When The Other Show, one of Atlanta’s hottest drag shows, launched its first expanded show last month with Lady Bunny, the turnout was phenomenal. For the second edition of The Other Show XXXL, Edie Cheezburger and company are bringing in a legend who should have no problem fitting right in: Amanda Lepore.
Since establishing herself as a nightlife icon in the early 1990s, Amanda Lepore has made her mark in modeling, music and film. Her collaborations with famed photographer David LaChapelle are among the photographer’s most notable works.
Of course, Lepore’s fame is in large part due to her exaggerated features – she may very well be the closest approximation of a real-life Jessica Rabbit. At one point, she called herself the “No. 1 Transsexual in the World.”
Before her appearance in The Other Show XXXL, I spoke with Amanda about her visit to Atlanta, the latest plans in her distinguished career and the importance of her physical transformation.
Amanda, you’ll be in Atlanta at Jungle for The Other Show XXXL on August 23. What all can we expect from your performance that night?
I’ll be performing songs from my album and my new song, “I Wanna Be Loved By You.” You can expect glamour and style! It’ll be great to see everyone and I hope I get some nice Southern hospitality.
When you’re at The Other Show XXXL, you’ll be performing with some of Atlanta’s biggest up-and-coming drag queens. What advice do you have for them – or for anyone – as performers?
Practice in front of your friends and experiment with makeup and your looks, find what works best for you and above all, be yourself. This way you will be more confident on stage and remember to have fun.
You’ve visited Atlanta several times over the years. Is there anything in particular that stands out about Atlanta from your prior visits (things you enjoy, experiences you’ve had, etc.)?
I love people from the South, their friendliness and how they make visitors feel comfortable. Once upon a time I had a boyfriend in Atlanta, he introduced me to the area, so I am familiar with the environment and enjoy it very much.
You are, without a doubt, one of the most glamorous entertainers in our community. To you, what’s the importance of being glamorous?
It’s an escape; people want to escape via entertainment. I think I fulfill that by being glamorous. It’s a passion of mine, it gives me confidence and it carries onto my performances on stage. I love high heels, and at this point it all feels natural to me. It also looks great on pictures.
You’re also one of the most well-known trans individuals in the world. When did you realize your true gender identity?
I always believed I was a girl since I was a child. I wanted to get treatment since I was around 10 when I saw a talk show on TV and realized that there was treatment and that it could be my reality. I had to follow that instinct.
On a related note, when and why did you decide to physically transition, both through hormones and surgery?
As soon as I knew it was available I wanted it pretty badly. When I began treatment my life got better, my academic career improved, grades got better, I was able to focus better, and saw an overall change that fit me. The physical transition was a natural next step into becoming who I felt I was and who I am today.
How did you get involved in the nightlife scene in New York initially?
A friend brought me to a club initially and then it turned into hosting, and I continued to get hired to be a part of the scene. I started to meet displaced kids who didn’t fit in, were bullied in schools, and other people with similar experiences and we became the scene. People didn’t know I was a transsexual, once that came out, they liked me even more and it snowballed into becoming very popular.
As things have changed over the years, are there aspects of nightlife that you like or dislike now compared to the past?
To this day, I still work in clubs, and that element has not changed, people are still coming to New York to find a place to fit in, and they find themselves in the nightlife and I enjoy being a part of a scene where people are finding acceptance. I enjoy the creativity of the nightlife, the costumes, the makeup, seeing people become successful in their craft and transition from the scene into successful careers.
You were also a dominatrix at one point. How did that come about? Are there any particular stories from that time that stand out to you today?
When I first left my husband, I didn’t have a job, I then started doing nails and not making enough money. A friend mentioned to me being a dominatrix and that I did not have to have sex for money. I did not really like it because I am not dominant type of person, I didn’t think I would be able to do it. But in that dynamic the man wanting to play out his fantasy is not giving up control, they are orchestrating the whole thing and I am just acting a part. One of the crazier experiences I had was a customer with a pie fetish. He would come in with a bunch of pies and I would have to throw the pies at him in order for him to relieve himself. The worst part of that was the clean up afterwards. After I started working in the clubs, I found my niche and stopped working in this field.
You released your full-length album, I…Amanda Lepore, back in 2011. Do you have any plans to release another album in the future?
Yes. We have new songs like “I Wanna Be Loved By You” and right now we’re in the pre-production stages of planning for the next release.
What do you have coming up in the future professionally?
Lots of shows and appearances, I have a monthly residency at SoHo Grand where I sing live and that requires preparation. I am taking voice lessons and experimenting with the direction of my new album. I am working with several photographers on their projects. There’s a coffee table book in the works. I have a movie role in an independent film shooting in November. And of course: party, party, party! Showgirl, showgirl, showgirl!