Lady Gaga And Her Early Years
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born in March 28, 1986 in New York City to a family of French-Canadian, English, German, Scottish, and Italian ancestry. Germanotta learned how to play the piano by ear, though later on began to take classes to polish her skills as a musician. She attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and by the age of 14, she was already performing in small clubs in New York City. She tried to pursue acting as a career, but eventually gave up and focused primarily in music.
At 17, she got accepted in NYU at Tisch School Of The Arts and spent two years there before dropping out in order to pursue her musical career. Germanotta struggled with bullying in her childhood, early teenage years, and even college due to her looks: big nose, large forehead, and gap teeth (her college classmates even created a Facebook group named “Stefani Germanotta You Would Never Be Famous.” Joke’s on them.). Lady Gaga’s struggle with bullying would later on become important for her trademark as an artist that embraces all kinds of beauty, and as one of the most outspoken celebrities that fight against every kind of discrimination, mistreatment, or violence towards anyone.
Fun fact: Though most people thought she was from Manhattan, in an interview with Vogue, Lady Gaga stated that she’s actually from Yonkers.
Lady Gaga Influences and Beginnings
Lady Gaga has stated that three of her main influences are David Bowie, Queen and Madonna. These three pop culture icons have one thing in common: theatricality (glamorous and bizarre outfits), strong and dramatic performances on stage, and vibrant and creative choreographies, all of which have been present through most of Gaga’s career. Also, Bruce Springsteen is another musical figure she grew up listening to, and his influence can be seen in some songs in Born This Way (2011) and Joanne (2016).
As a freshman in high school, she was in a small band that played covers of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Jefferson Airplane. Though Gaga has focused most of her career on making pop hits, the influence of these rock bands is undeniable. Another important element in Gaga’s creative work comes from dive bars and gay clubs. There she fell in love with the aesthetics of The Cure, the beats of the Pet Shop Boys, and the witty and catchy lyrics of Scissor Sisters. She immersed herself in the Drag Scene and eighties club culture, which was evident in her first two records and performances.
How Did Lady Gaga Get Her Name?
Many people think that Lady Gaga is a persona or a character created by Germanotta. However, she has stated that Lady Gaga is part of herself, not a character, just another name with which she as a person and artist identifies. The origins of her name come from three different stories. One states that Rob Fusari, her first producer, called her “Gaga” as her vibe, voice, and style reminded him of Queen’s “Radio Gaga.” She loved it right away, but there was something missing, so she added the “Lady” to it, since it has many connotations. Also, because as a former private school girl with a privileged upbringing, it contrasted with the New York underground scene where she was trying to begin her career.
Another version comes from Rob Fusari himself, who said that he’s the one who came up with Mother Monster’s moniker. According to him, he discovered her, and the whole name was his idea. He would later on sue Lady Gaga for $30 million USD back in 2010, once she had achieved international stardom. He dropped the lawsuit eventually.
A third version states that Gaga’s and Fusari’s stories are nothing but make believe, and that Germanotta’s stage name is the result of a creative meeting that involved executives and marketers.
Lady Gaga’s Early Career
Back in the day, right after dropping out from college, she began to perform at underground and gay bars. She used to lie to DJ’s at dive bars, saying that she was Lady Gaga’s manager, an emerging singer that had recently signed a big record deal. She’d show them her demos and said that Gaga would gladly perform at bars. Her name, music, and presence on stage began to grab the attention of many New Yorkers and eventually, she’d have her big break in 2007 when she performed at Lollapalooza. However, she didn’t perform as a solo artist, but rather along with DJ and friend Lady Starlight, who played interludes of heavy metal music during the show. The reviews of that presentation were not good, and some even called her a “trainwreck.”
Fun fact: She would later on become headliner for 2010 Lollapalooza. Coming back as a true pop diva and as headliner after the bad reviews was the clapback all her haters needed. She even wore the same outfit she used back in 2007.
Lady Gaga’s Discography And Best Singles:
“Just Dance” and The Fame (2008)
Though Lady Gaga had been playing some of her singles in clubs since 2007, she got her first record deal in 2008. “Just Dance” was released on April 8th, and though it didn’t make that much noise during the first weeks, it’d slowly grow in popularity. Later on, it became the third-best selling digital single of the decade with 14 million copies sold (right after Kesha’s “TiK ToK” and The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling”).
The album was “a cultural standout for an era of Little Monsters,” according to Brooklyn Neustaeter for Much Music. Gaga showed up with energy, vocals, rhythms, and visuals that were needed at a time when pop was dull and lazy. She was truthfully groundbreaking, and an inspiration for many generations and new pop stars. The album would earn her her very first Grammy.
Fun fact: During “Carpool Karaoke” with James Corden, Gaga stated that she wrote the hit that launched her into international stardom in just 10 minutes.
Best songs: “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” and “Paparazzi.”
“Bad Romance” and The Fame Monster (2009)
“Bad Romance” consolidated Gaga as an international sensation. At Alexander McQueen’s fashion show during Paris Fashion Week in 2009, the single came out right after an illegal leak spread all over the internet. Back in 2009, “Bad Romance” became the very first video with the most views ever on YouTube. Also, the single proved that though she is a master of catchy beats and lyrics, Lady Gaga is a composer with great creativity and pays attention detail. For example, the song has references to three well-known films by Alfred Hitchcock where there’s obsession from a main character, something of a bad romance: Psycho (1960), Vertigo (1958), and Rear Window (1954).
“I want your psycho, your vertigo shtick Want you in my rear window Baby you’re sick, I want your love”
In addition, Lady Gaga went on one of the longest tours ever by a female singer. “The Monster Ball Tour” followed “The Monster Tour:” the first began in March 2009 and ended in late September of that same year, while “The Monster Ball Tour” began in late November 2009 and ended in May 2011. It was almost 22 months in a row of touring in five continents. That same year, “Bad Romance” beat the record of Most Downloaded Act In A Year (2009).
Best songs: “Bad Romance,” “Telephone,” and “Alejandro.”
Originally written for Britney Spears’ Circus album, “Telephone” is, without a doubt, one of the most famous videos (and short films) ever made by a pop star. With lots of references from pop culture such as Thelma and Louise and Tarantino’s Kill Bill to be a second part of her “Paparazzi” video. Gaga consolidated her status as an A-lister by bringing Beyoncé to the shooting and collaboration of the song. The video was directed by Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund and became an instant classic in pop culture.
Born This Way (2011)
She announced the name of her third studio album during her acceptance speech at the VMA’s, the night she wore the meat dress. This is probably the album where pop and rock influences are more present. Icons such as Bruce Springsteen (“The Edge Of Glory”), Madonna (“Born This Way”), and Whitney Houston (“Marry The Night”) can be perceived throughout the album.
Born This Way is also the album in which showed the more activist side of her. She encouraged her fans and anyone who listened to her to be themselves, to embrace those qualities that made them different, that made them “monsters” in society and to stand out proudly. Also, “Born This Way” is one of the songs and albums for which she’d like to be remembered, she stated in an interview for Vogue in 2018.
Fun fact: “Born This Way” beat the record of Fastest Selling Digital Album (2012).
Best songs: “Born This Way,” “The Edge Of Glory,” and “You and I.”
This is the fourth studio album by Lady Gaga. In it, she goes back to her pop art roots and creates beats that take her back to the club scene. Also, the visuals of the album, as well as the video clips and outfits she wore through the promotion of the album adopt and enhance the aesthetics of visual artists such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and the controversial Terry Richardson. The critics weren’t thrilled with this album. However, some songs became serious jams at the clubs, specially gay and dive bars.
Best songs: “G.U.Y.”, “Venus”, and “Do What U Want.”
Joanne is Lady Gaga’s fifth studio album. Probably the most daring and personal album by Mother Monster, Joanne touches the core of the artist, and it’s a journey through some of the most personal topics of her life that have to do with loss. She speaks about the pain of losing a loved one, whether a lover or a family member, but at the same time, she offers hope and shows the listener that strength may come after the storm. The album marks an important relationship, personal and professional, with musician and producer Mark Ronson.
Best songs: “Million Reasons,” “Joanne,” and “Hey Girl.”
Lady Gaga and controversy with Madonna
Though Lady Gaga has stated that she admires and is strongly influenced by Madonna, the latter hasn’t quite welcomed the flattery. Everything began when the media started to compare them, since both share similarities in their upbringing, public persona, and musical style. However, things got heated when Gaga wrote “Born This Way.” The lyrics and music resemble Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” mainly the track.
However, after an on and off fight coming from Madonna, Gaga set the record straight on her Netflix documentary, saying that she has always respected, admired, and loved Madonna, that the beef is unnecessary, and that she would love to make amends with the Queen of Pop. Eventually, the two icons moved on from the public feud, and Madonna even published a heartwarming and supportive picture when Gaga won the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Further reading: From Beyoncé To The Stones: The Most Iconic Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ever
Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl Halftime Show
The 2010’s have been dominated by women in the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Madonna, Katy Perry and Beyoncé have been some of the performers that took one of the most prestigious stages in the music industry. Lady Gaga gave one of the best performances of her career during the Super Bowl Halftime Show 2017. She played some of her greatest hits and ditched the whole theatrical performances and bizarre outfits and went rather minimalist yet sparkly, as she pulled off some of her greatest vocals. She stated to the media:
“It was a milestone performance for me. I felt it really marked the decade, the first ten years of my career. It felt like the fans performed in the Super Bowl, not me. It was really for them.”
Lady Gaga and Her Tattoos
@ladygagaLady Gaga has a total of 24 tattoos. Her first tattoo is a treble clef (that she got with a fake ID when she was 17), and her latest ones were done on Valentine’s Day: it’s a rose on her spine, “a tattoo toast to ‘La Vie En Rose,’” and a musical chord on her right forearm, that she posted on Instagram. Still, her most famous pieces of ink lie on her biceps: one is a trumpet designed by friend and collaborator Tony Bennett, and the other one is a quote from Austrian writer Rainer Maria Rilke:
“In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?”
Lady Gaga: Acting, Documentary and Movies
Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017)
This is the first documentary by and about Lady Gaga. It follows the superstar on her journey to four important projects: we see Gaga receiving the news that she’ll star in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born (2018), the recording of her most personal album so far, Joanne, the assembling and performance of her Super Bowl Halftime Show, and her American Horror Story leading role.
The title of the documentary isn’t a reference of Gaga’s height (she’s 5’ 1”), but in fact a reference to a song that’s played during the baptism of her goddaughter: “Five Foot Two Eyes Of Blue” by Art Landry.
A Star Is Born and “Shallow” (2018)
Lady Gaga finally got her big break on Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, a remake of the film that once starred Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand in 1954 and 1976 respectively. Contrary to her performances in American Horror Story, where she was given the chance to played different characters that adjust to her theatrical nature, in A Star Is Born she found her first true challenge as an actress: to play a pop star in the making. The challenge lies on the fact that the storyline of the movie may seem quite familiar to Gaga’s own history; however, she delivered a performance and built a character that was different from herself in nature and personality. Her performance was so subtle yet electrifying that this role earned her her first Academy Award nomination as an actress in a leading role.
“Shallow,” on the other hand, gave her her first ever Oscar for Best Original song. It’s a beautiful piece that she co-wrote with friend Mark Ronson. In it, Gaga once again showed the world that she’s no pre-fabricated, lip syncing pop celebrity, but rather a true artist with capacities and abilities that are to die for.
Lady Gaga Activism and The Born This Way Foundation
She’s always been an advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community as well as those who lack representation or are mistreated. It was only a matter of time before she created her own foundation: The Born This Way Foundation looks to support those who have been bullied and abandoned, by supporting them with mental health resources. The foundation was a response after fourteen-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself due to constant bullying related to him being gay. Her foundation looks out for the wellbeing, respect, peace, and support for people who have been bullied or abused verbally, physically, or sexually.
Read more: The Day Lady Gaga Stripped To Please Marina Abramovic and Be Free From Drugs
Lady Gaga, Activism, Sexual Assault, And “Till It Happens To You”
Lady Gaga recently opened up about having been sexually abused in the early stages of her career. As a survivor of sexual assault, Lady Gaga has focused part of her activism to support and help those who have been through this kind of abuse. Also, coming from her personal experience, she was invited to co-write “Till It Happens To You” with Diane Warren. This song was featured as part of the soundtrack for The Hunting Ground (2015), a documentary that deals with sexual assault in campuses in the United States.
“Till It Happens To You” won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, and it was nominated for a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song. Within the many statements she’s made regarding this subject Lady Gaga, when asked why she wore a gray suit during Elle’s “Women in Hollywood,” she stated that:
“As a sexual assault survivor by someone in the entertainment industry, as a woman who is still not brave enough to say his name, as a woman who lives with chronic pain, as a woman who was condition at a very young age to listen to what men told me to do, I decided today I wanted to take the power back. Today I wore the pants.”
Fashion: From Lady Gaga’s meat dress to the Haus of Gaga
Further reading: The Day Lady Gaga Stripped To Please Marina Abramovic and Be Free From Drugs
Lady Gaga has been on the cover of many fashion publications like Vogue and Vanity Fair. She’s been a muse of designers such as Donatella Versace, Thierry Mugler, Michael Costello, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, and Brandon Maxwell. However, one designer stands out from the rest: the late Alexander McQueen. She collaborated with the brilliant British designer in the early stages of her career, and he helped develop the image that would launch her career to international stardom and that would become her signature style.
Lady Gaga also had iconic pieces of fashion, but none has ever compared to the shock and relevance that the Meat Dress created in fashion history back in 2010. Also, Gaga founded The Haus of Gaga, which is the personal creative team for the pop star, gathering fashion designers, visual, and plastic artists.
“Fashion can be both a form of expression and a form of hiding.” (Vogue 2018)
Things You May Not Know About Lady Gaga:
Lady Gaga went to school with Lana del Rey, and both attended the same high school as Paris and Nicky Hilton.
Lady Gaga had never worn pants as part of her signature style. Eventually, she gave up that trend, right after Artpop.
Lady Gaga had her first acting experience as an extra for The Sopranos (1999), back in 2001.
As a songwriter, she made a few songs for other artists right before launching her debut album. She wrote songs for the Pussycat Dolls (“Elevator”), Britney Spears (“Quicksand”), The New Kids On The Block (“Full Service”), (“Murder My Heart”) Michael Bolton (“Fever”) and for Jennifer Lopez’s Love? (“Hypnotico”).
In Cardi B’s “I Like It,” there’s a moment when J Balvin makes a reference to her and her single “Paparazzi”: “Pa-pa-pa-pa-razzi, like I’m Lady Gaga.”
There’s a whole episode Ryan Murphy dedicated to Lady Gaga’s legacy to the millennial generation in Glee’s episode entitled “Theatricality”.
Brazilian singer Pablo Vittar paid tribute to the iconic video “Telephone” in her single “Seu Crime.”
You don’t want to miss:
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