Amanda Lepore: The Atlanta ‘Champagne Dreams’ Interview [VIDEOS]
Amanda Lepore has been a muse for celebrity photographer David LaChapelle, an icon for New York City nightlife, and a model for some of the world’s top fashion brands including Armani, M.A.C. cosmetics and Swatch.
Now she’s come into her own with the release of a new album, ‘I… Amanda Lepore‘, that she’ll perform songs from this Thursday night at .
We spoke with ‘the ‘#1 transsexual on the planet’ about her transition to becoming a woman, making music with Cazwell, and her thoughts about Chaz Bono on ‘Dancing with the Stars’…
I didn’t think you’d be up this early! (12 p.m). On your song ‘Doin It My Way’ you say, ‘I wake everyday between 2 and 3, and I roll out the bed between 3 and 4.” What time do you normally wake up?
I’m more of a night person, because I work at night. If I’m not working at night I get up around 12. If I have a photoshoot that I have to get up early for it’s difficult [laughs].
Classic blonde movie stars allowed me to escape because I was an outcast and spent a lot of time alone. I was made fun of a lot, so I wanted to be like them.”
One of my favorite songs of yours is ‘Marilyn,’ Who were some of your icons growing up?
I definitely like a lot of the old movie stars. They allowed me to escape because I was an outcast and spent a lot of time alone. I liked the classic blondes like Marilyn Monroe. I was made fun of a lot so I wanted to be like them. I was a transsexual, so I wanted to have their femininity. They were artificially made up by themselves or the studios, so I learned I could copy them. It was fun to do my hair and wear glamorous clothes.
Tell me about ‘Cotton Candy.’
‘Cotton Candy’ is actually a love story about an ex-boyfriend. It’s cute. It’s a reference to a sweet guy, it actually has nothing to do with the candy. A lot of my boyfriends were big brutes, then I went out with a college kid who was really sweet. So Cazwell wrote that because the guy wasn’t really my type.
Some of your lyrics are funny, like in ‘My Hair Looks Fierce’ when Cazwell says who made your dress and you say, ‘some Mexican children in an L.A. Sweat Shop.’
Cazwell is always with me, so sometimes when he hears me say something he puts it in a song. I was at the Grammy awards and took off my dress and I said, ‘I don’t know much about clothes but my hair looks fierce!’ So Cazwell took that and turned it into a song. Although my apartment is kind of like an L.A. sweat shop… there are hairpieces all over.
Your album has some comical lyrics. Do you think of yourself as a funny person?
It’s kind of autobiographical. I have a funny life. I don’t take anything too seriously. I’m very light.
There are people out there who will like you for being different. You don’t have to conform to society to find happiness and acceptance.”
My other favorite song of yours is ‘Look At Me Now’ where you talk about being bullied growing up. What would you say to kids out there who are going through that?
You just have to realize that for all the people who bully you and don’t like you, there are people out there who will like you for being different. It’s really hard at the time because you can’t get out of it when you’re being supported by your parents. I’ts not forever, but it seems like it at the time. There is hope, though. You don’t have to conform to society to find happiness and acceptance.
When I think of the New York City club scene celebrities, I think of you, Cazwell, Richie Rich and Marco Ovando who often directs your videos. How would you describe your group?
We’re creative, we don’t just go out. For me it started out as just going out that was my job. We’re friends first from over the years which is why we want to work with each other. We were friends for a long time before we started working together.
How did you and Cazwell meet?
I used to do makeup at Patrica Field and his boyfriend worked there. I used to have these big blowout birthday parties once a year so I asked him do it and he was so excited. He was watching me partying at my birthday, and he wrote Champagne about it. He showed it to me later and said he spent a lot of time on it and wanted to do it really well. I was really nervous because his songs have a lot of lyrics. But he helped me learn them. It’s easier for me to learn the words to songs now, but it was really hard for me when I was getting started. It took me like three months to learn the words to ‘Champagne’!
There’s a lot of synergy and collaboration between you guys, which is nice to see since there’s so much cut-throat competition in the club world, especially in New York City.
We’re doing something constructive instead of destructive. People get sick of cattiness. We have something to offer and we’re making something productive from our situation.
There’s a lot of ignorance out there because people don’t really understand transsexuals. It’s like the last taboo.”
Do you ever get jealous of each others’ successes?
No, we’re honestly happy for each other. We’re not competitive. We’re so different so that helps.
Everyone is talking about Chaz Bono being on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ What are your thoughts about why some people are upset with the show for putting her on?
I think it’s great. I’m all for it. There’s a lot of ignorance out there because people don’t really understand transsexuals. It’s like the last taboo. There’s a lot of prejudice for sure. If there wasn’t, she would just be dancing and no one would care.
I don’t watch TV, because there was a point where I was watching a lot of TV like E! True Hollywood Stories and Ricki Lake, so I disconnected my cable. Now I go to the gym a lot and watch a lot of movies.
What kind of movies do you like?
I like Gene Harlow, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Mansfield. I watch the same movies over and over. Initially I watched them for techniques and dresses. I love the old MGM musicals. It’s just funny how I watch the same movies again and again in the background. I watch this movie ‘Gilda’ all the time, then I bust out and sing every word.
When did you realize you wanted to be a woman?
I thought I was a girl as far back as I can remember. I thought my parents were just punishing me by cutting my hair and not buying me girl’s things. I wanted to change as soon as I found out information that said you could. You feel like you’re born in the wrong body. I think it’s genetic. Even for gay people, you’re born that way.
I thought I was a girl as far back as I can remember. I thought my parents were just punishing me by cutting my hair and not buying me girl’s things.”
How hard was the transition?
For me it was easier. It was a lot harder to not do it. I started really young, so I was lucky. The male stuff didn’t really have time to develop because I started taking hormones when I was 15 and was transitioned by the time I was 18. My mother was schizophrenic, and she wanted me to wait to have surgery until I was 21 to make sure I didn’t regret it. I had a boyfriend at the time whosefather legally adopted me, so I was able to get the surgery without my mother’s consent. They felt sorry for me because my mother was hospitalized, so they kind of took me up.
What is it like working with David LaChapelle, who calls you his muse?
It was really hard at first because I always did a blond bombshell look, but when I worked with him he really took me apart. I had to really let myself go. A lot of his stuff is really specific because he’s so meticulous and knows exactly what he wants. There are elaborate sets and I get to work with the greatest makeup artists, so I’ll ask them questions like, ‘What foundation do you love?’
The hairdressers love me because I love playing with my hair. I’m like a hairdressers dream. Sometimes they even do my hair when I’m not working. David would get mad because he paid them so much money to my hair on the set, but they were doing it for free when we were just having out.
The lipstick ad for Heatherette and MAC was really difficult. The lipstick was actually scratching my skin. Once I was in a bubble with a metal helmet, and when I got home my head actually swelled up. It’s not always pleasant, but David’s photos are amazing when they’re done.
In most of your David LaChapelle photos, you’re squirting milk or paint or fire out of your vagina. What is the symbolism behind that?
It’s a superhero kind of thing. Female superiority. Power. Also kind of like, ‘fuck you.’ Very much like my song, ‘Look at Me Now.’ That’s the message. I just do what David tells me to do. I wasn’t expecting all of his shoots to be so meaningful and conceptual, but I think that’s why people like them. They’re not just beautiful photos, there’s meaning behind it them.
My goal in life when I was getting my sex change was just to work at the mall and be left alone. To have been able to do all these things is amazing to me.”
What was it like working on the Armani ad with a naked Ryan Phillippe?
He was so cute. It was right before he became famous when he was in ‘Studio 54.’ He was very professional. That shoot was hard to do as well because it was cold out and it was a raining scene. There was cold rain pouring all over us and we were both naked. But he was nice and cute as can be.
You’re often nude in your photos. How did you become so comfortable with your body?
Well I go-go danced as a club kid. I like showing off my body but not totally. I remember one time I was doing a shoot for David and I was supposed to be topless with some girls and I didn’t do it. But David made me feel really comfortable. When I do stuff naked it makes people happy, so I just keep doing it. Now I go to clubs naked. I feel like I look better with less clothes.
What was it like working with Courtney Love in her photoshoot, where you’re a dominatrix spanking her butt while she’s on all fours?
I was just going to watch Courtney was doing her photoshoot at this club, and David stuck me in the photos. At one point she asked me to give her some of my pills to pose with. She said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to take them – then she shoved them in her mouth and swallowed them!’ She was crazy [laughs].
Is it true you once worked as a dominatrix?
Yes that’s true.
I saw you perform with Lil Kim in New York at Club 57 recently. What was it like working with her?
I had met her at a MAC party when she had just gotten out of jail. And she said, ‘I just wanted to thank you for your song ‘Champagne’ because I sang it in my cell every day.’ So that’s how that performance came about. It was amazing that I loved her music before, and she knew my song!
You’ve been in a video with Ryan Phillippe for Armani and a video for Elton John’s Las Vegas stage show. Did you ever imagine these kinds of things would happen in your life?
My goal in life when I was getting my sex change was just to work at the mall and be left alone. If I had a crystal ball when I was getting my sex change as a kid that all these things would happen, I wouldn’t believe it. To have been able to do all these things is amazing to me.
Listen to Amanda Lepore’s ‘Convertible’ with M.Y.A. from ‘I… Amanda Lepore‘…
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