The Legend. The Muse.
Muse to many, the legendary Amanda Lear started her career as a fashion model in the sixties, notably working for Paco Rabanne and Ossie Clark amongst others. During those years she met the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, with whom she would remain the closest of friends.
Seeing Lear walk the runway for Ossie Clark, Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry promptly invited her to model for the cover of the band's upcoming album, For Your Pleasure. The pair were briefly engaged. The image of Lear walking a black panther on a leash - iconic. Lear later became involved with David Bowie, who serenaded her with “Sorrow” during recording of the 1980 Floor Show. Bowie helped Lear launch her musical career; by the late 1970s she had become a bestselling disco singer and television personality in her own right, with hits including “Follow Me,” “Queen of Chinatown” and “I Am a Photograph.”
Ever a model of self-invention, Lear has been awarded the highest French order Legion d’Honneur. A Knight in the “L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” for her remarkable contribution to the Arts.
What is ‘Beauty’ to you?
Beauty is compulsive. It helps us to live, to go through this life of pain. I can't live without beauty and I find it in everything; in nature, in colours, in sounds, in the face of a child, the body of an athlete or a model. I cannot imagine a world without beauty.
Over the years there has been a shroud of mystery surrounding you. Stories in the media played a big part in shaping your image. What comes to mind when you look back now?
The interest of the media in little me was a surprise to me, but also an immense help to boost my career. The more I was talked about, all over the world, the more I was selling records and doing shows. Media and journalists kept asking questions about my life, but also many times scrutinized me over photographs, especially the nude ones in Playboy. It all contributed to the “mystery" that became my trademark and made me into who I am today.
Is there a difference between you and the image that the public has of Amanda Lear?
Yes!!! I am totally the opposite of my public image. I am an introvert, solitary. I love being alone with my cats, I love being serious, I am often moody and pessimistic. My public image is a show.
What is the most life-changing decision that you’ve made and how did you come to that decision?
Dying my hair blonde changed my image! I was mousy ordinary and probably looking like all the other girls of my generation. One day at Vidal Sassoon I changed to blonde and later in Los Angeles Farah Fawcett’s hairdresser, José Eber, made my hair into the thick mane that became my trademark.
How do you feel the media plays a role in your life now?
The big buzz has calmed down now, but my work on stage, my wit and my quotes are still appreciated. There is still fascination around my looks and the secret to my energy ("at my age"...)!
At the end of 1971 Vogue Paris published an incredible photograph of you, taken by David Bailey and art-directed by your lifelong friend Salvador Dalí. This legendary photograph came to be known as ‘Amanda Lear as St. Lucy, Eyes on a Plate’. What was the true story behind it?
That famous picture by David Bailey was Dali's idea. The story goes that Saint Lucia had her eyes gouged out. She is the saint patron of blindness. What Dali feared most was to lose his sight. I took a boiled egg and put some of the white on my eyelids, then two parts of an egg on a plate as if I’m offering my eyes.
That image is so very distinctive and it’s concept so personal.
It’s connected to the representation of saints and martyrs. A favourite subject in Art. Finding beauty in the suffering, agonizing and bleeding, in order to create compassion.
What is your most personal song and what makes it so personal?
‘Sphinx’. I wrote it when I was a bit sad and unhappy about my life.
When we revisit your legendary 1977 debut album ‘I Am A Photograph’, the first in a series of iconic disco pop music, we find other memorable songs - ‘Queen Of China-Town’, ‘Alphabet’ - music with impact and mystery. For many that work is still relevant and inspiring today. Where did your inspiration come from?
I wrote all these songs because I had a need to communicate, an urge to express my thoughts. Being a fashion model was so frustrating to me, always being told to shut up and smile. Inspiration came from everywhere; the people around me, envy, jealousy, betrayal and love.
You’ve lived through the seventies - individuality and freedom of expression are considered synonymous with the fashion in those days. But how liberating was it to live in that time?
Yes, we were totally free in the seventies. There was no AIDS.. no bombs.. no fear of terrorism … and less drugs. I had such a good time, I was out dancing every night, I had the most beautiful boyfriends and did not care about being poor. Now I am bored.
INTERVIEW Peet Dullaert - EDITING Melanie Bomans - PHOTOGRAPHY Robbert Jacobs - STYLING Pascal-Joël Weber