Sue Tilley was born in 1957 in South London, she was the muse and friend of the late fashion designer and performance artist Leigh Bowery and worked as the cashier for his notorious nightclub Taboo.
In 1990 while working in a benefits office as a benefits supervisor she began to model for Lucian Freud appearing in his world famous portraits Benefits Supervisor Sleeping and Benefits Supervisor Resting. She is the Author of Leigh Bowery the Life and Times of an Icon published in 1997. Since she retired from the dole office and encouraged by club impresario Wayne Shires, Tilley set up a studio and began to make oil paintings. Turning herself from model and muse to artist she has shifted her gaze from domestic items and things about her home to self portraits and portraits made in homage to artists she admires. Her drawings of mundane domestic objects became the runway star of Italian Fashion Week in 2018 when she was commissioned to collaborate with Fendi, who covered their collection with her drawings of a telephone, her cup of tea, a banana skin and a bottle opener, also featured were her bathroom taps. In 2019 Tilley collaborated with fashion designer turned sculptor Nicole Farhi and they bonded over their mutual friendship with Lucian Freud. The result was a show of sculptures by Farhi shown this year depicting Tilley. For her first solo show at New Art Projects the gallery has commissioned her to make a new series of paintings based on her memories of Leigh Bowery.