Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, or Lady Gaga to the rest of the world, is the newest pop phenomenon to hit the music scene. With the release of her hit debut album and catchy singles and her eye-popping costumes and live performances, Lady Gaga almost instantly captured the eye of the gay pop audience.
Her first two singles Just Dance (nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 51st Grammy Awards) and Poker Face both reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, allowing Gaga to join the elite ranks of Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera who also had their first two debut singles chart at number one.
Joanne attended a private Catholic school when she was growing up and, despite being more of a sinner than a saint, she insists that she valued the education she received. “I was actually a very good student. I just sort of stuck out like a sore thumb – no different than today. [But] in a lot of ways it was great because I’m a really great musician as a result of it.”
Indeed, this lady is no simple manufactured pop act: At the age of four Gaga had learned to play the piano by ear, and by thirteen she had already written her first ballad. The talented artist was one of only twenty people in the world to gain early admission into New York’s prestigious Tisch School of Arts at seventeen to study music. However she withdrew from the university and started hanging out in downtown New York, performing in the Lower East Side club scene.
That included appearing in burlesque shows at dive bars with drag queens and go-go dancers. Having been going to gay bars since she was a teen, Lady Gaga was no stranger to a gay environment. “I’ve been a dancer for many years … a lot of gay friends, a lot of gay parties. It’s just a part of my life. To me, it’s just totally normal,” she said in an interview with LOGOonline.com.
At the time, she also performed with the bands Mackin Pulsifer and SGBand, but she found that she was bored by rock and roll underground music and longed for something fresh and provocative. So she turned to pop music.
She has welcomed the comparison between her and Madonna. “I never really thought of myself as the new Madonna or anything, and then people around me just started to say it. I mean, look at me, we have a lot in common: the Lower East Side thing; I’m Italian; I was a brunette and I went blonde … I’m very exhibition-istic. So we do have a lot in common, but I also think I bring something new” she told LOGOonline.com.
“But I appreciate the comparison, because I do think she’s probably one of the most powerful female performers in a long time.”
“I find something really beautiful about the spirit of the gay community…”
Throughout 2007 Lady Gaga performed with the go-go dancer and performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped her create her onstage fashion. Their live performance art piece, Lady Gaga and The Starlight Revue, was billed as “The Ultimate Pop Burlesque RockShow” and received critical acclaim and rave reviews.
And if you think that Gaga is all about flashy performances, consider that during her early career she first made a splash in the music industry as a songwriter; working for Interscope records and penning songs for the likes of Akon, The Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears, Fergie and New Kids on the Block.
In fact, it was fellow singer/songwriter Akon who discovered her vocal talent. Gaga signed onto his record label, Kon Live Distribution. That’s when they started to work on the material for her debut album The Fame.
Having already written a selection of electro-glam, Queen inspired songs, Gaga wanted to mix retro dance beats with urban melodies and a pop chorus, while still retaining a rock and roll edge.
In 2008 she relocated to Los Angeles in order to finalise the album. “The Fame is about how anyone can feel famous,” she explained. “Pop culture is art. It doesn’t make you cool to hate pop culture, so I embraced it and you hear it all over The Fame. But, it’s a sharable fame. I want to invite you all to the party. I want people to feel a part of this lifestyle.”
Lady Gaga describes herself as “Freddie Mercury, Boy George and John Lennon in a wig and fishnets at Studio 54.” Her unique sound and outrageous fashion sense have helped her create an image that can’t be copied.
She’s also very open about her love for the gay community. She says of her large gay fan base: “I find something really beautiful about the spirit of the gay community. I feel a part of it. I was the girl in high school who never really had a lot of popular friends, so I found my place with my gay friends in acting school and dance class. It’s a really inspiring community, and I feel very privileged to be around it,” she told Brandon Voss.
As for her own sexuality, when she was asked about boyfriends she replied: “Well, I’m girl-crazy too. I really depends on where I am. I love men, I love women and I love sex, but I’m actually pretty introverted right now because I’m so enveloped in my work, and it’s hard to let anybody near that.” She added that she considers herself as being bisexual.
Lady Gaga might just be another phase in the ever-changing world of stardom, and many are wondering when we’ll get bored of her over-the-top-style and move on to the next fad. But whether she matures into a long-lasting talent or briefly burns brightly as a unique flash-in-the-pan, she remains ambitious and determined: “I’m just trying to change the world one sequin at a time,” she says.