Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta ( ; born March 28, 1986), known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, activist, businesswoman, fashion designer and actress. Born and raised in New York City, she primarily studied at the Convent of the Sacred Heart and briefly attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts before withdrawing to focus on her musical career. She soon began performing in the rock music scene of Manhattan's Lower East Side. By the end of 2007, record executive and producer Vincent Herbert signed her to his label Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records. Initially working as a songwriter at Interscope Records, her vocal abilities captured the attention of recording artist Akon, who also signed her to Kon Live Distribution, his own label under Interscope.
In 2008, Lady Gaga came to prominence with her debut studio album The Fame, which was a critical and commercial success. The record included the international number-one tracks "Just Dance" and "Poker Face". In 2009, her extended play The Fame Monster was released to a similar reception, and produced the hit singles "Bad Romance", "Telephone", and "Alejandro". Its accompanying Monster Ball Tour became one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time. Lady Gaga's second album Born This Way (2011) topped albums charts in most major markets and generated chart-topping songs "Born This Way", "Judas", and "The Edge of Glory". Her third album Artpop is planned for release in 2013.
Influenced by David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Queen, Lady Gaga is recognized for her flamboyant, diverse and outré contributions to the music industry through her fashion, performances and music videos. As of October 2011, she had sold an estimated 23 million albums and 64 million singles worldwide and her singles are some of the best-selling worldwide. Her achievements include five Grammy Awards and 13 MTV Video Music Awards. Lady Gaga has consecutively appeared on Billboard magazine's Artists of the Year (scoring the definitive title in 2010), ranked fourth in VH1's list of 100 Greatest Women in Music, is the fourth best selling digital singles artist in US according to RIAA, is regularly placed on lists composed by Forbes magazine, including The World's 100 Most Powerful Women from 2010 to 2013, and was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine. Besides her musical career, she involves herself with humanitarian causes and LGBT activism.
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born on March 28, 1986, in New York City, to Cynthia (née Bissett) and Joseph Germanotta, an internet entrepreneur. Descending from Sicilian/Italian and more distant French-Canadian roots, Gaga is the elder of two children. Her sister, Natali, a fashion student, was born in 1992. Despite her affluent upbringing on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Gaga says that her parents "both came from lower-class families, so we've worked for everything—my mother worked eight to eight out of the house, in telecommunications, and so did my father." Gaga was raised Roman Catholic. From age eleven she attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private all-girls Roman Catholic school on Manhattan's Upper East Side. She described her academic life in high school as "very dedicated, very studious, very disciplined" but also "a bit insecure": "I used to get made fun of for being either too provocative or too eccentric, so I started to tone it down. I didn't fit in, and I felt like a freak." Acquaintances dispute that she did not fit in at school. Gaga began playing the piano at the age of four, wrote her first piano ballad at thirteen, and started to perform at open mic nights by the age of fourteen. She performed lead roles in high school productions, including Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. She also appeared in a very small role as a mischievous classmate in the television drama series The Sopranos in a 2001 episode titled "The Telltale Moozadell" and auditioned for New York shows without success.
After high school, her mother encouraged her to apply for the Collaborative Arts Project 21 (CAP21), a musical theatre training conservatory at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. By age seventeen, after becoming one of twenty students to gain early admission, she lived in an NYU dorm on 11th Street. In addition to sharpening her songwriting skills, she composed essays and analytical papers on art, religion, social issues and politics, including a thesis on pop artists Spencer Tunick and Damien Hirst. She also auditioned for various roles and won the part of an unsuspecting diner customer for MTV's Boiling Points, a prank reality television show.
Gaga withdrew from CAP21 at 19, in the second semester of her sophomore year, deciding to focus on her musical career. Her father agreed to pay her rent for a year, on the condition that she re-enroll at Tisch if unsuccessful. "I left my entire family, got the cheapest apartment I could find, and ate shit until somebody would listen," she remembers. Settled in a small apartment on Rivington Street towards the summer of 2005, Gaga recorded a couple of songs with hip-hop singer Grandmaster Melle Mel, for an audio book accompanying the children's book The Portal in the Park, by Cricket Casey. She also began a band called the Stefani Germanotta Band (SGBand) with some friends from NYU – guitarist Calvin Pia, bassist Eli Silverman, drummer Alex Beckham and booking manager Frank Fredericks – in September of that year. The band played a mixture of songs: some self-penned alongside classic rock numbers like Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Mak'er". Playing in bars like the Greenwich Village's The Bitter End and the Lower East Side's the Mercury Lounge, the band developed a small fan base and caught the eye of music producer Joe Vulpis. Soon after arranging time in Vulpis' studio in the months that followed, SGBand were selling their extended plays Words and Red and Blue (both 2005) at gigs around New York while becoming a local fixture of the downtown Lower East Side club scene. SGBand reached their career peak at the 2006 Songwriters Hall of Fame New Songwriters Showcase at The Cutting Room in June where Wendy Starland, a musician, appeared as a talent scout for music producer Rob Fusari. Starland informed Fusari – who was searching for a female singer to front a new band – of Gaga's ability and contacted her. With SGBand disbanded, Gaga traveled daily to New Jersey to work on songs she had written and compose new material with the music producer. While in collaboration, Fusari compared some of her vocal harmonies to those of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen.
Fusari claims to have created the "Lady Gaga" moniker after the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga". Gaga was in the process of trying to come up with a stage name when she received a text message from Fusari that read "Lady Gaga." He explained, "Every day, when Stef came to the studio, instead of saying hello, I would start singing 'Radio Ga Ga'. That was her entrance song" and that the text message was the result of a predictive text glitch that changed "radio" to "lady". She texted back, "That's it," and declared, "Don't ever call me Stefani again." The New York Post, however, has doubted the accuracy of this version of events, and claims that the name resulted from a marketing meeting.
Although the musical relationship between Fusari and Gaga was unsuccessful at first, the pair soon set up a company titled Team Lovechild in which they recorded and produced electropop tracks and sent them to music industry bosses. Joshua Sarubin, the head of A&R at Def Jam Recordings, responded positively and vied for the record company to take a chance on her "unusual and provocative" performance. After having his boss Antonio "L.A." Reid in agreement, Gaga was signed to Def Jam in September 2006 with the intention of having an album ready in nine months. However, she was dropped by the label after only three months – an unfortunate period of her life that would later inspire her treatment for the music video for her 2011 single "Marry the Night". Devastated, Gaga returned to the solace of the family home for Christmas and the nightlife culture of the Lower East Side. She became increasingly experimental: fascinating herself with emerging neo-burlesque shows, go-go dancing at bars dressed in little more than a bikini in addition to experimenting with drugs. Her father, however, did not understand the reason behind her drug intake and could not look at her for several months. "I was onstage in a thong, with a fringe hanging over my ass thinking that had covered it, lighting hairsprays on fire, go-go dancing to Black Sabbath and singing songs about oral sex. The kids would scream and cheer and then we'd all go grab a beer. It represented freedom to me. I went to a Catholic school but it was on the New York underground that I found myself." It was then when she became romantically involved with a heavy metal drummer in a relationship and break-up she likened to the musical film Grease: "I was his Sandy, and he was my Danny, and I just broke." He later became an inspiration behind some of her later songs.
During this time, she met performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped mold her on-stage persona. Starlight explained that, upon their first meeting, Gaga wanted to perform with her to songs she had recorded with Fusari. Like SGBand, the pair soon began performing at many of the downtown club venues like the Mercury Lounge, The Bitter End, and the Rockwood Music Hall. Their live performance art piece was known as "Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue" and, billed as "The Ultimate Pop Burlesque Rockshow", was a low-fi tribute to 1970s variety acts. Soon after, the two were invited to play at the 2007 Lollapalooza music festival in August that year. The show was critically acclaimed, and their performance received positive reviews. Having initially focused on avant-garde electronic dance music, Gaga had found her musical niche when she began to incorporate pop melodies and the glam rock of David Bowie and Queen into her music. While Gaga and Starlight were busy performing, producer Rob Fusari continued to work on the songs he had created with Gaga. Fusari sent these songs to his friend, producer and record executive Vincent Herbert. Herbert was quick to sign her to his label Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records, upon its establishment in 2007. Gaga later credited Herbert as the man who discovered her, adding "I really feel like we made pop history, and we're gonna keep going." Having served as an apprentice songwriter under an internship at Famous Music Publishing, which was later acquired by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Gaga subsequently struck a music publishing deal with Sony/ATV. As a result, she was hired to write songs for Britney Spears and labelmates New Kids on the Block, Fergie, and the Pussycat Dolls. At Interscope, singer-songwriter Akon recognized her vocal abilities when she sang a reference vocal for one of his tracks in studio. Akon then convinced Interscope-Geffen-A&M Chairman and CEO Jimmy Iovine to form a joint deal by having her also sign with his own label Kon Live, making her his "franchise player."
As 2007 came to a close, her former management company introduced her to songwriter and producer RedOne, whom they also managed. The first song she produced with RedOne was "Boys Boys Boys", a mash-up inspired by Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls" and AC/DC's "T.N.T.". Gaga continued her collaboration with RedOne in the recording studio for a week on her debut album and also joined the roster of Cherrytree Records, an Interscope imprint established by producer and songwriter Martin Kierszenbaum, after co-writing four songs with Kierszenbaum including the singles "Christmas Tree" and "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)". Despite her secure record deal, she admitted that there was fear about her being too "racy", "dance-orientated" and "underground" for the mainstream market. Her response: "My name is Lady Gaga, I've been on the music scene for years, and I'm telling you, this is what's next."
By 2008, Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles in order to work extensively with her record label to complete her debut album and set up her own creative team Haus of Gaga, modeled on Andy Warhol's Factory. The Fame was first released on August 19, 2008 to slow radio play. Gaga supported it by performing around Europe and in small gay clubs around the US in addition to being billed as a supporting artist on the North American leg of New Kids on the Block's reunion concert tour. A sleeper hit, lead single "Just Dance" had preceded the album's release by four months but only hit the summit of the international charts in January 2009, provoking the instant success of the album, earning her first Grammy Award nomination (for Best Dance Recording) and becoming one of the best-selling singles worldwide. Gaga achieved a greater unexpected success when "Poker Face", another sleeper hit, reached number one in most major music markets worldwide in early 2009, selling 9.8 million singles worldwide. The follow-up single won the award for Best Dance Recording at the 52nd Grammy Awards over nominations for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.
The Fame itself was nominated for Album of the Year while winning Best Dance/Electronica Album at the same ceremony. Contemporary critics lauded the album, describing it as an exploration of her obsession with fame and the intricacies of a rich and famous lifestyle, noting its combination of genres "from Def Leppard drums and hand claps to metal drums on urban tracks", the inspiration drawn from 1980s synthpop and incorporation of dance music with clear hooks. The Fame went to number one in Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK and appeared in the top five in Australia, the US and 15 other countries. It also stayed atop the Dance/Electronic Albums chart for 106 non-consecutive weeks and, since its release, has sold over 12 million copies worldwide. The album's success spawned many 2009 honors including Billboard magazine's Rising Star award and the accumulation of 3 of 9 MTV Video Music Awards nominations, winning Best New Artist with the video for her single "Paparazzi" gaining Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects. In addition to being an opening act on the Pussycat Dolls' Doll Domination Tour during the first half of 2009 in Europe and Oceania, she also embarked on her own six-month critically appreciated worldwide concert tour The Fame Ball Tour which ran from March to September 2009.
While she traveled the globe, she wrote The Fame Monster, an EP of eight songs released in November 2009. Each song, dealing with the darker side of fame from personal experience, is expressed through a monster metaphor. Making Gaga the first artist in digital history to have three singles (alongside "Just Dance" and "Poker Face") to pass the four million mark in digital sales, its lead single "Bad Romance" topped the charts in eighteen countries and reached the top two in the US, Australia and New Zealand while accruing the Grammy Awards for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Music Video. The second single "Telephone", which features singer Beyoncé, was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals and became Gaga's fourth UK number one single; its accompanying music video, although controversial, received positive reception from contemporary critics who praised her for "the musicality and showmanship of Michael Jackson and the powerful sexuality and provocative instincts of Madonna." Her following single "Alejandro" paired Gaga with fashion photographer Steven Klein for a music video similarly as controversial – critics complimented its ideas and dark nature but the Catholic League attacked Gaga for her alleged use of blasphemy. Despite the controversy surrounding her music videos, they made Gaga the first artist to gain over one billion viral views on video-sharing website YouTube. At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, Gaga won 8 of her 13 nominations, including Video of the Year for "Bad Romance" (with "Telephone" also nominated), which made her the first female artist to be nominated twice for the award. In addition, The Fame Monster garnered a total of six nominations at the 53rd Grammy Awards – equating to the amount of Grammy nominations her debut received – winning Best Pop Vocal Album and earning her a second-consecutive nomination for Album of the Year. The Fame Monster and the 2010 compilation The Remix were Gaga's final releases under Cherrytree Records. While her reasons for departing the label are unknown, her manager Troy Carter stated in 2011 that they still collaborate with label head Martin Kierszenbaum on strategies for marketing Gaga overseas.
The success of The Fame Monster allowed Gaga to start her second worldwide concert tour, The Monster Ball Tour, just weeks after the release of the album and months after having finished The Fame Ball Tour. Upon finishing in May 2011, the critically acclaimed and commercially accomplished tour ran for over one and a half years and grossed $227.4 million, making it one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time and the highest-grossing for a debut headlining artist. Concerts performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City were filmed for a HBO television special titled Lady Gaga Presents the Monster Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden. The special accrued one of its five Emmy Award nominations and has since been released on DVD and Blu-ray. Gaga also performed songs from the album at international events such as the 2009 Royal Variety Performance where she sang "Speechless", a power ballad, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II; the 52nd Grammy Awards where her opening performance consisted of the song "Poker Face" and a piano duet of "Speechless" in a medley of "Your Song" with Elton John; and the 2010 BRIT Awards where a performance of an acoustic rendition of "Telephone" followed by "Dance in the Dark" dedicated to the late fashion designer and close friend, Alexander McQueen, supplemented her hat-trick win at the awards ceremony. Other performances may have included her participation in Michael Jackson's This Is It concert series at London's O2 Arena. "I was actually asked to open for Michael on his tour," she stated. "We were going to open for him at the O2 and we were working on making it happen. I believe there was some talk about us, lots of the openers, doing duets with Michael on stage."
In 2009, she collaborated with consumer electronic company Monster Cable Products to create a pair of in-ear jewel-encrusted headphones titled Heartbeats. "They are designed to be the first ever fashion accessories that double as the absolute best sonically sounding headphones in the world," she commented. Gaga also partnered with Polaroid in January 2010 as their Creative Director. Excited about "blending the iconic history of Polaroid and instant film with the digital era," Gaga unveiled the first trio of new products called Grey Label: a pair of picture-taking sunglasses, a paperback-sized mobile printing unit and an updated version of the traditional Polaroid camera at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. But her collaboration with past producer Rob Fusari led to her production team, Mermaid Music LLC, being sued in March 2010 when he claimed that he was entitled to a 20% share of the company's earnings. Gaga's lawyer, Charles Ortner, described the agreement with Fusari as "unlawful" and declined to comment, but five months later, the New York Supreme Court dismissed both the lawsuit and a countersuit by Gaga. In addition to such strife, Gaga was tested borderline positive for lupus, but claimed not to be affected by the symptoms. The revelations caused considerable dismay among fans, leading to Gaga addressing the matter in an interview with Larry King, saying she hopes to avoid symptoms by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Gaga released her second studio album, Born This Way, on May 23, 2011. Described as a marriage of electronic music with metal, rock 'n' roll, pop and anthemic style melodies with sledge-hammering dance beats and referred to as an album "about what keeps us up at night and what makes us afraid," Gaga characterized it as "something so much deeper than a wig or lipstick or a fucking meat dress" and, upon hearing it, Akon remarked that she is taking music to the "next level." Upon release, the album received generally positive reviews from music critics, who praised its range of different styles and her vocals. Born This Way sold 1.108 million copies in its first week in the US, debuted atop the 200Billboard, and topped the charts in more than 20 other countries. In addition to exceeding 8 million copies in worldwide sales, Born This Way received 3 Grammy Award nominations, including her third consecutive for Album of the Year. In March 2012, Gaga was ranked fourth on Billboard's list of top moneymakers of 2011, grossing $25,353,039 dollars, which included sales from Born This Way and her Monster Ball Tour.
In the months prior to its unveiling, Gaga released the singles "Born This Way", "Judas" and "The Edge of Glory" alongside promotional single "Hair". The lead single and title track, first sung live at the 53rd Grammy Awards in a performance that saw Gaga emerge from an egg-like vessel, deals with self-acceptance regardless of race or sexual orientation. The single debuted atop the Hot 100Billboard, becoming the 19th number-one debut and the 1,000th number-one single in the history of the charts. It sold more than 3 million digital copies in the US by October 2011, becoming her eighth consecutive single to exceed sales of 2 million and, with worldwide sales of 8.2 million copies by November 2011, one of her five best-selling singles worldwide. Critics noted artistic and cultural references and praised the concept of the song's accompanying music video, in which Gaga gives birth to a new race amidst surrealistic images. The video for "Judas", in which Gaga portrays Mary Magdalene, and Biblical figures such as Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot are also featured, was criticized for its religious references but received acclaim for its overall delivery and praise from others who claimed that there was nothing offensive about it. "Judas" also peaked within the top ten in several major musical markets, while "The Edge of Glory", first a commercial success in digital outlets, was later released as a single to critical appreciation, accompanied by a video which was notably stripped down from her usually "extravagant" efforts. She released "You and I" and "Marry the Night" as the following singles from Born This Way. Although their "crazy and ambitious" videos were praised for their audacity, both songs failed to match the similar international success that their predecessors achieved. Gaga was later ranked as the second most-played artist of 2011 in the UK by the PPL.
Throughout 2011, Gaga continued her musical endeavors by pairing with veteran artists like Tony Bennett to record a jazz version of "The Lady Is a Tramp". She also recorded a duet with Cher on a "massive" and "beautiful" track, which Gaga says that she wrote a long time ago, but had not put it on any of her albums. Gaga also lent her vocals to an original duet with Elton John for the animated feature film Gnomeo & Juliet. The song, "Hello, Hello", was released without Gaga's vocals but the duet version features in the film. She also continued her live appearances in 2011, performing a one-of-a-kind concert at the Sydney Town Hall in promotion of Born This Way and at the celebration of former US president Bill Clinton's 65th birthday, wearing a blond wig as a nod to the famous performance of Marilyn Monroe for John F. Kennedy and changing the lyrics to "You and I" specifically for the performance. Televised appearances comprised her own Thanksgiving Day television special titled A Very Gaga Thanksgiving which was critically lauded, attained 5.749 million American viewers, and spawned the release of her fourth extended play A Very Gaga Holiday. Her second performance on Saturday Night Live saw her singing a selection of Born This Way songs alongside appearing in number of sketches with Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg. Lady Gaga also appeared in Times Square to perform songs from Born This Way on the 40th anniversary of ABC's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve and in addition, she also had the honor of welcoming 2012 by dropping the famous Times Square Ball with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at midnight. In 2012, Gaga also guest-starred on the 23rd season finale of The Simpsons titled "Lisa Goes Gaga". In June 2012, Gaga announced her first fragrance in association with Coty, Inc., Lady Gaga Fame, which was released worldwide in September 2012. In December 2012, Gaga made an appearance at the final show of The Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary concert series to perform "Gimme Shelter", along with Bruce Springsteen and The Black Keys.
The accompanying tour for Born This Way, titled simply The Born This Way Ball, kicked off at the end of April 2012 at Seoul's Olympic Stadium in South Korea. Although the tour – consisting of 110 shows across the globe – was a commercial success with positive reviews, several conservative political commentators denounced the Born This Way Ball shortly after the conception of the tour. This early controversy, particularly notable in several locations of the tour's leg in Asia, saw protests from several religious groups who viewed the tour as satanic and against religious values, resulting in protests mainly from the Islamic Defenders Front, causing a cancellation in the Indonesian city of Jakarta, where Gaga was denied a license to perform. She and promoters were initially optimistic that the performance would go on but, due to threats of violence from Muslim hardliners, Gaga decided to cancel the concert although 52,000 tickets had sold out in just a few days. Due to a labral tear of her right hip, Gaga announced on February 12, 2013, that the remainder of her Born This Way Ball was canceled. She posted on her blog February 20, 2013, that she had hip surgery, and was recovering.
New songs for her new album Artpop (stylized as ARTPOP) were "beginning to flourish" as she worked with producer Fernando Garibay in early 2012. Gaga's manager, Vincent Herbert, said that Gaga began work on her upcoming album during the Born This Way Ball tour, stating that the material is "insane, great records". She was also planning to record a collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett whom she had already collaborated with. In December 2012, Gaga announced that Terry Richardson was also working on a documentary about Gaga's life, the Haus of Gaga and "the creation of Artpop". In mid-2013 it was announced that the first single from Artpop—titled "Applause"—will be released on August 19, with pre-orders beginning on the same day, followed by the album's and the app's release on November 11, 2013. It was also announced that Gaga will perform the first single on the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on August 25, 2013.
Alongside her music endeavors, Gaga will make her debut film appearance in Robert Rodriguez's upcoming movie Machete Kills. She will play the role of La Chameleón, starring alongside an ensemble cast in the action film that is due to hit cinema screens on September 13, 2013.
Gaga's parents, who exposed her to artists like The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Whitney Houston, and Elton John had significant influence on her childhood and still do. "I am a real family girl. When it comes to love and loyalty, I am very old-fashioned. And I am quite down-to-earth for such an eccentric person", she insists. "I'm quite traditional in the family sense. I've always been that way." According to Gaga, Joanne Germanotta – her aunt who died of lupus aged 19 – lives on through her and inspires all of her music and art. Joanne's date of death is tattooed on Gaga's body and, despite dying 12 years before her birth, Gaga commented, "I really believe I have two hearts. I think I actually carry two souls in my body, and that I'm living out the rest of her life and her goodness – she died a virgin, she died never having experienced all these things that we all get to love and experience in our lives."
Another spiritual influence on Gaga has been the Indian physician, public speaker and writer Deepak Chopra. Labeling him a "true inspiration", she stated that "he's always reminded me to work in a life of service to my fans and to fulfill my vision and my destiny" in addition to thinking about Chopra when it comes to her work as a musician: "I want so much for it to go beyond the music for my fans." Gaga also lifted a quote from Osho's book Creativity on Twitter. When asked about her connection to him, Gaga said she was influenced by his work and that, for her, "the creativity is the greatest way of rebellion": "Equality", she concluded, "is one of the most important things in my life."
Musically, Gaga takes influence from numerous musicians from dance-pop singers like Madonna and Michael Jackson to glam rock artists like David Bowie and Queen whilst employing the theatrics of artists like Andy Warhol and of her musical theatre roots in performance. The Queen song "Radio Ga Ga" inspired her stage name: "I adored Freddie Mercury and Queen had a hit called 'Radio Gaga'. That's why I love the name [...] Freddie was unique—one of the biggest personalities in the whole of pop music," she commented. Gaga receives regular comparisons to recording artist Madonna who admits that she sees herself reflected in Gaga. In response to the comparisons, Gaga stated, "I don't want to sound presumptuous, but I've made it my goal to revolutionize pop music. The last revolution was launched by Madonna 25 years ago" in addition to commenting that "there is really no one that is a more adoring and loving Madonna fan than me. I am the hugest fan personally and professionally."
Like Madonna, Gaga has continued to reinvent herself and, over the years of her career, has drawn musical inspiration from a diverse mix of artists including Whitney Houston, Grace Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie singer Debbie Harry, Scissor Sisters, Prince, Marilyn Manson, Yoko Ono, and Britney Spears. Gaga has mentioned Spears in several interviews, and revealed, "Britney certainly doesn’t need any freakin’ tips from me! Britney Spears is the queen of pop. I was learning from her." Gaga also paid tribute to Spears during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards with the MTV Video Vanguard Award, adding that the pop singer "taught us all how to be fearless, and the industry wouldn't be the same without her."
Gaga has identified fashion as a major influence and has been stylistically compared to English eccentrics Leigh Bowery and Isabella Blow and to American recording artist Cher. She commented that "as a child, she somehow absorbed Cher's out-there fashion sense and made it her own." She has considered Donatella Versace her muse and the late British fashion designer and close friend Alexander McQueen as an inspiration, admitting that "I miss Lee every time I get dressed" while channeling him in some of her work. Modeled on Andy Warhol's Factory, Gaga has her own creative production team, which she handles personally, called the Haus of Gaga, who create many of her clothes, stage props, and hairdos. Her adoration of fashion came from her mother, who she stated was "always very well kept and beautiful."
"When I'm writing music, I'm thinking about the clothes I want to wear on stage. It's all about everything altogether—performance art, pop performance art, fashion. For me, it's everything coming together and being a real story that will bring back the super-fan. I want to bring that back. I want the imagery to be so strong that fans will want to eat and taste and lick every part of us." Gaga made her runway debut at Thierry Mugler's Paris fashion show in March 2011 where she wore items from Nicola Formichetti's debut women's wear collection. She has since devoted her time as a fashion columnist for V magazine, where she has written about her creative process, her studying of the world of pop culture, and her ability to tune into the evolution of pop-culture meme.
The Global Language Monitor named "Lady Gaga" as the Top Fashion Buzzword with her trademark "no pants" a close third. Entertainment Weekly put her outfits on its end of the decade "best-of" list, saying, "Whether it's a dress made of Muppets or strategically placed bubbles, Gaga's outré ensembles brought performance art into the mainstream." In June 2011, she won the Council of Fashion Designers of America Award for Fashion Icon. Time Magazine placed Gaga on their "All-Time 100 Fashion Icons List" amongst some of Gaga's inspirations such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and the The Beatles, stating: "Lady Gaga is just as notorious for her outrageous style as she is for her pop hits. After all, Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, has sported outfits made from plastic bubbles, Kermit the Frog dolls, and raw meat."
Continually experimenting with new musical ideas and images, Gaga's musical and performance style is the subject of much analysis and scrutiny from critics. She professes that she is "liberating" herself by constantly reinventing her sound and image, insisting that she has been drawn to such a practice since her childhood. Vocally, Gaga possesses the range of a contralto and exhibits "overwhelming expression, instinctive vocal phrasing, '80s rock reminiscent chest belts and animalistic vocal ticks" while being able to move through 2.7 octaves. Refusing to lip sync, Gaga – whose range is frequently compared to those of Madonna and Gwen Stefani – has manipulated her vocal style over the course of her career yet considers Born This Way (2011) "much more vocally up to par with what I've always been capable of." In summation of her voice, Entertainment Weekly wrote, "There's an immense emotional intelligence behind the way she uses her voice. Almost never does she overwhelm a song with her vocal ability, recognizing instead that artistry is to be found in nuance rather than lung power."
Although her early lyrics have been criticized for lacking intellectual stimulation, "[Gaga] does manage to get you moving and grooving at an almost effortless pace." She admits that her songwriting has been misinterpreted; her friend and blogger Perez Hilton articulated her message in a clearer way: "you write really deep intelligent lyrics with shallow concepts." Gaga opined, "Perez is very intelligent and clearly listened to my record from beginning to end, and he is correct." "I love songwriting. It's so funny – I will just jam around in my underwear or I could be washing my dishes. I wrote several songs just at the piano," she confesses. Gaga believes that "all good music can be played at a piano and still sound like a hit." She has covered a wide variety of topics in her songs: while The Fame (2008) meditates on the lust for stardom, The Fame Monster (2009) expresses fame's dark side through monster metaphors. Born This Way (2011) is sung in English, French, German and Spanish and includes common themes in Gaga's controversial songwriting like love, sex, religion, money, drugs, identity, liberation, sexuality, freedom and individualism.
The structure of her music is said to echo classic 1980s pop and 1990s Europop. Her debut album The Fame (2008) provoked The Sunday Times to assert "in combining music, fashion, art and technology, [Gaga] evokes Madonna, Gwen Stefani circa 'Hollaback Girl', Kylie Minogue 2001 or Grace Jones right now" and a critic from The Boston Globe to comment that she draws "obvious inspirations from Madonna to Gwen Stefani... in [her] girlish but sturdy pipes and bubbly beats." Music critic Simon Reynolds wrote that "Everything about Gaga came from electroclash, except the music, which wasn't particularly 1980s, just ruthlessly catchy naughties pop glazed with Auto-Tune and undergirded with R&B-ish beats." The follow-up The Fame Monster (2009), saw Gaga's taste for pastiche, drawing on "Seventies arena glam, perky ABBA disco and sugary throwbacks like Stacey Q" while Born This Way (2011) also draws on the records of her childhood and still has the "electro-sleaze beats and Eurodisco chorus chants" of its predecessor but includes genres as diverse as opera, heavy metal, disco, and rock and roll. "There isn't a subtle moment on the album, but even at its nuttiest, the music is full of wide-awake emotional details," wrote Rolling Stone, who concluded: "The more excessive Gaga gets, the more honest she sounds."
With constant costume changes, backup dancers, and provocative visuals, Gaga's music videos are often described as short films. "Being provocative is not just about getting people's attention. It's about saying something that really affects people in a real way, in a positive way," she professes. Exploring bondage and sadomasochism in addition to highlighting prevalent feminist themes, "the three central themes that shape Lady Gaga's music videos are sex, violence, and power." "Vaudevillian and carnal, Lady Gaga has got the knack of sending rape-like fantasies—in songs and videos that double as catch club hits—to the top of the charts," wrote one critic. "Whether it is physical violence or sexual exploitation, these videos offer vivid depictions of male power over women's bodies," wrote another. While she labels herself "a little bit of a feminist" and asserts that she is "sexually empowering women," Gaga strives to empower young women to stand up for what they believe in. She also attempts to liberate her fans so they can feel "less alone." "She not only reiterates her assertion of total originality," professed pop critic Ann Powers, "but also finesses it until it's both a philosophical stance about how constructing a persona from pop-cultural sources can be an expression of a person's truth—a la those drag queens Gaga sincerely admires—and a bit of a feminist act." In summation of her videos, Rolling Stone used the rhetoric: "does anyone look to a Lady Gaga video for restraint?"
Her performances are described as "highly entertaining and innovative"; the blood-spurting performance of "Paparazzi" at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards was described as "eye-popping" by MTV. She continued the "blood soaked" theme during The Monster Ball Tour, in which she wore a revealing leather corset and was "attacked" by a performer dressed in black who gnaws on her throat, causing "blood" to spurt down her chest, after which she lies "dying" in a pool of blood. Her performances of that scene in England triggered protests from family groups and fans in the aftermath of a local tragedy, in which a taxi driver had murdered 12 people. "What happened in Bradford is very fresh in people's minds and given all the violence which happened in Cumbria just hours earlier, it was insensitive," said Lynn Costello of Mothers Against Violence. Her unconventionality continued at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards: performing in drag as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone, and delivering a lovesick monologue before a performance of her song "You and I". Some have defended her flamboyant and provocative behavior. "Well, she's Lady Gaga," Chris Rock said. "She's not 'Lady Behave Yourself.' Do you want great behavior from a person named Gaga? Is this what you were expecting?" As Gaga's choreographer and creative director, Laurieann Gibson provided material for her shows and videos for four years. However, the pair parted in November 2011; Gaga replacing her with Gibson's assistant Richard Jackson. Gaga admits to being a perfectionist when it comes to her elaborate shows. "I'm very bossy. I can scream my head off if I see one light fixture out. I'm very detailed – every minute of the show has got to be perfect."
While Chris Molanphy from Rolling Stone named Gaga the "Queen of Pop" in a ranking published by the magazine in 2011 (between 15 artists, such as Adele and Britney Spears), public reception of Gaga's music, fashion sense and persona are mixed. Her status as a role model, self-esteem booster for her fans, trailblazer and fashion icon who breathes new life into the industry is by turns affirmed and denied. Gaga's albums have received mostly positive reviews and critics have pointed out her unique place in pop music, the need for new movements in popular culture, the attention Gaga brings to modern social issues, and the inherently subjective nature of her art. In view of her influence on modern culture and her rise to global fame, sociologist Mathieu Deflem of the University of South Carolina has organized a course titled "Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame" since spring 2011 with the objective of unravelling "some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga." When Gaga briefly met with US president Barack Obama at a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser, he described the interaction as "intimidating" as she was dressed in 16-inch heels making her undoubtedly the tallest woman in the room.
Contrary to her outré style, the New York Post described her early look as like "a refugee from Jersey Shore" with "big black hair, heavy eye makeup and tight, revealing clothes." Gaga is a natural brunette; she bleached her hair blonde because she was often mistaken for Amy Winehouse. She has nine tattoos on the left side of her body (her father has banned etchings on her right): a unicorn head with a ribbon wrapped around its horn that says "Born This Way"; a small heart with "dad" written inside it; several white roses; a treble clef; three daises; "Tokyo Love" with a little heart; "Little Monsters" written in cursive; a peace symbol, which was inspired by John Lennon, whom she stated was her hero; and a curling German script on her left arm quoting the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, her favorite writer, commenting that his "philosophy of solitude" spoke to her. In a question posed about the necessary procedure to attach the prosthetics to give the unconventional appearance of recent horn-like ridges on her cheekbones, temples, and shoulders, Gaga responded, "They're not prosthetics, they're my bones." She also clarified that they were not the result of plastic surgery, believing such surgery to only be the modern byproduct of fame-induced insecurity to which she does not subscribe. The interviewer's further probing brought Gaga to the conclusion that they are an artistic representation of her inner inspirational light and part of the "performance piece" that is her musical persona: an inevitability of her becoming who she now is.
Towards the end of 2008, comparisons were made between the fashions of Gaga and recording artist Christina Aguilera that noted similarities in their styling, hair, and make-up. Aguilera stated that she was "completely unaware of [Gaga]" and "didn't know if it [was] a man or a woman." Gaga released a statement in which she welcomed the comparisons due to the attention providing useful publicity, saying, "She's such a huge star and if anything I should send her flowers, because a lot of people in America didn't know who I was until that whole thing happened. It really put me on the map in a way." When interviewed by Barbara Walters for her annual ABC News special 10 Most Fascinating People in 2009, Gaga dismissed the claim that she is intersex as an urban legend. Responding to a question on this issue, she stated, "At first it was very strange and everyone sorta said, 'That's really quite a story!' But in a sense, I portray myself in a very androgynous way, and I love androgyny." In addition to Aguilera's statement, comparisons continued into 2010, when Aguilera released the music video of her single "Not Myself Tonight". Critics noted similarities between the song and its accompanying music video with Gaga's video for "Bad Romance". There have also been similar comparisons made between Gaga's style and that of fashion icon Dale Bozzio from the band Missing Persons. Some have considered their respective images to be strikingly parallel although fans of Missing Persons note that Bozzio had pioneered the look more than thirty years earlier.
While devout followers call Gaga "Mother Monster", Gaga often refers to her fans as "Little Monsters" which has been tattooed on "the arm that holds my mic" in dedication. To some, this dichotomy contravenes the concept of outsider culture. Camille Paglia in her 2010 cover story "Lady Gaga and the death of sex" in The Sunday Times asserts that Gaga "is more an identity thief than an erotic taboo breaker, a mainstream manufactured product who claims to be singing for the freaks, the rebellious and the dispossessed when she is none of those." Writing for The Guardian, Kitty Empire opined that the dichotomy "...allows the viewer to have a 'transgressive' experience without being required to think. At [her performance's] core, though, is the idea that Gaga is at one with the freaks and outcasts. The Monster Ball is where we can all be free. This is arrant nonsense, as the scads of people buying Gaga's cunningly commercial music are not limited to the niche worlds of drag queens and hip night creatures from which she draws her inspiration. But Gaga seems sincere." Gaga has also launched "littlemonsters.com", the first official social network devoted to fans of an artist titled that went online in July 2012.
In 2012, Lady Gaga become a feature of a temporary exhibition The Elevated. From the Pharaoh to Lady Gaga marking the 150th anniversary of the National Museum in Warsaw. An exhibition devoted to the mechanisms and the iconography of power was co-financed from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage funds. Its purpose was to show the ubiquity of hierarchy from antiquity to the present. Showpiece of the exhibition was a compilation of effigies of two women who have achieved a high status in the society of its time. One of them, Dorothea de Biron came from a princely family and as a matter of birth, but also beauty and intellect, was universally admired figure in the late 18th-century court culture, celebrity at that time. Lady Gaga, presented in a dress of raw meat, is an icon of modernity elevated by the power which she exercises over mass media, a prominent specialist in creating her own image. The meat dress will be displayed at the National Museum of Women in the Arts located in Washington, D.C. with an explanation of her political message.
A new genus of ferns, Gaga, and two new species, G. germanotta and G. monstraparva have been named in her honor. "The epithet “monstraparva” honors Lady Gaga’s fervent and loyal fans, her “little monsters.” The official little monster greeting is the outstretched “monster claw” hand, which bears a striking resemblance to a tightly inrolled young fern leaf prior to unfurling."
Besides her career in music, Gaga has also contributed to various charities. For natural disasters, Gaga has helped various relief efforts. Although declining an invitation to appear on the single "We Are the World 25" to benefit victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she donated the proceeds of her January 24, 2010 concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall to the country's reconstruction relief fund. All profits from her official online store on that day were also donated. Gaga announced that an estimated total of US$500,000 was collected for the fund. Hours after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, 2011, Gaga tweeted a message and a link to Japan Prayer Bracelets. All revenue from a bracelet she designed in conjunction with the company was donated to relief efforts. As of March 29, 2011, the bracelets raised $1.5 million. However, attorney Alyson Oliver filed a lawsuit against Gaga in Detroit in June 2011, noting that the bracelet was subject to a sales tax and an extra $3.99 shipping charge was added to the price. She also believed that not all proceeds from the bracelets would go to the relief efforts, demanding a public accounting of the campaign and refunds for people who had bought the bracelet. Gaga's spokesperson called the lawsuit "meritless" and "misleading". On June 25, 2011, Gaga performed at MTV Japan's charity show in Makuhari Messe, which benefited the Japanese Red Cross.
In October 2012, Gaga was reported to have met the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. On October 9, 2012, Yoko Ono gave Gaga and four other activists the LennonOno Grant for Peace in Reykjavík, Iceland. On November 6, 2012, Gaga pledged to donate $1 million to the American Red Cross to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Gaga also contributes in the fight against HIV and AIDS, focusing on educating young women about the risks of the disease. In collaboration with Cyndi Lauper, Gaga joined forces with MAC Cosmetics to launch a line of lipstick under their supplementary cosmetic line, Viva Glam. Titled Viva Glam Gaga and Viva Glam Cyndi for each contributor respectively, all net proceeds of the lipstick line were donated to the cosmetic company's campaign to prevent HIV and AIDS worldwide. In a press release, Gaga declared, "I don't want Viva Glam to be just a lipstick you buy to help a cause. I want it to be a reminder when you go out at night to put a condom in your purse right next to your lipstick." The sales of Gaga-endorsed Viva Glam lipstick and lipgloss have raised more than $202 million to fight HIV and AIDS.
In 2012 she launched the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF), a non-profit organization that focuses on youth empowerment and issues like self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying, mentoring, and career development. It takes its name from the 2011 single and album. The foundation plans to work with a number of partners, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The California Endowment and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Media proprietor Oprah Winfrey, writer Deepak Chopra, and United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius spoke at the inauguration at Harvard University. The foundation's original funding included $1.2 million from Lady Gaga, $500,000 from the MacArthur Foundation, and $850,000 from Barneys New York. The foundation works in partnership with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, the MacArthur Foundation, the California Endowment, and, as lead media partner, Viacom. In July 2012, the BTWF partnered with Office Depot, which will donate 25% of the sales-a minimum of $1million-of a series of limited edition back-to-school products that promote the foundation's message The foundation's initiatives have included, in March–April 2012, a poster competition that asked participants to submit images that answer the question "What does bravery mean to you?"; the "Born Brave Bus" that would follow her on tour as a youth drop-in center as an initiative against bullying; and the "Born Brave" community and school groups.
She also jumped into the debate surrounding SB 1070, Arizona's recently enacted anti-immigration law, after premiering her Born This Way song "Americano" on the Guadalajara stop of The Monster Ball Tour in Mexico, telling the local press that she could not "stand by many of the unjust immigration laws" in the US. Gaga is an outspoken activist for LGBT rights worldwide. She attributes much of her early success as a mainstream artist to her gay fans and is considered a gay icon. Early in her career she had difficulty getting radio airplay, and stated, "The turning point for me was the gay community." She thanked FlyLife, a Manhattan-based LGBT marketing company with whom her label Interscope works, in the liner notes of The Fame One of her first televised performances was in May 2008 at the NewNowNext Awards, an awards show aired by the LGBT television network Logo. In June of the same year, she performed at the San Francisco Pride event. After The Fame was released, she revealed that the song "Poker Face" was about her bisexuality. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she spoke about how her boyfriends tended to react to her bisexuality, saying "The fact that I'm into women, they're all intimidated by it. It makes them uncomfortable. They're like, 'I don't need to have a threesome. I'm happy with just you'." When she appeared as a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in May 2009, she praised DeGeneres for being "an inspiration for women and for the gay community".
She called the October 11, 2009 National Equality March rally on the National Mall "the single most important event of her career." Gaga attended the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards accompanied by four gay and lesbian former members of the United States Armed Forces who had been unable to serve openly under the U.S. military's "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy. She released three videos on YouTube urging her fans to contact their Senators in an effort to overturn DADT. In September 2010 she spoke at a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's rally in Portland, Maine. Following this event, editors of The Advocate commented that she had become "the real fierce advocate" for gays and lesbians, one that Barack Obama had promised to be. Gaga appeared at Europride, a pan-European international event dedicated to LGBT pride, held in Rome in June 2011. She criticized the intolerant state of gay rights in many European countries and described homosexuals as "revolutionaries of love".
Gaga wore a dress made of raw beef to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards which was supplemented by boots, a purse, and a hat that were also all made out of raw beef. Partly awarded in recognition of the dress, Vogue.com UK named her one of the Best Dressed people of 2010 while Time magazine's named the dress the Fashion Statement of 2010. However, it received divided opinions, evoking the attention of worldwide media but invoking the fury of animal rights organization PETA. She denied any intention of causing disrespect to any person or organization and wished for the dress to be interpreted as a statement of human rights with focus upon those in the LGBT community, adding that "If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones." [sic]