1961 - 1994

Growing up a chubby and bullied outcast in the dreary suburbs of Melbourne, Leigh Bowery spent much of his youth devouring the British fashion magazines that inspired him to move to London in 1980 and become a fashion designer.  Instead he became his own greatest creation.  Combining dance, dandyism, music, and outrageous fashions (of his own design) Bowery lived as a piece of performance art.  His extreme appearance was based on the continual distortion of his physical form.  This tendency, combined with a blatant queer narcissism, made him a star of the gay and polysexual club scene.  Smart, well read, and interested in all forms of artistic expression, Bowery was an ideal candidate to transform the underground world.  In 1985 he hosted London’s outrageous and notorious club night, ‘Taboo’ – the wild, edgy epicenter of young and fashionable London.  Taboo closed in 1987 when hard drugs and HIV decimated the underground scene.  Bowery continued to perform with several concept bands, was featured in a show at d’Offay Gallery as living sculpture, and became his own greatest masterpiece.  His groundbreaking style influenced an entire generation of artists and designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, David LaChapelle, John Galliano, The Scissor Sisters, and Boy George.  He is also credited as a major factor behind the new Romantic music movement that became popular in London during the 1980s.  Leigh Bowery died of AIDS related meningitis on New Year’s Eve of 1994 at the age of 33.  Despite his brief life, his greatest legacy was the lesson to be found in taking the pain of being an outsider – then owning, exaggerating, and ultimately reclaiming it as the ultimate badge of power.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated Australia United Kingdom

Era/Epoch AIDS Era (1980-present) Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution





Fashion Designer

Commemorations & Honors

Taboo Nightclub Founder (1985)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell