As one of the current reigning queens of pop, Lady Gaga has taken her love of the classic and the outré to a new legion of fans that can’t seem to get enough of her artistic ways. From music to fashion, the small and silver screen, there is literally no area of entertainment that she has not sunk her teeth in.
Born in New York City’s Upper East Side, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was raised in a Catholic family, the eldest daughter of Cynthia Louise Bissett, an internet entrepreneur, and Joseph Germanotta, a restauranteur. Primarily of Italian descent, she also has French and Canadian ancestry as well as a younger sister named Natali.
From a very early age, Stefani gravitated towards the arts, studying piano from the age of four and writing her own songs by the age of thirteen. From age eleven on, she was a student at Convent of the Sacred Heart; a private Upper East Side all-girls Catholic school that was noted by the future star as disciplined and very dedicated. By the age of fourteen, she was performing at open mic nights around the city and had lead roles in several high school theatrical productions, including Guys and Dolls and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as Philia. Around this time, she was also auditioning for television and film roles, and appeared on the HBO hit show The Sopranos in 2001. Her training included ten years at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute to hone her craft.
Upon graduation from high school at 17, Stefani applied for and won a spot at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Collaborative Arts Project 21, making her one of only 20 students to gain admission. There, all of her creative talents were honed from songwriting to essay composition on pop stars, socio-political issues and more. Her auditioning continued and she appeared on MTV’s Boiling Points, a prank reality show.
By mid-2005, she was performing with hip hop artist Grandmaster Melle Mel for the audiobook The Portal in the Park, and then formed a band called the Stefani Germanotta Band (SGBand) with classmates from New York University. The band became an underground hit on the Lower East Side club scene and began to draw attention from scouts. She eventually met talent scout Wendy Starland and music producer Rob Fusari, who she began collaborating with on material she had written over the years. During one session with Fusari, her stage name was created when a text glitch from a famous Queen song – Radio Gaga – translated into Lady Gaga, thus sealing her fate and welcoming the world to this new music sensation in the making.
Armed with a new stage name and more confidence, Lady Gaga and Fusari launched the company Team Lovechild LLC to ambitiously promote her music and career to the next level. Soon thereafter, she was attracting attention from several prominent music executives including Joshua Sarubin and L.A. Reid of Def Jam Recordings, who signed her to the label in 2006 only to drop her after three months. Momentarily defeated, Lady Gaga returned to the Lower East Side and begin to experiment even more with her onstage persona, incorporating burlesque, outré outfits, and go-go dancing into her repertoire. It was during this phase that she met fellow performance artist Lady Starlight, and the pair soon began performing in prominent NYC club venues, including The Bitter End, Rockwood Music Hall, and Mercury Lounge. Billed as ‘Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue’, the duo paid tribute to variety acts of the ’70s, with their 2007 Lollapalooza performance being critically acclaimed.
Her music sound continued to expand as she became attracted to the early sounds of Queen, David Bowie, and Elton John, which inspired her future songs that were eventually heard by record executive Vincent Herbert. He immediately signed her to his Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records, in 2007. Subsequently, Lady Gaga signed a music publishing deal with Sony/ATV and began writing hit songs for Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, The Pussycat Dolls and Fergie. She soon became a franchise player when she formed a joint venture with Kon Live, the label from hip hop singer Akon. Later that year, she met producer RedOne and began working on her debut album, which would forever change the trajectory of her career.
By mid 2008, Lady Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles to complete her debut album The Fame with her creative team, Haus of Gaga, incorporating Andy Warhol’s Factory to the creative process. Released in the fall of 2008 on August 9, the album was critically acclaimed and commercially viable, claiming the #1 Billboard album position in Austria, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom on the strengths of singles ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Poker Face’. The latter won Best Dance Recording at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards and the album captured the Best Dance/Electronica Album award.
After finishing up as the opening act for the Pussycat Dolls’ Doll Domination Tour in 2009, Gaga started her own The Fame Ball Tour, then released EP The Fame Monster later that year in November. The lead single from the edgier, darker release featured the lead single, ‘Bad Romance’ which topped the charts internationally in 18 countries and won Grammy awards for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Video. Other tracks from the EP included the single Telephone, featuring Beyoncé, and Alejandro, which propelled Lady Gaga to break another record as the first artist to gain more than one billion viral views on YouTube. She won 8 of 13 nominations at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, with The Fame Monster winning Best Pop Vocal Album at the Grammys. Forbes magazine subsequently named her in their lists ‘2010 Celebrity 100’ and ‘World’s Most Powerful Women’ rankings at 4th and 7th, respectively. Her second tour, The Monster Ball Tour, raked in $227.4 million breaking records as the highest for a debut headlining artist.
Branching out into other businesses, Gaga launched a line of electronics accessories when she collaborated with Monster Cable Products in a series called Heartbeats. She then partnered with Polaroid as their Creative Director to debut new photo capturing products called Grey Label.
Her next album, 2011’s Born This Way, debuted atop the Billboard 200 and in 20 other countries, selling over 8 million copies and receiving three Grammy Award nominations. The tour in support of the album, Born This Way Ball, ran from April 2012 to February 2013 and raked in nearly $200 million internationally. She then performed with music icon Tony Bennett on a jazz version of ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’ and released a fragrance in September 2012 with Coty, Inc. called ‘Lady Gaga Fame’.
Artpop, her next album, debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 and included hit songs ‘Applause’, and ‘Do What You Want’ featuring R. Kelly. Her ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour took in more than $83 million and she topped the Forbes’ List of Top-Earning Celebs Under 30’ and second on the Celebrity 11 List, and Time magazine’s annual poll of most influential people of the past decade. Turning to film, she appeared in a cameo for director Robert Rodriguez in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For in 2014, and later that year appeared in the Versace ad campaign as the face for their ‘Lady Gaga for Versace’.
A collaboration with legendary jazz singer Tony Bennett on the album Cheek to Cheek was released in 2014 to rave reviews, debuting at #1 on Billboard and winning a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. They later went on tour in support of the album and she released her second fragrance with Coty, Inc., ‘Eau de Gaga’.
In 2015, she turned to television with the lead role on American Horror Story: Hotel, winning a Golden Globe eventually for the role. Her song ‘Til It Happens to You’ earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, then appeared in Tom Ford’s 2016 spring campaign.
The release of her next album, Joanne, kicked off with the release of the lead single, ‘Perfect Illusion’, which debuted at #1, becoming her fourth to do so. The second single, ‘Million Reasons’ was released later and her 2017 Super Bowl Halftime Show appearance was followed the next day with the announcement of a world tour throughout the rest of the year, followed by the release of her next film, a remake of A Star Is Born.
The public persona of Lady Gaga is one of dichotomy and controversy: she is seen as a role model, fashion icon, trailblazer, and feminist, often called one of the leading figures in current pop culture. When she first entered the international music scene in 2008, her visual and sonic style were compared to Christina Aguilera, which she denied. Her look was also noted for its androgyny, with her outfits gaining traction when she was named Time magazine’s All-Time 100 Fashion Icons List alongside The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Madonna, her childhood idols.
In 2010, Gaga wore a dress made of raw beef to the MTV Video Music Awards which earned her recognition on Vogue’s Best Dressed People of 2010 while sparking fire from PETA. A lawsuit against her former producer and ex-lover Rob Fusari was later dismissed in the New York Supreme Court. While battling legal cases, she was diagnosed with borderline lupus but maintained she stays healthy by living a healthy lifestyle.
Dubbed ‘Little Monsters’, Gaga’s fans are rabid for her every move and are so devoted that she had a tattoo engraved on her body as a tribute to them. She co-founded the site LittleMonsters.com as the official site for fans devoted to her art.
Despite living a very public life while performing, Lady Gaga’s personal life is more guarded and closely protected. In an interview, she admitted to being raped at 19 and suffered physical and emotional trauma as a result. In 2011, she began dating actor Taylor Kinney, who was featured in her music video ‘You and I’. The pair became engaged in 2015 on Valentine’s Day, but after five years together it was reported that the couple had amicably split and gone their separate ways.
- Lady Gaga: Born This Way by Lady Gaga
Written by: Triston Brewer