Dude (Looks Like a Lady)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Dude (Looks Like a Lady)"
7-inch vinyl variant of standard artwork
Single by Aerosmith
from the album Permanent Vacation
  • "Once is Enough"
  • "Simoriah"
ReleasedSeptember 22, 1987
1990 (re-issue)
  • 4:24 (album version)
  • 5:13 (alternate mix)
Producer(s)Bruce Fairbairn
Aerosmith singles chronology
"Hangman Jury"
"Dude (Looks Like a Lady)"
Music video
"Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" on YouTube

"Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" is a song by American rock band Aerosmith. It was released as the lead single from the band's ninth studio album Permanent Vacation in 1987. The song was written by lead singer Steven Tyler, lead guitarist Joe Perry and songwriter Desmond Child.


The song talks about a man who is mistaken for a woman. According to Desmond Child, Steven Tyler came up with the idea after mistaking Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil for a woman with long blonde hair. Tyler's bandmates made fun of him, joking about how the "dude looked like a lady".[8] In his book The Heroin Diaries, Mötley Crüe's Nikki Sixx concurs that the song was inspired by Neil.

"We were hailing a taxi in New York one night and these fucks, Mötley Crüe, pulled up in a limo. They called us in and every other word out of their mouths was 'dude'. You know, 'Yo dude! Your dude is really dude, dude.' I hadn't heard this crazy 'dude' shit before. We had just bought a sampler and we were listening to an Eddie Murphy album – the one where he keeps going on about Mr. T being gay… I kind of got a lick, but couldn't get the words. I had shit like, 'Cruisin' for the ladies,' or, 'My old lady's got rabies.' Bad stuff. Then I remembered my new word, 'dude'." – Steven Tyler[9]

Of "Cruisin' for the ladies", Child said, "I don't think Van Halen would put that on the B-side of their worst record."[10] Child recalls developing the song with the group:

I walked in, and they had a song already written as "Cruisin' for the Ladies." They looked at me like, "Get outta here." Then Steven said, "Well, originally, when I was writing the song, I was singing 'Dude looks like a lady'." I said, "Oh my God, that's a smash." At first I suggested, "Let's write a story song. Maybe it's a guy who was like a Vietnam vet who was so like traumatized, he came back and became a drag queen." Joe Perry got a very stern look on his face and said, "Some of my friends are vets." I said, "OK. Forget about that idea. What about a guy who goes into a strip joint and sees this gorgeous, you know, bosomed blond stripping on stage and then he goes backstage and finds out it's really a guy." And they went with that. It goes, "She's a funky lady, I like it, like it, like it like that." The singer's sort of implying he went for it anyway 'cause he liked what he saw. He goes, "Never judge a book by its cover/or who you're gonna love by your lover." It has a kind of deep message in a way, because it's like, well, what is love, and what is a person, and if you're attracted to what you're seeing, you're attracted to it, you know? It's a kind of elevated song about androgyny, and, in spite of the fact that it's down and dirty, it has a kind of lofty concept.[11]

Joe Perry — who came up with the chorus riff – was concerned that the subject matter would offend the gay community, but Child said, "I'm gay, and I'm not insulted. Let's write this song."[12]


Every four or five year old child in America was able to sing that song. It was like, do you realize this is about a tranny?[13]

Despite the song's mainstream success, "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" has been accused of being transphobic, with "its lyrics and music video’s offensive insinuations about trans women."[8] In 2012, Child said, "I talked Aerosmith into the whole scenario of a guy that walks into a strip joint and falls in love with the stripper on stage, goes backstage and finds out it's a guy."[14] In 2019, Child confirmed that the song was about a man who "just walks into a bar and sees this gorgeous blonde up on the stage and then goes backstage after the show and then she 'whips out a gun, tries to blow me away.'"[10]

Child has refuted all allegations of transphobia, describing the song as "accepting" because of the lyric, "Never judge a book by its cover, or who you're going to love by your lover."[10][14]

On August 27, 2013, Fox News played this song while introducing Chelsea Manning. As well as the network's use of masculine pronouns and Manning's deadname, playing this song received backlash from commentators.[15]

After Caitlyn Jenner called "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" her "theme song" in 2017, backlash ensued from fans and from LGBT activists due to the perceived transphobia.[8]

Release and reception[edit]

The track reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 41 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart, number four on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, number 22 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart and number 45 on the UK Singles Chart. It was re-released in early 1990 and peaked at number 20 in the UK. It was certified gold in the UK for sales and streams exceeding over 400,000 units.

Cash Box said that it has "humorous lyrics coupled with a driving rock beat."[16]

"Dude" picked up two MTV Video Music Award nominations in 1988 (the first for the band). It was nominated for Best Group Video and Best Stage Performance, but failed to gain the wins. The band made up for it eventually, winning over 10 "moon-men" and 4 Grammys in the 1990s.

Music video[edit]

The video for "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" features the band performing live onstage as well as random moments of characters portraying drag queens, including a cameo appearance by A&R man John Kalodner dressed up in a wedding dress at one point. This is a joke based on the fact that Kalodner always dresses in white. Joe Perry's wife Billie also appears in the music video, pretending to play the saxophone on stage.

There are also some provocative sexual performances, both led by singer Steven Tyler as well as a presumed female who has her skirt torn off to reveal the Aerosmith "wings" tattoo on her buttocks. The video was directed by Marty Callner.

Credits and personnel[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]


Chart (1987–1988) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[17] 22
UK Singles (OCC)[18] 45
US Billboard Hot 100[19] 14
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[20] 41
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[21] 4
Chart (1990) Peak
UK Singles (OCC)[22] 20


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[23] Gold 400,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


The song has long been a staple on both rock radio and in concert, as the band has regularly rotated it into their set lists over the years.

The song has been featured on a number of subsequent compilation albums by Aerosmith including 1994's Big Ones, 2002's O, Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits, 2006's Devil's Got a New Disguise: The Very Best of Aerosmith, and the 1998 live album, A Little South of Sanity.

Concurrent with its chart run, the song was played in the 1987 comedy film Like Father Like Son, starring Kirk Cameron and Dudley Moore.

Professional wrestler Roddy Piper appeared as a guest VJ on MTV shortly after the song's release. During one segment, the song's video was played, followed by a Michael Jackson video. Piper appeared afterward, repeatedly chanting "Dude looks like a lady!" in the manic fashion of a wrestling interview, intended more as a jab at Jackson than any reference to Aerosmith or the song.

In 1993, the song was prominently featured in the film Mrs. Doubtfire, during a montage of the main character bonding with his family in disguise as a woman. The song was also used in the film's TV ads. Randi Mayem Singer, the writer of Mrs. Doubtfire, credits "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" as one of the most important songs ever written and as the direct influence for writing the script. She was quoted as saying "Without ['Dude (Looks Like a Lady)'], there would be no Mrs. Doubtfire".[24][25]

The song was also featured in the movie It's Pat where the title character (played by Julia Sweeney) sings a karaoke version at their wedding reception. The song fits in with the running joke throughout the film, in reference to Pat's gender ambiguity.

The song was performed live by the band in the movie, Wayne's World 2, and is featured on the soundtrack for the film.

In "There's Something About Marrying" the tenth episode of the sixteenth season of the American animated television series The Simpsons, Veronica is singing the song while shaving as Marge accidentally discovers him as a man cross-dressed as a woman who is about to marry her sister Patty.

The video for "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" is featured on the karaoke game SingStar Vol. 2 for PlayStation 3.

Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira sang the song with Steven Tyler on MTV Icon and also included it on the set list of her Tour of the Mongoose.

The song is played as one of the possible song choices on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios.[26]

The song is featured in the MTV animated series, Station Zero where DJ Tech played on his turntables.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Ultimate Hair Metal Party Playlist". Kerrang!. April 5, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  2. ^ Popoff, Martin (2014). The Big Book of Hair Metal: The Illustrated Oral History of Heavy Metal's Debauched Decade. Voyageur Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-1-62788-375-7.
  3. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo (February 28, 2017). "Aerosmith Albums Ranked". Loudwire. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  4. ^ Bienstock, Richard (2011). Aerosmith: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Boston Bad Boys. Voyageur Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-61059-769-2.
  5. ^ Guarisco, Donald A. "Dude (Looks Like a Lady) - Aerosmith | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  6. ^ Deusner, Stephen (February 18, 2017). "We're all livin' on a prayer: How a hair band anthem from the least cool '80s rockers became a classic". Salon. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Big Ones - Aerosmith | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c White, Abbey (July 20, 2017). "Caitlyn Jenner is under fire for calling Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" her theme song". Vox. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  9. ^ Raworth, Ben (April 1997). "Quote, Unquote: Steven Tyler". FHM: 62.
  10. ^ a b c "Aerosmith Songwriter Recalls 'Really Bad' Original Chorus of 'Dude Looks Like a Lady,' Addresses Accusations That Song Is Anti-Transgender". Ultimate-guitar.com. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  11. ^ The Billboard interview Desmond Child. By: Newman, Melinda, Billboard, 00062510, 11/27/99, Vol. 111, Issue 48
  12. ^ McIntosh, Dan (June 25, 2012). "Desmond Child interview". Songfacts. Archived from the original on May 15, 2019. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  13. ^ "Desmond Child interview". Songfacts.com. Archived from the original on September 25, 2021. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  14. ^ a b Songfacts. "Desmond Child: Songwriter Interviews". Songfacts.com. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  15. ^ Morse, Felicity (August 28, 2013). "Fox News plays 'Dude looks like a lady' over Chelsea Manning segment". The Independent. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  16. ^ "Single Releases" (PDF). Cash Box. September 26, 1987. p. 8. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  17. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0919." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  18. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  19. ^ "Aerosmith Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  20. ^ "Aerosmith Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  21. ^ "Aerosmith Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  22. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  23. ^ "British single certifications – Aerosmith – Dude (Looks Like a Lady)". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved May 12, 2023.
  24. ^ "Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  25. ^ "Top 10 Interesting Facts About Aerosmith's Dude (Looks Like a Lady)". The Top Tens. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  26. ^ "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith". Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2012.

External links[edit]