#WCIW: Lady Gaga
Immense Talent. LGBTQ+ Advocate. Mother Monster.
From the meat dress to the McQueen Armadillo shoes, to interviews sometimes bordering on the bizarre, the pop icon known simply as Lady Gaga has been no stranger to shock value throughout her decade in the public eye.
Before her experimentation and success with fashion, art, and music, however, Lady Gaga was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, the New York-born daughter of Cynthia and Joseph Germanotta. Young Stefani’s life was anything but ordinary. She was quickly discovered as a musical prodigy, mastering the piano by age four and accepted to Juilliard School at just eleven.
Unsure about her path in life but valuing her education, Stefani decided with her parents' support to forego Juilliard for the time being and attend a girls Catholic School instead. She did not, however, give up on music entirely, writing her first piano ballad at thirteen and starring in her first nightclub appearance one year later.
At seventeen, the future star became one of just twenty people to receive early admission to Manhattan’s Tisch Performing Arts School. In the Drama program she studied acting and music for a year before dropping out to focus full-time on her music career.
She moved back in with her parents who gave her an ultimatum: If she didn’t sign a record deal within the next year, she had to move out and return to school. In 2005, she signed with Def Jam records, though this deal proved to be brief as she was dropped from the label only a few months into her contract. Returning to the nightclub scene in Manhattan, she began to experiment with her look, her sound, and her name, performing with different bands at gay clubs and the Lower East Side. At twenty, she joined the writing team at Interscope Records and wrote for pop sensations like Britney Spears and The Pussycat Dolls.
Finally, in 2007, the singer Akon discovered Stefani at a burlesque show where she was performing with a band under the name Lady Gaga (after Queen’s song Radio Ga-Ga) and the Starlight Revue. Akon signed her to his label and over the next two years she wrote what would become her debut album, The Fame.
The album was an instant success with hit singles Just Dance and Poker Face. Lady Gaga was nominated for a Grammy, hit number 1 on the charts, and was signed to be the opening act for the newly formed New Kids on the Block. Her career was skyrocketing. In 2011 she released her album Born This Way, which included the single of the same name that became the anthem not just of dance clubs but of the LGBTQ+ community.
With Born This Way, Lady Gaga transformed herself from a popstar into a cultural icon and a symbol of hope and light for the disenfranchised — the oddballs, the outcasts, the downtrodden, the ridiculed. She embraced her fans, calling them her “Little Monsters” and encouraged them to be themselves no matter what the world thought of them.
During shows, Gaga showered her fans with love, support, and messages of hope. At a recent show, before performing Born This Way, she turned to the audience and said, “There's a strong and powerful message in this room tonight. We believe in equality, tolerance, spreading love. Thank you for giving me something to believe in more than my own vanity. I believe in that, too. This one's for you, monsters."
Lady Gaga has always accepted her responsibility as “Mother Monster” with grace and heart. After the devastating mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, she travelled to Florida to face a crowd and tearfully recite all 50 names of those who were lost. She has become an advocate for gay rights, and has spoken at the U.S. Conference for Mayors with the Dalai Lama about kindness and humanity. She has visited shelters for LGBTQ+ youth to inspire them and to draw much-needed attention to their struggles.
In 2012, Lady Gaga and her mother teamed up to form the Born This Way Foundation, an organization that is committed to supporting the wellness of young people and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world. To achieve these goals, Born This Way Foundation leverages rigorous academic research and authentic partnerships in order to provide young people with kinder communities, improved mental health resources, and more positive environments both online and offline.
For her immense talent, her advocacy for kindness and acceptance, and her proud stance as “Mother Monster", Lady Gaga is this week’s #WCIW.
Learn more about the Born This Way Foundation and donate at https://bornthisway.foundation.