photos / Vijat Mohindra
makeup / Anthony Nguyen
hair / Peter Matteliano
styling Sammy K
nails / Steph Stone
story / Koko Ntuen
The first thing anyone will tell you about Amanda Lepore is that she is a sweetheart. I met her during my introduction to the New York nightlife scene back in my early twenties, at The Cock, a place where a debaucherous night would always end. Amanda was a NYC icon at that point, sitting there in a sheer shirt revealing her glamorous, perky tits, surrounding by a protective flock of friends as me and my pal broke through to meet her. She was as sweet as an angel, an attitude that would later merge into the wacky world of David LaChapelle, she would become his biggest muse in the ‘90s.
“I guess he asked around to make sure I was nice,” Lepore shares. “He’d like nice people and nice energy around him. People said I was really sweet and everything. So we did a few shoots, this snorting diamonds shoot, and this plastic surgery fashion one, and the one with me breastfeeding a baby doll.
“Then it got really crazy. I became more worldwide, not just a New York thing. He started using me more and more. At one point he didn’t wanna use any models but me for advertising. If the advertiser didn’t wanna use me, then he would say, ‘Okay, then I want a girl with black hair, no boobs, and a piehole for a mouth if I can’t have Amanda!’”
They made for a fabulous creative duo whose work would be seen by millions of people; they made art and fashion history and their underlying love story was speculated by many.
“We sort of had a thing, but you know, he was gay,” she tells me, laughing. “So it never really went that way. But he loved boobs. He was one of those guys that loved boobs and loved me being naked and stuff. He gave me more attention than most boyfriends.”
Lepore’s famous boobs and risque outfits have set the precedent for the sex-threaded pop culture of today a la Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga and company. Long before it was standard fashion, she was sporting sheer tops, see-through dresses and nipple as accessories. Through the years, she learned to commodify her bombshell aesthetic in a way similar to some of her inspirations. She brings up some of the ladies she adores.
“Marilyn Monroe, I really love her,” she gushes. “I like Dita Von Teese a lot. I love her shows, her look and everything. I used to go out naked all the time. When I started doing my songs I would get naked. One time I got the club into trouble. Around that time I saw Dita with the pasties and I said, ‘Oh, I could be naked and get away with it!’ They’re both so exaggerated and they kind of do what I do. I have bonds with them.”
These days, Miss Lepore spends her days modeling and appearing at various events as well as performing her own songs and dancing at burlesque ballroom shows. She currently holds a night at the Standard Hotel called Salon, and she is working on an autobiography and an album as well. But when I ask her is she ever gets bored with nightlife culture, she scoffs at the very suggestion.
“It’s really exciting for me no matter what,” Lepore says. “Everyone wants to take my picture and meet me and everything, so I’m really occupied when I go out. Where, before, it was like, ‘Oh, what am I gonna do? Who am I gonna talk to?’ I would be more nervous and self-conscious. But now, it’s just, you know, I don’t really have to do anything but show up and everyone’s happy!”
When I ask her about her empire and how she reflects on all the things she has done and brought into the world, my pitch rises with excitement as I think about her vast creative portfolio. Her answer and tone immediately calms me down.
“I just relax,” she says. “I don’t know if I ever have those thoughts. I’m a person who likes to keep busy, so I don’t really like to look back on things. I like living in the moment. It’s like when I go to yoga or something, it’s just more like an environment where you’re more equal with everyone. I’ll just go, ‘Wow, I’m lucky.’”