Photograph by Steve Shapiro
My father is a huge Bowie fan, and about the time I first got interested in what he was listening to, he pulled out the Diamond Dogs album. The cover was just so cool and trippy and weird. At that point I was really into Halloween and costumes, and when my dad played me the album, I thought, Oh, it’s a Halloween thing. I was maybe 8 or 9, but I didn’t really start appreciating Bowie for myself until my early twenties, when I was getting into glam rock. A light bulb went off—I wasn’t into drag, I didn’t want to dress like a woman, but I wanted to express my gender and artistic identity differently than the mainstream. Bowie was a key inspiration.
It was about the androgyny of mixing it up, and that was what was so incredible about his concepts -- he was one of the first rock stars to really push the idea that sexuality was not black and white but an exploration. Later, when he finally made his big American breakthrough in the ’80s working with Nile Rodgers on Let’s Dance, his image shifted to a more masculine sensibility. Considering how far he had pushed it the decade previous, however, it gave his masculinity an edgy and mysterious undercurrent. I actually love Young Americans so much because it was the album where he jumped into Philly soul and it got very funky and rhythmic; to hear someone with his sensibility going to that place is really inspiring.
WATCH: David Bowie perform 'Young Americans' live on the Dick Cavett Show in 1974