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Amanda Lepore & Jackie Shane : 25 of music’s most underrated trailblazers across the queer spectrum

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Amanda Lepore

The cover of I…Amanda Lepore has the titular heroine posing mostly naked in a hall of mirrors – her sleek gynoid body replicated infinitely into the future. The world wasn’t ready for Amanda when her transgressive, debut album dropped in 2011, but her status as an icon in the fashion and art world has since been firmly established. Although she served as a muse to David LaChapelle long before popping up in the form of loving homages on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Lepore’s post-electroclash musical output still manages to shock more demure audiences. Bragging unapologetically about her impeccable genitalia and raucously celebrating superficiality, Amanda’s odes to glamour and opulence serve as empowering anthems for self-made club kids and other assorted nocturnal queer children pursuing fame in the neon lights of nightclubs. Eric Shorey

Jackie Shane

Born in 1940, Jackie Shane’s story mirrors Underground Railroad passengers escaping North to social freedom.  Blessed with an affirming parent, Shane found escape from Jim Crow racism and gender restraints after traveling to Canada on a carnival gig. Her singing career would take off in Toronto, where she appeared on the local music TV show Night Train. Her debut album, Any Other Way, details heartbreak inflicted by various women, the poor conditions of tenement living, and her ever-growing need for money, as a transgender woman of color with few available career paths. The title track even includes the lyric: “Tell her that I’m happy, tell her that I’m gay.” A soul pioneer, Shane’s music elucidates the lived experiences of African Americans, especially gender non-conforming individuals, intersectionally located on the margins of social acceptance – and on her live albums, her brassy voice twangs similarly to her Tennessee soul sister, Tina Turner. A living ancestor, having recently turned 78, she now enjoys a glamorous life as a recluse back in Nashville, Tennessee. M.B.

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