New York - "Hi. You've reached Amanda Lepore, the world's number one transsexual, with a fully functional vagina." Hey, we've got an FFV, too! We just don't announce it on our outgoing cell phone message.
But that's what makes Amanda (nee Armand) Lepore from Cedar Grove, New Jersey so great. The boy who grew up to be a Vargas pinup girl may be all manufactured artifice on the outside - huge blond hair, huge red lips, huge gravity-defying boobs.
But inside, and in conversation, she's as emotionally honest and forthright as they come, which is a challenge for anyone - even those of us born with FFVs - and feels especially refreshing coming from someone who grew up feeling trapped in the wrong body and fending off taunts and insults their whole life.
"It started as a fluke, but I'm enjoying it," she said of her notoriety. "And I'm not a snob, I'll talk to everybody, even the homeless people who ask for my autograph. It's nice to be treated nicely by people because I was so harassed as a child. It makes me feel good."
Lepore began cross-dressing at 12 and had a sex change - paid for by her then-husband's father (long story) - at age 17. From there, it was only a short hop, skip and jump on the PATH train to Manhattan and the wonderful world of the downtown club scene.
Following a brief stint as a dominatrix ("I had to hide that I was a transsexual so I would say I was going to college and had a daughter to support and I'd get bigger tips"), Lepore began hosting events before becoming muse (a very well paid muse, we might add) to fashion folk like Heatherette and David LaChapelle.
"When I started working in the nightclubs and it came out that I was a transsexual, they celebrated it," Lepore told Fashion Wire Daily when we met her for a pre-fashion week shopping spree at LaCrasia gloves (15 W. 28th Street; 212-803-1600; www.wegloveyou.com; by appointment only).
"There were a lot of freaky people and they really related to it. It felt so good to just be open and not have to hide."
Since coming out of the trannie closet, Lepore hasn't been hiding much of anything. She's posed naked for LaChapelle and can often be seen at events around town in pasties and a g-string (if even); she recently sat in the window of Bendels during the launch party for Heatherette's in-store boutique wearing crystal nipple covers, a barely there miniskirt and a big lipsticked smile.
On the afternoon we met she was actually wearing several yards of fabric in the form of a custom-made red dress cut to highlight her (ahem) assets, accessorized with leopard stilettos from Alexander McQueen, vintage leopard earrings and hair bow, and fingerless leopard driving gloves she'd had made at LaCrasia to match her shoes.
"For a while I was really into nudity and lingerie - I actually think I look a lot better naked than with clothes - but I'm dating this guy [a 19-year-old college student] and he's more into dresses, so I've been wearing dresses," she said. "I stay away from trends. I always go for that bombshell kind of look, so I'll buy anything that'll go with my look."
So how long did it take the blond goddess to get ready for our appointment?
"Two hours, but I can get ready for longer if I have time," she replied.
Geez, Amanda, how much lipstick could you possibly apply?
"No, I'd take a relaxing bath and exfoliate and do my nails and maybe my roots," the Gramercy Park resident said with a laugh. "It can take a whole day."
Wow. There's nothing like a beauty-obsessed transsexual to make you feel like a grooming slacker.
So what brought her to LaCrasia on this September afternoon?
"This place is great," she enthused. "Every time I get a dress made I make stuff to go with it because you can really change the look. Like this one I'm wearing with leopard gloves, but I had red gloves made by them [she's brought them along to show us and models them for FWD's photographer] and I wear it with a coat and drop the leopard stuff and make it really elegant and it looks completely different."
"So you get a lot of looks out of each dress. And any time I buy a pair of shoes - I have champagne tastes, I like Christian Louboutin - I'll always run out and buy a pair of gloves to match. I bought a pair of royal blue shoes yesterday so I'm gonna shop for a pair of blue gloves."
She clickety-clacked across LaCrasia's vast, otherwise-empty fourth floor showroom and entered the "glove room," which was stocked, floor to ceiling, with long white opera gloves, patent leather lace-up S&M gloves, patterned fabric gloves, all manner of driving gloves, fingerless gloves and classic leather and suede gloves in every color imaginable, priced from $1 for crocheted gloves to $300 for long leather gloves with fox fur trim.
No wonder the place is a fashion industry fave. LaCrasia has made gloves for almost every New York designer, from Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren to Betsey Johnson and, yes, Heatherette.
During our visit, a display person from Bloomingdale's popped in to choose gloves for their holiday window, and stylists from Diesel, Kai Milla and Betsey Johnson milled about, trying to find gloves for their employer's upcoming runway shows.
"This looks really good," Lepore cooed, pulling a pair of leather royal blue gloves ($90) from a peg. "And what's really great about here, too, is they'll customize them for you. I like the really low, little ones."
She pulled them on and consulted the amiable glove maker who sat behind a work table.
"JD, do you think you could cut these?"
Sold, to the woman in red.
Lepore next tried on a pair of super sexy four-finger black leather gloves with side cutouts and wraparound wrist strap ($90), which had originally been made for Baby Phat's Fall 2005 show.
"These are great!" she enthused. "I'll get these."
JD tallied her purchases, which came to $80 with LaCrasia's generous Amanda Lepore discount ("if anybody who reads your story comes in and says ‘Amanda,' the price is automatically half," he promised). He even threw in a pair of stretch fabric leopard print gloves as a thank you to his most loyal, and certainly most flamboyant, customer.
And with that, the world's #1 transsexual sauntered back outside while fielding phone calls about an upcoming David LaChappelle advertising shoot for the soon-to-be-released Amanda Lepore doll - removable wigs included, FFV not.
Fashion Wire Daily