20 Facts Every Little Monster Should Know About Lady Gaga
As one of the world’s biggest pop culture icons, Lady Gaga is always a talking point. From No. 1 albums and boundary-pushing videos to avant-garde costumes and experimental live performances, it’s no wonder she’s an award-winning, record-breaking entertainer.
But Gaga isn’t just an icon — she’s an inspiration. Always grateful for her legions of fans, whom she affectionately calls her “little monsters,” she stands up for the LGBTQ community, shares her personal experiences with grief, chronic illness and mental health to educate and empower others, continues to take risks, and above all remains true to herself.
Gaga Wasn’t Always Gaga
She’s known worldwide as Lady Gaga, but on March 28, 1986 in Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City, she started life as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. The first child for Cynthia Louise and Joseph Germanotta, Gaga spent her childhood in Manhattan’s Upper West side.
She Could Play Piano at Age 4
Her musical talent and passion was clear from a young age — by the age of four, she had started piano lessons, which turned out to be a defining moment.
“She learned to play piano by ear at home when she was really young,” Cynthia Germanotta told InStyle. “One day I said, ‘Do you want to take some lessons?’ She was a little bit confused by that because she said that she heard the music in her head. She didn’t understand why she had to take a lesson [...] I knew there was something different about her at that point. I didn’t know what it would lead to, but I realized that there was something more there.”
She Was Bullied at School
Gaga studied at the private, all-girls Roman Catholic school Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private, all-girls Roman Catholic school, from the age of 11. She described herself as a studious, disciplined scholar, despite feeling like a misfit — perhaps due to being mocked by her peers for "being either too provocative or too eccentric.”
Gaga said in an interview with U.K. newspaper Independent that being bullied at school forced her to suppress her desire to become an artist “for so many years.”
She later told The View that being bullied and “the residual wounds” stay with you your entire life, but that she tried to focus “every day [on] becoming stronger and becoming more brave.”
She Took Her Name From Queen
Lady Gaga took her professional name from the Queen song “Radio Gaga,” but her early musical influences were varied. As a young child she sang along to Michael Jackson, Madonna, David Bowie and Cyndi Lauper.
She’s Heavily Influenced By Art
Gaga refers to her stage designs as installations, not sets, and cites as her idols those who have blurred the boundaries between popular art forms, such as Piet Mondrian, Andy Warhol and David LaChapelle.
“I guess you could say that I'm a bit of a Warholian copycat,” Gaga told the Independent. “Some people say everything [in music and fashion] has been done before, and to an extent they are right. I think the trick is to honour your vision and reference and put together things that have never been put together before. I like to be unpredictable, and I think it's very unpredictable to promote pop music as a highbrow medium."
She Had Her Fair Share of Career Disappointment
Gaga’s early attempts to break onto the music scene weren’t without disappointment, but she never gave up. In 2005, she recorded two songs with hip-hop singer Grandmaster Melle Mel for an audio-book to accompany a children's novel, at which time she also played gigs around New York City with a band called SGBand.
Talent scout Wendy Starland recommended Gaga to music producer Rob Fusari in 2006, leading to a collaboration between Fusari and Gaga that lasted less than a year, possibly complicated by the fact that they reportedly started dating.
However, their joint efforts led to Gaga being signed to Def Jam, but she was dropped after three months.
A Performance Artist Helped Hone Her Act
After being dropped by Def Jam, Gaga met and teamed up with performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped her develop her on-stage persona and create elaborate stage costumes. They formed a 1970s tribute act, "Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue,” and got rave reviews following their performance at the 2007 Lollapalooza music festival.
The former duo have remained close, with Lady Starlight opening for Lady Gaga on various gigs and tours, including the 2010-2011 Monster Ball tour, the 2012-2013 Born This Way Ball and the 2014 ArtRave: The Artpop Ball.
Lady Starlight has also opened for Judas Priest and Semi Precious Weapons.
She Wrote Songs for Lots of Other Stars
Gaga’s songwriting talent is undeniable, and has benefitted many other acts over the years. After striking a music publishing deal with Sony/ATV, Gaga was hired to write songs for Fergie, New Kids on the Block, the Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears.
"Getting into writing for others happened naturally, because at the time, I didn't have a record deal,” Gaga said in an interview with Billboard. "I don't have an ego about other people singing my songs.”
Gaga also worked with Michael Bolton on the ballad “Murder My Heart” for his 2008 album “One World One Love.” On their collaboration, she told Newsweek, “It was an exciting opportunity to work with someone as timeless as Michael and do a ballad. Do something that I'm really good at that I don't get to show very much.”
Gaga’s Hit “Telephone” Was Intended for Another Artist
Gaga actually wrote “Telephone” for Spears’ 2008 album “Circus,” but it didn’t make the cut and instead became a No. 1 hit for Gaga herself (with a little help from Beyonce) in 2010.
She’s a Big Fan of the Muppets...
Gaga showed her love of the Muppets by wearing a jacket made entirely of Kermit the Frogs during a 2009 interview with a German TV show — a style choice she had no idea would cause such a stir. “We're excited that it's famous,” she told Newsweek. “It's by a designer [Jean-Charles de Castelbajac] we wanted to support. I thought it was comical because I don't wear fur. But there was something morbid and hilarious and wearing a jacket made of lots of Kermits. Dead, dead Kermits.”
...and Statement Clothing
Of course, Gaga’s Kermit jacket isn’t the only garment to have put her on the front page of newspapers around the world. Possibly her most eyebrow-raising outfit to date is the “Meat Dress,” which she donned for the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Designed by Franc Fernandez and styled by Nicola Formichetti, the dress was intended to make a statement about the now-repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy, which restricted the rights of gay soldiers.
“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. And I am not a piece of meat,” Gaga told Ellen DeGeneres.
After the VMAs, a group of taxidermists preserved the meat dress and it’s now immortalized in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Mental Health Is a Priority
Gaga has spoken publicly on many occasions about her personal mental health issues, including bullying, sexual assault (in 2014, Gaga revealed that she had been raped at the age of 19, for which she underwent mental and physical therapy), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fibromyalgia.
In an interview with The Mirror, Gaga said, “I openly admit to having battled depression and anxiety and I think a lot of people do. I think it’s better when we all say: ‘Cheers!’ And ‘fess up to it.” She also revealed that she was taking medication as part of her recovery, although she added that she “wouldn’t encourage young people to take antidepressants or mood stabilisers.”
In 2012, Gaga and her mother co-founded the Born This Way Foundation, an organization that is committed to empowering young people to create a “kinder and braver world.”
She Lives With Chronic Pain
Gaga was forced to cut her 2017-2018 Joanne World Tour short due to her ongoing battle with fibromyalgia, described by the star as “severe physical pain that has impacted her ability to perform.”
In an interview with Vogue, Gaga revealed how frustrating it is to have an illness that many people don’t accept is genuine. “I get so irritated with people who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real,” she said. “For me, and I think for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result. People need to be more compassionate. Chronic pain is no joke. And it’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel.”
As part of her drive to increase awareness about fibromyalgia, which causes many symptoms, including extreme tiredness, headaches, bloating, muscle aches, and difficulty sleeping and concentrating, Gaga made a Netflix documentary, “Gaga: Five Foot Two.”
She’s Not Afraid of Controversy
Gaga’s first studio album “The Fame” was released in 2008, peaked at No. 2 in the U.S. chart and was later certified triple platinum. The following year, Gaga released a deluxe reissue called “The Fame Monster,” which reached No. 5 in the U.S. and No. 1 in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
As Gaga’s fame grew, so too did her reputation for controversial videos.
Her 2009 release “Paparazzi” caused an outcry in the disabled community for its use of crutches and a wheelchair as props, and the following year the Catholic League criticized Gaga for her alleged use of blasphemy in the video for “Alejandro.” Gaga riled the Catholic community again with the release of “Judas” from her second studio album “Born This Way” in 2011. In this video, Gaga portrayed Mary Magdalene and hired actors to play Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot.
“Telephone,” Gaga’s collaboration with Beyonce, also ruffled some feathers due to its bad language, nudity and poisoning.
Her Debut Broke Records
Gaga’s debut album is the longest-running No. 1 in the history of Billboard's Dance/Electronic Albums chart. “The Fame” spent an astounding 106 weeks at the top of the chart; together with subsequent albums, Gaga has spent 148 weeks in the No. 1 spot.
And She Hasn’t Stopped Breaking Records
Gaga’s sixth album release “Joanne” debuted atop the Billboard 200, becoming the singer’s fourth No. 1 album on the chart and making her the first women to have four No. 1 albums in the 2010s. In 2010, Gaga became the first female artist to have three No. 1 albums in one calendar year.
She’s Friends With Tony Bennett
After the release of “Born This Way,” which sold more than a million copies in its first week of sale in the U.S., Gaga collaborated with music legend Tony Bennett on a jazz version of “The Lady Is a Tramp.” The two later released “Cheek to Cheek,” an album of jazz standards by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and other composers. Gaga and Bennett cemented their friendship when Gaga posed naked for Bennett, who is also a talented artist, for a charcoal sketch.
Jazz music and art aside, Gaga credits Bennett with saving her life after a troubled period, when she “didn’t even want to sing anymore.” She told Parade magazine, “I was so sad. I couldn’t sleep. I felt dead. And then I spent a lot of time with Tony. He wanted nothing but my friendship and my voice.”
Her Super Bowl Halftime Show Is Considered One of the Best
Gaga made several statements during her 12-minute stadium set during the 2017 NFL season finale at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Clapping back against Trump’s Muslim ban, she sang Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” and also performed LGBTQ anthem “Born This Way,” which resulted in the first time the word “transgender” had been broadcast during a Super Bowl show.
Gaga’s performance pulled the second-most viewers of all time for the Super Bowl Halftime show — although her 117.5 million TV viewers wasn’t quite enough to match Katy Perry’s 120.7 million for her 2015 Super XLIX set — and earned her an Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Special Class Program category.
She’s An Actress, Too
Gaga’s first acting efforts weren’t critical hits. Her most notable (non-cameo) on-screen role was on the fifth season of "American Horror Story,” playing the owner of the haunted hotel. Her performance received mixed reviews, but she still walked away with the 2016 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film.
One of her lesser known TV roles was as “Girl at Swimming Pool #2” in season 3 episode 9 of “The Sopranos,” which aired in 2001 and didn’t even give her a full line of dialogue.
Critical perception of her changed after 2018’s “A Star Is Born.”
She Might Win an Oscar
Gaga's got two chances for an Oscar for her turn as singer-songwriter Ally in the remake of the classic movie "A Star is Born." She's up for Best Original Song for "Shallow," and she's nominated for one of the biggest awards of the night: Best Actress in a Leading Role.
The nominations follow her 2018 National Board of Review Best Actress award.
Speaking to Elle about her first major movie role, Gaga said: “The character of Ally is informed by my life experience. But I also wanted to make sure that she was not me. It was a cadence of both.”