Mae West. Jean Harlow. Jessica Rabbit. Dita Von Teese. Clara Bow. Marilyn Monroe. Angelina Jolie. Mick Jagger. Bardot. Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley. Irving Penn’s Bee on Lips. Tom Hardy. Scarlett Johansson. Lana del Ray.
All fabulously kissable lips, be it size, shape, or definition. Lipstick and lip-gloss enhance the erogenous attraction of dangerous lips and pouting. Luscious, pillowy, pouty, full, and plump are sensual ways to describe lips of desire.
The wonderfully named Vermillion Line marks the demarcation of lip from surrounding skin. Finding the right red, coral or nude lipstick is something cis men will never understand. Tom Ford, Louboutin, Mac, Fenty, Chanel, Hermes, Nars, Carolina Herrera, Huda Beauty and Dior all sell beautifully designed lipsticks, showcasing sensuous hues for pouts and the promise of kissing. Amanda Lepore wears a bespoke crimson poppy red that is always flawless.
Anyone familiar with the infamous, yet highly influential New York Club Kids loosely assembled around club promoter and artist Michael Alig will remember the outrage they garnered. Alig revelled in shock tactics, a warped planet pulling the weird, disenfranchised and fabulously oddball boys and girls into his orbit. Rupaul, Susanne Bartsch, DJ Keoki, James St James, and Lady Bunny were among Alig’s early 90’s outré alumni. And of course, Amanda Lepore, who danced and hostessed at Alig’s club nights gradually became an essential part of the Club Kid tribe.
Born and raised in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, she was committed to changing gender and was astonished that her parents continued to dress and treat her like a boy. Aged fifteen she met a transgender performer called Bambi; this marked a momentous turning point. In exchange for female hormones, she made costumes for Bambi. Her parents decided to remove her from the school system and home school her with private tutors. With the support of a sympathetic doctor, she began transitioning at sixteen.
Amanda’s porcelain persona and serious belief in the power of transformation plays fabulously against the frivolity and vibrant, no holds barred neon velocity of her surroundings. Her doll-like stillness is fascinating, the vastly altered Jessica Rabbit look and finished off with her famous crimson pout resembling the Mae West Lips sofas, a collaboration between Salvador Dali and his English patron Edward James.
The mix of body shaping with Amanda’s purposeful enigma elevates her into a more esoteric realm, where art, skin and body modification collide. Artists like Orlan, Zhu Yu and the Icelandic designer Sruli Recht challenge our perceptions of the body as art, asking us to rethink the disturbance of our surfaces.
Master perfumer Christophe Laudamiel is himself no stranger to controversy. Outspoken, punky and oh so talented, he is a true maverick, creating accords and olfactive ideas that challenge how we wear and interact with scent. He has tremendous fun with his creations but don’t make the mistake of thinking his work is anything less than deliberate and thought provoking. It is only fitting that Christophe has composed a perfumed portrait of Amanda Lepore.
The result is Dangerous Curves, an erotic explosion of lipstick florals and seductive boudoir entrapment. Creating glamour as a perfume concept is so fraught with potential heaviness and ambered overdosing but Christophe is far too gifted to allow someone as sensational as Amanda be mired in a run of the mill vanillic rosaceous oud. He wanted impact and danger.
Instead, glamour and plush disturbance harmonise in Dangerous Curves. The formula has been dissolved in a mix of alcohol and Cristal rosé champagne vintage 2012. This touch of decadence adds a strawberry meringue touch to the mix. Pink peppercorns, peach flesh and tonka bean suggest ermine over waxen white magnolias and rose de mai. At the heart of all this is Christophe’s beautiful evocation of Amanda’s lips with an accord rich in violet leaf and ionones, glossy, secretive, and mesmerising.
The Club Kids imploded with Michael Alig’s arrest for the felony manslaughter and dismemberment of Angel Melendez, a club regular and drug dealer. Alig told everyone he had killed Angel, but like the child who cried wolf once too often, it took quite some time and the discovery of boxed limbs in the river to finally charge and sentence him. After his release he was subjected to a very strict regime of behaviour, all of which he shattered. He was only 54 when he was found dead, overdosed in his apartment.
The Club Kids were stars that burned so brightly, demanding attention through their fashion, antics, and open drug use. But stars die, exploding their light into millions of fading debris. Amanda Lepore has remained aloof throughout the tumult, a transgender diva who has inspired a remarkable perfume that enslaves and amazes us.