Second Type Women - Amanda Lear


Amanda Lear was probably the most famous male-to-female transsexual of the 1970's but is hardly known in the UK and USA - despite her close association with Britain.  This seems to because she lived and worked in France during the most succesful parts of her career, and she has refused to publicly acknowledge that she is transgender.

Her Biography

Alain Tapp transitioned and became Peki d'Oslo in 1959 or 1960.

For many decades there was huge uncertainty as to where and when Amanda was born.  Amanda seems to have had a lot of fun throwing confusing hints to the media about her childhood, for example, based on various statements she was born in Vietnam or France in 1939, but it might have been Hong Kong in 1941 or 1945 or even 1948.  In 2010 she claimed during a TV interview that she was born on 18 November 1950 in Saigon.

She's apparently of mixed parentage, at various times she's claimed to have British, French and Indonesian fathers, and English and Russo-Oriental mothers.  Although usually identified as being 'French', she actually holds a British passport and uses a Scottish surname!

Since the late 1980's the French press has generally accepted evidence that she was born a boy, Alain Maurice Tap, in Saigon on 18 June 1939.  At the time Saigon was part of the French colony of Indochina.

After an education supposedly in Switzerland and England, by 1959 at latest Amanda had moved to France - still a tall, gangly and rather Asian looking boy.  However plastic surgery on her nose and injections of oestrogen hormones dramatically changed her appearance.  She first became publicly noticed in 1960 when she started working as an exotic showgirl and stripper known as Peki d'Oslo at the Le Carrousel revue in Paris. 

Some pictures of Peki d'Oslo (later Amanda Lear) during
her Paris days in the early 1960's.

Peki's exotic looks quickly attracted the eye of Salvador Dali and she became his intimate companion (despite his marriage in 1934 to Gala) and muse for many works.  She often appeared in public with Dali in the 1960's and early 1970's - later capitalising on this with the book My Life with Dali.  As with much of Amanda's life, the book is very confusing as it claims that she first met Dali in 1965, despite photographic evidence showing them together in 1962.

In 1963 Peki had a sex-change operation, carried out in Casablanca by Dr Bourou and possibly paid for by Salvador Dali.  Soon after this she changed her first name from Peki to Amanda and moved to London, where she quickly became part of the trendy "Chelsea Girl" set.  She worked at night as a hostess at Raymond's Revue Bar, but during the day studied at St Martin's College of Art where she started to meet musicians such as Marianne Faithfull and Keith Moon.

She bleached her hair blond with great effect and in 1965 she was signed by a model agency.  It wasn't long before she was cat walking for top designers and appearing on magazine covers, but her modelling career started to be hampered by rumours that she was a transsexual. 

(Left) Top photographer Brian Duffy described Amanda as an "incredible model". 
(Right) Amanda doing a photo shoot for
Nova Magazine in the early 1970's.

Amanda desperately needed official documents that said she was 'Female'.  Whilst visiting a Notting Hill pub in London with her friend April Ashley she encountered a Scottish student, Morgan Paul Lear, who was willing to marry her for £50.  The newly married Mrs Lear quickly obtained a British passport based upon her new marriage certificate, and then an equally rapid divorce.  Oddly, she has ever since continued to use her ex-husbands surname and British passport.

In early 1973 singer Bryan Ferry saw the supposedly 25-year old Amanda (making her implausibly pre-teen in her Paris showgirl days!) on stage modelling a collection for fashion designer Ossie Clarke, and invited her to feature as the cover girl for Roxy Music's new album "For Your Pleasure" (right).  Their relationship culminated with a brief engagement for marriage.  Thanks to Bryan, Amanda was now part of the "in crowd" on the London party circuit, mixing with the likes of Mick Jagger and Elton John.  She met David Bowie and became one of several beautiful transsexual women (Romy Haag was another) that featured in his love life at that time, indeed they even lived together for a year and Bowie is one of her few admitted "lovers".

Amanda supported Ziggy (aka David Bowie) at the London Marquee, 18-20 October 1973

Amanda became part of David Bowie's stage act, and he helped launch her solo music career.  In 1977 she signed her own record contract and soon became a huge disco star on mainland Europe in her own right.  Her first two Albums, the 1977 I Am A Photograph and the 1978 Sweet Revenge, and the singles released from them, sold in millions around the world. Reports that she was transsexual were rife and did nothing to harm her commercial success, but she vigorously denied this in a 1977 television interview.

Amanda had often been photo'ed or painted nude during her many years as a showgirl and Dali's muse.  She appeared to have no reservations about again showing off her body as part of her attempts to counter claims that she was a transsexual, although she remained her own worst enemy with song lyrics such as "better than the real thing".  The album Sweet Revenge included a topless photo of her (right) and in one the songs, Fabulous Lover, Love Me - she sings "the surgeon made me so well that you could not tell that I was not somebody else".

In 1978 she sent very revealing post cards to the members of her fan club, posed nude for several men's magazines, including Playboy, and didn't seem concerned about paparazzi photographers catching her unclothed and publishing the photos (e.g. below left) - indeed seemed to posing for them.  Paparrazi photo of Amanda, 1982Whilst the nude photos proved to her delighted fans that she still had an amazing body whilst almost certainly being in her '40's, her denial of being a transsexual woman was no longer convincing.  A comprehensive photographic trail had emerged going back to her Peki days, and the comments of former close acquaintances such as David Bowie and Salvador Dali notably didn't support her claim.  April Ashley (a former colleague of Peki) has often been explicit (e.g. in her autobiography) that Amanda is a transwoman.  Indirect and inconclusive evidence such as her lack of children and a masculine sounding voice and  also do not help.  Although one of her 1979 videos singing Lili Marlene is arguably better than even

In 1979, Amanda married (right) Frenchman Alain-Phillippe Malagnac.  She thereafter became a bit more reserved, with no more nude photo's!

During '80's and '90's Amanda continued to record and perform her music, although she was unable to repeat the success of her early disco albums.  However, she successfully started two new careers - as a painter and as a TV host.

Tragedy struck Amanda in December 2000 when her home in France burnt down, killing her husband and destroying many of her paintings, as well as several gifted to her by Dali.

In February 2007 she refused to be on stage with, or even near, transsexuals at a major gay event in Milan, Italy.  This caused a lot of bad feeling with the crowd and annoyed the organisers - who complained about the "ambiguity" in her stance.

In 2022 the film Dalíland was released.  This is based on the true story of Salvador Dalí and his tempestuous relationship with his wife, Gala, and muses such as Amanda.  The 30-year-old transwoman Andreja Pejić appears as Amanda Lear.


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Last updated: 21 March, 2022