I like to think that the impossibly glamorous Amanda Lepore and I have loads I common -- we both are fake blondes, moved to New York at 17, and love snorting weird shit like bath salts and, you know, diamonds, and, um…
Well, that’s it. FINE. I will never be a fierce force like she is -- a now-woman that has transcended nature, and become a person that much more, somehow, naturally compelling and appealing than almost anyone I've ever met.
Even if you couldn’t name a single song she’s ever crooned or nightclub where she’s even appeared (for a hefty fee: The FAME!), you know exactly who she is: a pop culture icon.
How did she get there? She attended every New York party; she worked the makeup counter at Patricia Field’s (where people who were called freaks in high school become New York legends); she became the muse and BFF to one of the most crazy-famous and obviously wickedly rad photographers alive, David LaChapelle.
Amanda, I found, is also incredibly normal. And sweet. And soft-spoken, and patient, and kind. And warm, and empathetic. She listened to me. And for all the glamour, there wasn’t a hint of diva-ness to her -- my mouth was dry; I drank from her cup when she offered. She was so quietly lovely, and she was so happy when she talked about all of the things that she does to keep herself happy and self-soothed: sewing, yoga, etc.
Like, I could tell I wasn’t with an unstable person, or a druggy party person (even though she’s been partying for-evver; that’s her job!), I could see that I was with a very centered, stable, person.
Amanda Lepore is so, so lovely, you guys.
And I got to spend an hour with her (in a Midtown office, not, you know, Limelight or where ever, but who cares!).
New York dreams: They DO come true! Read on...
CAT: Hi! Omigod, so I’m such a huge fan, my God. Okay, so let’s dive right in. I want to hear what you’re working on right now and what your life is like.
AMANDA: Next week I’m doing two singles: a remix of “I Wanna Be Loved By You” by Marilyn Monroe, but it’s really fun and dancey and cool and I love Marilyn Monroe. There’s a new resurgence of popularity with her I feel, too, because of ["My Week With Marilyn"]. And I'm also doing Courtney Love's "Doll Parts" which is something that I wanted to do a long time ago, and that’s finally going to happen. So I’m going to go in the studio for that.
C: Do you know Courtney? She’s one of our XOJane columnists.
A: I do! She has...a lot to say. (everyone in room laughs) I hung out with her one time -- well a bunch of times. She’s a good friend of David LaChapelle’s, so sometimes when David’s in town she comes by. And she’s fun but, you know she’s really intelligent, she talks a lot. It’s hard to go home. You don’t want to be rude, but it just doesn’t stop!
(Laughter) (Julie and Olivia are in the room, too, and have visited with the lovely Ms. Love.)
C: I've been there. Luckily I'm such a fan that I was cool to be there forever, you know? What are you going to do with "Doll Parts" musically?
A: They sent music that was more like electro. I tried to do it more -- I liked practicing a lot to her version. I wanna try to keep it somewhat true to her because I know she would get mad if she didn’t like it.
C: I think it’s such a fantastic idea! No one’s really done anything with Courtney's music yet that I can think of. So much great material.
A: Yeah, so it’s really exciting. I love her music a lot and her persona and legend and everything is so cool.
C: You’re also an icon, which is really beyond; I mean, there's nothing that impresses me more, really, than New York iconography. I mean, I'm a pop culture fiend from Warhol sixties on. So what’s that like, being so famous, being this iconic figure? Is it surreal?
A: I feel really fortunate that I get hired for things and I can go in any situation and I find people that are like, “Oh, I love you, I love you.” I really enjoy it and love it because where I came from as a kid, I wasn’t popular in school, I was kind of made fun of. So now to hear 16, 15-year-old kids saying that they love me, it’s like, Wow. It’s great, life’s good.
C: What’s it like being famous? Can I ask what neighborhood you live in?
A: I live in Gramercy Park. I live in a hotel that I’ve lived in for three years, I have a really cheap rent.
C: Ooh, hotel living. That’s so glamorous.
A: Yes, so I can splurge on heels, makeup, whatever I need. I can afford to do it. I think I just stay there because I don’t have to worry if things are up or down. You know, sometimes you make a lot of money, then you spend it on a gown or something -- you know, Swarovski shoes. Or I'll spend tons of money on clothes. It just doesn’t stop. And I can do it instead of living in an apartment where I’m not gonna cook, I’m gonna leave there every five minutes to go some place. You know, I love it, I’m glad that it worked out that way.
C: And do you shop for yourself or do you have somebody else shop for you? I'm so interested in your day-to-day life!
A: I do everything myself. I get a lot of things made. Garo Sparrow, for one... A few people, I’m really inspired by old Hollywood and bombshells; I can’t find that stuff like in stores too often. Once in a while. You can always go to Agent Provocateur, but you don’t wear lingerie all the time. I did all this stuff to my body, so I want to show off all the curves...
C: Of course. Now are you, uh, comfortable talking about that?
A: I think it’s an open book. (gestures at awesome bosom) I can’t say, "No, I didn’t get my lips done, or my boobs."
C: Well...I wanted to talk to you actually about hormones. They're something that you take your whole life, correct?
C: And this -- what I'm about to ask you -- might be sort of weird and abstract. I'll articulate what I'm thinking the best I can. So I’m a drug addict and pills are other things are something I've always taken and felt that I’ve needed...because of an inherent need to be someone, somewhere else. And it’s my understanding that when you were young, you always know that you had to be someone else, that you were a woman. So is it fair to say that your hormone taking has become an addiction, for you, in a way?
A: Well, yeah. I take them, like...it’s like a survival thing. I started my young life thinking that I was a girl, like "Why are you cutting my hair short?" Why can’t I just wear dresses and take ballet lessons and be left alone?
A: I do think that if I didn’t take hormones that I would be extremely self-destructive. I don’t think that we would be sitting here. Sure, I’m definitely the first person to say that I’m addicted to girldom and hormones and the whole thing. Everything about it and I wouldn’t know what to do without it. It’s even hard for me to go away on a vacation.
C: What do you mean?
A: Well, like, when I'm with David LaChapelle in Hawaii and, say, there’s no nail person, nowhere to get your hair roots done -- even when I go away for a few weeks, I say, "Oh no, don’t keep me away; I want to go home and get my nails done and do the stuff I do in New York." It’s just all this maintenance. So, yeah. I’m...completely addicted to it.
C: Who’s your dermatologist?
A: I go to a dermatologist/plastic surgeon uptown, Dr. Warfel.
C: And so you take really fantastic care of yourself obviously. Do you exercise?
A: Oh yeah. I either do yoga -- or, I started just going to the gym, oh God, for 15 years at least. I never used to exercise at all. I think that after I had my sex change, I’d see women that were body builders and I would think that’s what I would look like if I exercised, so I avoided it, and didn’t do a thing. I remember when I go-go danced at Twilo I would have to be lifted up because I had no upper-body strength at all because I never exercised! And then David Barton gave me a free membership. I did an ad for him back in the late '90s and he gave me a free membership to go there, and I didn’t have a lot of money or anything back then and I just started doing it.
A: And I did the big implants; I did my breasts three times over the years. I wanted that Jessica Rabbit thing and I just discovered that you could exercise and you could sculpt your body even more. You can only take it so far with enhancements and things like that, but you really have to exercise -- it’s muscle tone. I always loved pin-ups and Vargas drawings. What I discovered about their bodies was they were athletic, they were probably dancers, or something and they didn’t have skinny legs; they were built and they had muscle tone in their stomachs and their arms were built.
C: They did work out! Like there's that famous photo of young Marilyn doing chest presses with the weights, and you’ve heard the stories of her running in the Hollywood lots in the early days. They stayed in shape!
A: And there weren’t breast implants or anything back then so, yeah, those girls were pumping weight to try to get the cleavage! So I discovered that with going to the gym and I became obsessed; I went to the gym all the time. Then I discovered yoga and that really helped my dancing a lot, and helped me with singing -- because of the breathing. And also it helped me to relax before a show: I could breathe and do some yoga exercises to make me more centered.
A: And yoga people, of course, kind of want to improve their lives. I also started going to and really enjoying that place on St. Marks, Yoga to the People -- it was big and very crowded and it felt really good, because it brought back memories of going to the gym initially, being, you know, me, and being so petrified and made fun of and everything...and [at Yoga to the People] everybody is really accepting. It’s mental therapy for me, I guess. So if I work at night or have to go to an event, I’ll do more aggressive gym stuff; if I’m staying home that night, I’ll go to a late yoga class with friends and relax and it makes me sleep better.
C: What do you wear to yoga?! I love this! Do you put your hair up? Do you wear yoga pants?
A: Sometimes when I go to the gym because I’m going out at night, I’ll go to just, you know, New York Sports Club. It’s near my house and it’s a nerdy gym--
C: I love that! I go there too! So normal! I can't even imagine you there! How do you look when you're there?
A: I’m very into skincare, so I’ll just take a shower and put tons of moisturizers and stuff like that and everything and set my hair and wear a kerchief and no makeup and it’s still glamorous in that way!And then go out.
C: I want to get back to the beauty in a second, but you’re going out all the time, you’re very in demand, there’s appearance fees, how many nights a week would you say that you’re going out? And how do you spend your down time? How do you decompress from all the nightlife?
A: I go out maybe like half the nights of the week? In my spare time, I also make a lot of my clothes. That’s very therapeutic to me. Sewing jewels on dresses and all that. Sometimes I’ll go to the wholesale Swarovski place and spend like $1,500 on jewels and then I’ll rhinestone a dress to death and um...I just love it so much, and it’s very relaxing to do it! I’ll do that sometimes on my days off, and then go to yoga. And then after, sometimes, even if I'm not going out, I just use a roller set to do my hair. Just to feel pretty!
C: Do you have a vanity? Do you have a whole thing? I wanna imagine it. God, I'm just so obsessed with you!
A: I have a window, that’s by a garden, but I haven’t been using that. Lately I’ve been doing my makeup by a light bulb, standing up because you can see so much, and I like that kind of better. I use so much light -- like if it’s not nighttime, I open the shades.
C: Okay, let's switch gears for a sec. I want to talk about your old friends: the club kids. Michael Alig is someone that I’m obsessed with even though I don’t know if I really should be; he's, you know, uh, a murderer. But that era -- the Club Kid late eighties and early nineties -- is an era that I can't stand that I missed; I live for it. I moved to New York 11 years ago and now Michael's about to get out of jail. Um...I don’t even know what my question is here! OK, I was wondering if you would talk about that time, if it’s something that you’re nostalgic for. Were you caught up in drugs ever?
A: It was really kind of clean fun in the beginning. I loved it. It was more about getting dressed up. It was sort of like a phony celebrity thing, where the club kids would, you know, have their own magazine, and it was really glamorous and kind of a short cut to being a movie star. I could be Marilyn Monroe, immediately! Without making movies or anything!
A: It wasn’t really a drug scene back then. Michael didn’t take any drugs and even though a few of the older school people would do cocaine or something, [Michael] wouldn’t do it at all. A lot of times he would fake being drunker than he really was -- there was then, I guess, this thing in clubs of being trendy and keeping up...and our culture was kind of shifting then: turning into techno music and raves. Ecstasy was coming in and heroin chic was coming into fashion, so suddenly it was encouraged to look really drugged out and party and stuff and all of a sudden not be so glamorous. Kurt Cobain was in and River Phoenix had a drug overdose, and suddenly all those things -- to kids -- were cool. So they were trying to emulate it in clubs and for some people...it really went dark.
C: Right. And Michael was obviously an example -- the ultimate example, it turned out -- of this sea change, no?
A: Michael became addicted to drugs, yes. A lot of the kids became strung out. I never got into that because I was always into the glamour. Just being a transsexual and taking tons of hormones, I couldn’t do that because if I did that, they would always warn me, "Don’t have a drink or else the hormones won’t work as much." I would always have, like, wine spritzers. If someone gave me a drink, I would throw it away secretly and not drink it. Nowadays I have a champagne glass and I fill it with ginger ale, or I have Shirley Temples. Because people don’t like to see you with water.
C: The ol' stripper trick! Like how they pour the champagne on the floor or drink ginger ale in the Champagne Room. My awesome stripper friend taught me that!
A: Ha, yes, the old stripper trick. So I would do that kind of thing. Yeah, I was never much into drugs. I can’t say that I never did them. I never did heroin, but I did do cocaine, but it would make my nose run and I didn’t like it.
C: Haha, that's great -- because you're so committed to the glamour!
A: Right. Then somebody gave me Special K one time and I remember I had to go-go dance on the platform and I always wore really high heels and it would feel like my heels were breaking so I would say, "Oh, no I can’t do that." I got lucky that nothing was working for me.
C: That's funny.
A: Once in a while I would do rohypnol, because of my sex change it would be painful to have sex. I wasn’t a pig or anything where I would be fucking every five minutes, but once in a while there would be a guy that I couldn’t resist -- and I would take a rohypnol and it would work! But since then I’ve learned to dilate and stretch my pussy and I know how to have really good sex.
A: Oh yeah. Premarin vaginal cream. It’s a whole process. Like I said, it was really painful for me to have sex, especially if the guy was really well endowed, so a transsexual friend of mine said that when you get up in the morning, use a numbing cream and then put a small dildo in your pussy in a girdle! And then have breakfast and clean your house and whatever, and then you stretch it with a bigger one and then use Premarin vaginal cream. This all makes the pussy walls stretch like a natural woman’s. So I did all that and then I had fantastic sex and didn’t need rohypnol!
C: I wonder if numbing stuff would work, um, anally, because my friend C-- oh, I shouldn't say her name -- well, her boyfriend is always...her boyfriend wants her to have anal, and -- oh, I shouldn't even be going here.
A: I think it’s different with anal sex because the anal thing is only really that big [gestures] and then it’s your stomach, whereas my pussy is that long [gestures smaller] and it’s just stretched like from that, so it doesn’t have that stomach opening, it’s more virginal. It’s always like a young girl’s pussy with a woman’s body.
C: Fascinating! Do you have a boyfriend?
A: I’ve had boyfriends in the past, but I don’t have a boyfriend right now. I did meet a very hot guy that I’m going to see tonight actually.
C: How did you meet him?
And another night he came to a club that I was working and was kind of drunk, and I was like "Oh, I’m glad you came." And we were just all over each other. We had a great time. We’ve been talking to each other and then I went away. He says that I wore him out and he couldn’t go to work and was tired at work!
C: What time do you go to bed every night?
A: It fluctuates because sometimes I go to breakfast, so sometimes really late, like 7 AM. If I have to do something the next day I’ll try to go home at 3:30 and be in bed by 4. It just depends. If I don’t work I try to go to bed by 12:30, 1:00.
C: Okay, I keep veering around here, but can I just say my perception of you? It just seems like you’re really happy. It seems like you’re a really creative person and you’re actively creative. Your glamour is your creativity and your clothes. I’ve really learned for myself that if you are a creative person and you aren’t doing that -- if you're not satisfying that part of your brain and your soul all of the time -- then that just fucks you up, man.
A: You have to do what you love. Some things seem silly, like, "Why am I spending all this money on shoes or whatever?!", but it makes me happy. And that’s important for your well-being. Some people think it’s really superficial, but it’s really spiritual for who you are and you shouldn’t feel bad or guilty. Just do your thing and make yourself happy and do what you’ve gotta do to make yourself happy.
C: Creativity is the drug! I just love the idea of you blowing all this money on the crystals or going shopping and making that stuff. And of course your music and your artistic collaborations.
A: Everything I create comes from my soul and that feels great.
C: Uh, OK, to wrap up. Journalism-y stuff: Is there anything else that you want to promote?
A: I did do a Terry Richardson campaign in Brazil that I’m excited about, and I also have a brand new music video for my song, "Doin' It My Way."
C: Thank you so much Amanda! I love you and xoJane loves you!
Follow Amanda Lepore on Twitter @Amanda_lepore and check out her Facebook fan page. Follow Cat on Twitter @cat_marnell.