Born in New Jersey, Lepore always identified as female. In her early teens she would make clothes for a transgender friend in return for hormones, but in time, she was legitimately prescribed the drugs and transitioned fully by the age of 19. In the early 1990s, Lepore had relocated to New York and became a renowned nightlife figure, where she partied with the now famed club kids. Though the scene became more and more associated with drugs and hardcore partying, Lepore avoided drink and drugs because she was told they would make her hormones less effective. And for her, the addiction was the glamour.
Over time, Lepore's body and face became increasingly exaggerated as she underwent multiple surgical enhancements. But unlike celebrities who thrive on the attention these extreme changes bring, Lepore's appearance is intended as a shock tactic, satirising and subtly parodying fame and consumerism. She has dehumanised herself through these alterations, but behind the image she is mocking the brainlessness usually associated with this aesthetic. Proclaiming that she has the "most expensive body on earth", she decided at a young age that she didn't want to look like the girls around her. Instead, she wanted to look a movie star, citing Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow and Jessica Rabbit as strong influences.
Her trashy image however has not marred or undermined her reputation. Because for all the countless tabloid figures who share Lepore's look, there is a clear artistic objectivity to her very existence. Yes she has emulated a level of femininity that has left her looking more like a fantasy woman than anything real, but her performances and appearances are evidence that this is more than just vanity or body dysmorphia. She lives as an art exhibition, commenting on what the world sees as female. She may be a trans woman, but she inhabits, lives and examines exactly what tabloid femininity has been for the last 25 years.
For many people in the LGBT Community, Lepore is an uncomfortable figure, whose image jars with what some feel they are fighting for. To the uninitiated, Lepore is a cosmetic surgery monster, little more than a Queer Jocelyn Wildenstein who flaunts and derides the surgical process involved in gender reassignment. But to the initiated, she is a figure of artistic prowess who isn't a symptom of tabloid culture but a reaction to it. So maybe she is a socialite whose fame has come from the fame of others, but her influence as muse on LaChapelle and the art world cannot be understated. In years to come, she will be included in the same breath as Gala Dali, Lee Miller and Edie Sedgwick, whose mere existence was the catalyst for truly great art. And for that, Lepore will live on as one of the greatest faces of this artistic era.