Travis Scott Enlists NYC Nightlife Royalty for His Album Cover but Photoshops out Trans Icon Amanda LePore
They’ll say it isn’t transphobia… It’s Transphobia.
Rapper Travis Scott, more famously known the father of Kyie Jenner’s baby, decided to celebrate- or appropriate- the fabulous, wild and hyper-creative figures of the New York City Nightlife scene for the cover of his upcoming album, Astroworld.
The New York City Nightlife denizens are a beautiful breed unto their own, often responsible for setting trends in every arena from fashion to music, years before the rest of the of us catch up. It is veritable Oz, without a comparative, of enigmatic, fabulous creatives and creatures spanning generations who make magic across Manhattan from dust until dawn.
One of the most powerful attributes of this community is its complete and absolute acceptance of everyone, no matter shape, size, color, gender, sexual orientation, economic status or age. There is a very good reason that the American dream for so many has been realized in New York City. Who can forget Madonna’s story about arriving in Times Square from her Michigan suburb with 7 dollars in her pocket?
The Nightlife of New York City has more than just icons among their own, but these larger than life personalities tendril out into American consciousness, becoming bonafide celebrities in their own right- Rupaul, Susanne Bartsch, Patricia Field, Joey Arias, Klaus Nomi- artists, actors, drag queens, dancers, circus performers, fashion designers- all these imagineers who have changed the landscape of social acceptance by their sheer existence and refusal to conform- they continue the pioneering of LGBT+ rights, equality and inclusivity. Of course, New York City was the birthplace of Pride.
The NYC nightlife community is routinely celebrated for its brilliance, featured prominently in documentaries, shows like Saturday Night Live, and famous pop singers have incorporated them into their concert acts, and many of the nightlife staples appear on the red carpet at the annual Life Ball in Vienna to support those around the world living with HIV/AIDS.
It’s not unusual for celebrities to adopt performances, extraordinary fashions, or even use the members of the community as subjects for their work. In 1972, Lou Reed, for example, sang about one of Andy Warhol’s muses, Holly Woodlawn in his hit song “Walk on the Wildside.”
To put it more bluntly; The New York City Nightlife, and those who populate it, have regularly been a fountain of inspiration for the rest of the world.
When the visionary photographer, a NYC staple himself, David LaChapelle shot the cover of Travis Scott’s album, it seemed perfectly natural that he would use some some of Nightlife’s most iconic figures to capture the essence of Scott’s vision of “Astroworld.” It looks like a circus, with Scott himself appearing as a symbolic entrance to an exotic freak show. LaChapelle, as usual, turns his camera into a powerful tool of wizardry, invoking images of otherworldly people who are far to magnificent to exist in our own, everyday mundane lives. He has, in the past, referred to Amanda LePore as his own muse, and photographed her dozens of times for international magazines, turning her into a household name. LePore is, what can only be described as a National Treasure. One of the first trans women to take the spotlight on the center stage of America without apologizing for it. To many, she is royalty in the New York City scene. Of course LaChapelle would include her, as LePore, even alone, embodies the ethos what makes New York City after dark its own wonderland.
Except, when Travis Scott released the image to his legions of fans, LePore had been unceremoniously erased from the album cover.
Of course, upon seeing the official image, she wondered aloud where she had gone.
LePore simply asked a question. She didn’t kick up a fuss or condemn her unusual exclusion from the final image. In fact, she displayed nothing but support for her long time photographer/collaborator and friend, LaChapelle, despite her erasure.
Others, however, could not negotiate any justifiable explanation for her removal from the image. LePore was not the central focus of the photograph, she was in the background, thus not distracting in any way. Her pose was not inappropriate or controversial by any means, if one compares it to the woman portrayed in a glass tank baring an exposed breast. In fact, LePore is the only participant in the original image to be removed before its release.
Many cited that the only reason one would remove the only known transgender figure from the photo was transphobia. Even past and present Rupaul’s Drag Race winners Aquaria and Violet Chachki, along with others who frequent the NYC nightlife circuit and often collaborate with Lepore, like musician Cazwell, chimed in;
In a shocking turn of events, while other pondered the reason for the seemingly senseless alteration of the cover, LaChapelle defended the removal of LePore from the official release.
Regardless of her disappointment, LePore, responded with an enviable class, diplomacy and positivity.
It’s no secret that the rap industry is notoriously transphobic, but it seems highly unusual to appropriate a broad, diverse community that has its own roots in rebuking such exclusionary practices, whether in social activities, politics…
…Or in art.