A singular fixture on the New York City club scene reveals the private details of her gender transition in a photo-heavy memoir.
Buxom performance artist Lepore, 49, boasts having “the most expensive body on earth,” yet her beginnings were humble. She was born Armand to a suburban New Jersey chemical engineer and his elegant, sophisticated “trophy wife.” The author’s early unhappiness, beginning at age 5, stemmed from a passionate yearning to become her truest self: a girl. Dreaming of long blonde hair and excitedly reaching for Barbies (“everything I wanted to be”) instead of Hot Wheels, Lepore frustrated her father and compassionately doted over her mother, who suffered from intermittent paranoid schizophrenia. Though her parents eventually separated, Lepore was determined to master makeup skills, the rules of femininity, the ability to please men with her body, and the wonder of hormones. This all led to the sex change procedure she had been envisioning to make her physically whole. A failed marriage behind her, she went on to conquer the Manhattan party scene in the 1990s with melodramatic appearances and adored performances. Complementing the author’s wonderfully candid, unrushed text are pages of impeccably styled, posed, and provocative photographs—many seminude—showcasing an obvious love of fashion, glamour, and pride in her own expensively enhanced female form. “I associate dressing up with mental stability,” writes the author, who doesn’t skimp on intimate personal details. Scattered throughout the book are sidebars of personal factoids and clever tips as well as snippets on everything from her personal grooming particulars and the dos and don’ts of female hair and nail care. Though confined to just a few pages, Lepore offers some sage advice for transgender youth and those embarking on their own journeys into gender transformation. Through generous photos and a narrative that could stand alone, this is a must-have collector’s item for readers eager for a glimpse into the unique world of a fearless chanteuse.
A thoroughly enjoyable hybrid of flashy pictorial, artsy production, and outspoken autobiography.