At 70, Cyndi Lauper has nothing left to prove

In 1983, when MTV was still in its infancy, it was sheer serendipity that Lauper’s debut album, “She’s So Unusual,” came out during the rise of the Internet. She views her public persona as a visual art. Her makeup artist is a painter and her stylist is an antique buyer.

“People sometimes mistake it for being very cluttered,” Laura Wills, founder of vintage store Screaming Mimi’s, said of the singer’s style. “People don’t look like that.” In the early eighties, Lauper worked for Wells, often exchanging his labor for clothes. Welles began styling her as her career took off, and the two often dressed Lauper like sliding chips on a poker table, saying things like, “I’ll see your polka dot socks and stripes.” Cropped pants, I’ll raise you plaid top,” Wells said. “I’ll look at your polka dot socks, striped cropped pants, and plaid top, and I’ll put a paisley hat on you.”

Lauper seemed to be rising to prominence as a fully formed feminist icon. She refuses to tell interviewers her age (“I’m not a car,” she says), and she insists that they recognize the politics behind her aesthetic choices. “I wear corsets to unlock the power of women,” she told the outlet. She appeared on the cover of Ms. Magazine and recorded the 1986 song “True Colors,” which resonated with her after a friend died of AIDS.

“I knew I might lose business because I talked about AIDS so much,” she said, but she thought, “I should stand up and defend my family like any good Italian would, you know?” In 2008, she True Colors United was founded to help address LGBTQ youth homelessness. In 2022, she created the Girls Just Want Fundamental Rights fund to support abortion and other reproductive justice movements.

In 1985, Lauper won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist for “She’s So Unusual”. The album, along with songs like “Time After Time” and “All Through the Night,” broke records. But something strange happened. She looked around and saw her reflection everywhere. “When I first became famous, I felt like the whole world had disappeared” – Lauper makes a sharp sucking sound here – “sucked everything away. The jewelry, the colors, the corset on the outside, all of it. Everything. Then use it.

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