all that ‘bombshell’ look and I would see pictures of all these girls. I was just so fascinated by their curvy bodies. Whenever I’d find some girl in the neighborhood with that kind of body, she’d always be my favorite.
I read somewhere that your first job in NYC was as a dominatrix. Was it fun to control men and their sexual impulses?
I started working at a dungeon. I got really scared and I was not interested sexually at all, but I didn’t have to have sex with these guys. They would give you a script, it was sort of an acting thing. So I started doing this and making a ton of money. The only bad thing about it was that they would spank you, and I bruise very easily ‘cause I have very white skin. That was really unpleasant.
David LaChapelle has been a very instrumental person in your life and career. What’s it been like working with him?
It’s been amazing. You know, I was never ambitious or anything at all. I was just into being pretty (laughs). But then years later, David saw me at a bar when I was still doing the clubs. I guess when he was in high school, he drew women that looked like me. He wanted to photograph me and I was floored ‘cause he had just won an award and was a really big deal. He did a plastic surgery story with one black girl and one white girl and they switched heads. I was nursing a baby and crying, pregnant and all that. It was really cool. We had very successful pictures and then he became obsessed with using me for everything — Armani Jeans, Salon Selectives, beer ads, whatever he could squeeze me into. I even did a photo shoot with Mark Walhberg, and I remember he was flirting with me and everything. Those were really exciting times. I didn’t think I would become a model, that was crazy, but it became a collaboration of successful pictures and I guess it worked.
Can you tell us about any specific special moment you had with him while you were collaborating together?
David was into my body. He would go, “That body of yours, that body… take off your clothes.” And he would usually photograph me with no clothes. After a while I was always naked, all the time. We would go out and he’d tell me to take off my clothes. We’d get so much attention because of that. One time Azzedine Alaïa had a retrospective, and I remember we went to this chic restaurant and I was nude. People were not offended when I was naked. Even the cooks made a big cake with two tits (laughs). Everyone was there — Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour and all these people, and David wouldn’t give me back my dress. David left with Naomi and I didn’t know what to do. I was by myself, naked. I would just say, “You know, Azzedine Alaïa didn’t give me a dress, and I wouldn’t wear anything else but Azzedine,” or like, “Azzedine is really into the form of a woman,” and I would come up with all this stuff. I also remember that Drew Barrymore’s mother was asking me about my vagina because she wanted to get rejuvenation surgery done. I said, “Oh no, I’m a transsexual,” and she was like, “Oh my god, you look so good.”
Aside from photography and fashion, another industry you’re doing so well in is music. I dabbled in music a little bit before getting involved with Cazwell. But it was never that good ‘cause I was extremely shy. He wrote a lot of songs for me and had me go to voice lessons. The first song he wrote for me was “Champagne” and I remember that it had so many words. It took me like three months to learn it. I really worked hard on doing it and then when we finished it, people were shocked because it was so good.
What do you take out from working with people like David LaChapelle, Marco Ovando and Cazwell?
It’s really great because I don’t know how to make videos and I don’t know how to write music. I don’t have the confidence to do that, so it’s okay to be guided by talented people. It’s so great to be able to do different things that I would not be able to do by myself.
What have you been up to lately? Do you have any project cooking as we speak?
David LaChappelle had an opening and Roxanne Lowit had an exhibition birthday party. I did several interviews and photo shoots. I also returned to the studio to record a cover of Courtney Love’s “Doll Parts” and Marilyn Monroe’s “I Wanna Be Loved By You.” Kind of like a remix or something.
What would you like to do, besides everything you’ve done so far?
I would like to do more extreme shows. Maybe musicals or something on Broadway, movies, things like that to expand even more. Doing like a Busby Berkeley kind of thing would be amazing for me.
Tell us something people don’t know about you.
Everybody knows everything about me (laughs).
What would you like to leave to future generations?
I hope that I get more famous and remembered like Candy Darling and Marilyn Monroe. I also hope that people enjoy looking at my pictures like I’ve enjoyed looking at them.
Last but not least, what is your WILD Wish?
To get married, be supported and have a motherfucker set of friends.
Photographer : Marcelo Krasilcic
Hair and Make Up : Amanda Lepore
Photographer’s assistant : Jeremy Dyer