Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (/ˈstɛfəni ˌdʒɜːrməˈnɒtə/ STEF-ən-ee JUR-mə-NOT-ə) (born March 28, 1986), known professionally as Lady Gaga, is an American singer, songwriter and actress. She is known for her consistent image reinventions and versatility in both music and entertainment. Gaga began performing as a teenager, singing at open mic nights and acting in school plays. She studied at Collaborative Arts Project 21, through New York University‘s Tisch School of the Arts, before dropping out to pursue a career in music. When Def Jam Recordings canceled her contract, she worked as a songwriter for Sony/ATV Music Publishing, where she signed a joint deal with Interscope Records and Akon‘s label, KonLive Distribution, in 2007. She rose to prominence the following year with her debut album The Fame and its chart-topping singles “Just Dance” and “Poker Face“. The album was later reissued to include the EP The Fame Monster (2009), which yielded the singles “Bad Romance“, “Telephone“, and “Alejandro“.
Gaga’s five succeeding studio albums have all debuted atop the US Billboard 200. Her second full-length album, Born This Way (2011), explored electronic rock and techno-pop and sold more than one million copies in its first week. Its title track became the fastest-selling song on the iTunes Store, with over one million downloads in less than a week. Following her EDM-influenced third album Artpop (2013), which yielded the single “Applause“, Gaga eschewed dance-pop and released a jazz album with Tony Bennett, Cheek to Cheek (2014), and the country pop and soft rock-influenced album Joanne (2016). She also ventured into acting, playing leading roles in the miniseries American Horror Story: Hotel (2015–2016), for which she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, and the critically acclaimed musical drama film A Star Is Born (2018). Her contributions to the latter’s soundtrack, which spawned the chart-topping single “Shallow“, made her the first woman to win an Academy, Grammy, BAFTA, and Golden Globe Award in one year. Gaga returned to her dance-pop roots with her sixth studio album Chromatica (2020), which spawned the number-one single “Rain on Me“.
Having sold 124 million records as of 2014, Gaga is one of the world’s best-selling music artists and the fourth highest-earning female musician of the 2010s. Her achievements include various Guinness World Records, 11 Grammy Awards, and awards from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She has been declared Billboard‘s Artist of the Year and Woman of the Year and included among Forbes‘ power and earnings rankings. Gaga was ranked number four on VH1‘s Greatest Women in Music in 2012 and second on Time‘s 2011 readers’ poll of the most influential people of the past ten years. Her extensive philanthropy and social activism includes work related to mental health awareness and LGBT rights. Gaga founded the Born This Way Foundation in 2012, a non-profit organization that focuses on empowering youth, improving mental health, and preventing bullying.
Life and career
1986–2005: Early life
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born on March 28, 1986 at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York City, to an upper middle class Catholic family. Both of her parents have Italian ancestry, and she also has more distant French-Canadian roots. Her parents are Cynthia Louise (née Bissett), a philanthropist and business executive, and Internet entrepreneur Joseph Germanotta, and she has a younger sister named Natali. Brought up in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Gaga said in an interview that her parents came from lower-class families and worked hard for everything. From age 11, she attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private all-girls Roman Catholic school. Gaga described her high school self as “very dedicated, very studious, very disciplined” but also “a bit insecure”. She considered herself a misfit and was mocked for “being either too provocative or too eccentric”.
Gaga began playing the piano at age four when her mother insisted she become “a cultured young woman”. She took piano lessons and practiced through her childhood. The lessons taught her to create music by ear, which she preferred over reading sheet music. Her parents encouraged her to pursue music, and enrolled her in Creative Arts Camp. As a teenager, she played at open mic nights. Gaga played the lead roles of Adelaide in the play Guys and Dolls and Philia in the play A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Regis High School. She also studied method acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute for ten years. Gaga unsuccessfully auditioned for New York shows, though she did appear in a small role as a high school student in a 2001 episode of The Sopranos titled “The Telltale Moozadell“. She later said of her inclination towards music:
I don’t know exactly where my affinity for music comes from, but it is the thing that comes easiest to me. When I was like three years old, I may have been even younger, my mom always tells this really embarrassing story of me propping myself up and playing the keys like this because I was too young and short to get all the way up there. Just go like this on the low end of the piano … I was really, really good at piano, so my first instincts were to work so hard at practicing piano, and I might not have been a natural dancer, but I am a natural musician. That is the thing that I believe I am the greatest at.
In 2003, at age 17, Gaga gained early admission to Collaborative Arts Project 21, a music school at New York University (NYU)’s Tisch School of the Arts, and lived in an NYU dorm. She studied music there, and improved her songwriting skills by writing essays on art, religion, social issues and politics, including a thesis on pop artists Spencer Tunick and Damien Hirst. In 2005, she withdrew from school during the second semester of her sophomore year to focus on her music career. That year, she also played an unsuspecting diner customer for MTV‘s Boiling Points, a prank reality television show.
In a 2014 interview, Gaga said she had been raped at age 19, for which she later underwent mental and physical therapy. She has posttraumatic stress disorder that she attributes to the incident, and says that support from doctors, family and friends has helped her.
2005–2007: Career beginnings
In 2005, Gaga recorded two songs with hip-hop singer Melle Mel for an audio book accompanying Cricket Casey’s children’s novel The Portal in the Park. She also formed a band called the SGBand with some friends from NYU. They played gigs around New York and became a fixture of the downtown Lower East Side club scene. After the 2006 Songwriters Hall of Fame New Songwriters Showcase at The Cutting Room in June, talent scout Wendy Starland recommended her to music producer Rob Fusari. Fusari collaborated with Gaga, who traveled daily to New Jersey, helping to develop her songs and compose new material. The producer said they began dating in May 2006, and claimed to have been the first person to call her “Lady Gaga”, which was derived from Queen‘s song “Radio Ga Ga“. Their relationship lasted until January 2007.Gaga performing at Lollapalooza in 2007
Fusari and Gaga established a company called Team Lovechild, LLC to promote her career. They recorded and produced electropop tracks, sending them to music industry executives. Joshua Sarubin, the head of Artists and repertoire (A&R) at Def Jam Recordings, responded positively and, after approval from Sarubin’s boss Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Gaga was signed to Def Jam in September 2006. She was dropped from the label three months later and returned to her family home for Christmas. She began performing at neo-burlesque shows, which according to her represented freedom. During this time, she met performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped mold her onstage persona. The pair began performing at downtown club venues like the Mercury Lounge, The Bitter End, and the Rockwood Music Hall. Their live performance art piece, known as “Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue” and billed as “The Ultimate Pop Burlesque Rockshow”, was a tribute to 1970s variety acts. They performed at the 2007 Lollapalooza music festival.
Having initially focused on avant-garde electronic dance music, Gaga began to incorporate pop melodies and the glam rock style of David Bowie and Queen into her songs. While Gaga and Starlight were performing, Fusari continued to develop the songs he had created with her, sending them to the producer and record executive Vincent Herbert. In November 2007, Herbert signed Gaga to his label Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records, established that month. Gaga later credited Herbert as the man who discovered her. Having served as an apprentice songwriter during an internship at Famous Music Publishing, Gaga struck a music publishing deal with Sony/ATV. As a result, she was hired to write songs for Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, Fergie, and The Pussycat Dolls. At Interscope, musician Akon was impressed with her singing abilities when she sang a reference vocal for one of his tracks in studio. Akon convinced Jimmy Iovine, chairman and CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M Records (a brother company for Def Jam), to form a joint deal by having Gaga also sign with his own label KonLive, making her his “franchise player”.
In late 2007, Gaga met with songwriter and producer RedOne. She collaborated with him in the recording studio for a week on her debut album, signing with Cherrytree Records, an Interscope imprint established by producer and songwriter Martin Kierszenbaum; she also wrote four songs with Kierszenbaum. Despite securing a record deal, she said that some radio stations found her music too “racy”, “dance-oriented”, and “underground” for the mainstream market, to which she replied: “My name is Lady Gaga, I’ve been on the music scene for years, and I’m telling you, this is what’s next.”
2008–2010: Breakthrough with The Fame and The Fame Monster
By 2008, Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles to work extensively with her record label to complete her debut album, The Fame, and to set up her own creative team called the Haus of Gaga, modeled on Andy Warhol‘s Factory. The Fame was released on August 19, 2008, and reached number one in Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK, as well as the top five in Australia and the US. Its first two singles, “Just Dance” and “Poker Face“, reached number one in the United States, Australia, Canada and the UK. The latter was also the world’s best-selling single of 2009, with 9.8 million copies sold that year, and spent a record 83 weeks on Billboard magazine’s Digital Songs chart. Three other singles, “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)“, “LoveGame” and “Paparazzi“, were released from the album; the last one reached number one in Germany. Remixed versions of the singles from The Fame, except “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)”, were included on Hitmixes in August 2009. At the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, The Fame and “Poker Face” won Best Dance/Electronica Album and Best Dance Recording, respectively.Gaga performing on The Monster Ball Tour in 2010. It grossed $227 million and became the highest-grossing concert tour for a debut headlining artist.
Following her opening act on the Pussycat Dolls‘ 2009 Doll Domination Tour in Europe and Oceania, Gaga headlined her worldwide The Fame Ball Tour, which ran from March to September 2009. While traveling the globe, she wrote eight songs for The Fame Monster, a reissue of The Fame. Those new songs were also released as a standalone EP on November 18, 2009. Its first single, “Bad Romance“, was released one month earlier and went number one in Canada and the UK, and number two in the US, Australia and New Zealand. “Telephone“, with Beyoncé, followed as the second single from the EP and became Gaga’s fourth UK number one. Its third single was “Alejandro“, which reached number one in Finland and attracted controversy when its music video was deemed blasphemous by the Catholic League. Both tracks reached the top five in the US. The video for “Bad Romance” became the most watched on YouTube in April 2010, and that October, Gaga became the first person with more than one billion combined views. At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, she won eight awards from 13 nominations, including Video of the Year for “Bad Romance”. She was the most nominated artist for a single year, and the first female to receive two nominations for Video of the Year at the same ceremony. The Fame Monster won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album, and “Bad Romance” won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Music Video at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.
In 2009, Gaga spent a record 150 weeks on the UK Singles Chart and became the most downloaded female act in a year in the US, with 11.1 million downloads sold, earning an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Fame and The Fame Monster together have since sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. This success allowed Gaga to start her second worldwide concert tour, The Monster Ball Tour, and release The Remix, her final record with Cherrytree Records and among the best-selling remix albums of all time. The Monster Ball Tour ran from November 2009 to May 2011 and grossed $227.4 million, making it the highest-grossing concert tour for a debut headlining artist. Concerts performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City were filmed for an HBO television special, Lady Gaga Presents the Monster Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden. Gaga also performed songs from her albums at the 2009 Royal Variety Performance, the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, and the 2010 BRIT Awards. Before Michael Jackson‘s death, Gaga was set to take part in his canceled This Is It concert series at the O2 Arena in the UK.
During this era, Gaga ventured into business, collaborating with consumer electronics company Monster Cable Products to create in-ear, jewel-encrusted headphones called Heartbeats by Lady Gaga. She also partnered with Polaroid in January 2010 as their creative director and announced a suite of photo-capture products called Grey Label. Her collaboration with her past record producer and ex-boyfriend Rob Fusari led to a lawsuit against her production team, Mermaid Music LLC.[a] At this time, Gaga was tested borderline positive for lupus, but claimed not to be affected by the symptoms and hoped to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
2011–2014: Born This Way, Artpop, and Cheek to Cheek
In February 2011, Gaga released “Born This Way“, the lead single from her studio album of the same name. The song sold more than one million copies within five days, earning the Guinness World Record for the fastest selling single on iTunes. It debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the 1,000th number-one single in the history of the charts. Its second single “Judas” followed two months later, and “The Edge of Glory” served as its third single. Both reached the top 10 in the US and the UK. Her music video for “The Edge of Glory”, unlike her previous work, portrays her dancing on a fire escape and walking on a lonely street, without intricate choreography and back-up dancers.Gaga promoting Born This Way with performances in Sydney, Australia
Born This Way was released on May 23, 2011, and debuted atop the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.1 million copies. The album sold eight million copies worldwide and received three Grammy nominations, including Gaga’s third consecutive nomination for Album of the Year. Rolling Stone listed it among “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” in 2020. Born This Way‘s following singles were “You and I” and “Marry the Night“, which reached numbers six and 29 in the US, respectively. While filming the former’s music video, Gaga met and started dating actor Taylor Kinney in July 2011, who played her love interest. She also embarked on the Born This Way Ball tour in April 2012, which was scheduled to conclude the following March, but ended one month earlier when Gaga canceled the remaining dates due to a labral tear of her right hip that required surgery. While refunds for the cancellations were estimated to be worth $25 million, the tour grossed a total of $183.9 million globally.
In 2011, Gaga also worked with Tony Bennett on a jazz version of “The Lady Is a Tramp“, with Elton John on “Hello Hello” for the animated feature film Gnomeo & Juliet, and with The Lonely Island and Justin Timberlake on “3-Way (The Golden Rule)“. She also performed a concert at the Sydney Town Hall in Australia that year to promote Born This Way and to celebrate former US President Bill Clinton‘s 65th birthday. In November, she was featured in a Thanksgiving television special titled A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, which attracted 5.7 million American viewers and spawned the release of her fourth EP, A Very Gaga Holiday. In 2012, Gaga guest-starred as an animated version of herself in an episode of The Simpsons called “Lisa Goes Gaga“, appeared in the documentary films The Zen of Bennett and Katy Perry: Part of Me, and released her first fragrance, Lady Gaga Fame, followed by a second one, Eau de Gaga, in 2014.[b]
Gaga began work on her third studio album, Artpop, in early 2012, during the Born This Way Ball tour; she crafted the album to mirror “a night at the club”. In August 2013, Gaga released the album’s lead single “Applause“, which reached number one in Hungary, number four in the US, and number five in the UK. A lyric video for Artpop track “Aura” followed in October to accompany Robert Rodriguez‘s Machete Kills, where she plays an assassin named La Chameleon. The film received generally negative reviews and earned less than half of its $33 million budget. The second Artpop single, “Do What U Want“, featured singer R. Kelly and was released later that month, topping the charts in Hungary and reaching number 13 in the US. Gaga removed the song from all streaming platforms in 2019 in the light of allegations made against Kelly sexually abusing several women; Gaga apologized for ever collaborating with him. Artpop was released on November 6, 2013 to mixed reviews. Helen Brown in The Daily Telegraph criticized Gaga for making another album about her fame and doubted the record’s originality, but found it “great for dancing”. The album debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, and sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide as of July 2014. “G.U.Y.” was released as the third single in March 2014 and peaked at number 76 in the US.With the Cheek to Cheek era, Gaga (seen here performing on the Cheek to Cheek Tour) ushered in an overhaul of her image.
Gaga hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live in November 2013, performing “Do What U Want” (with Kelly) and an album cut, “Gypsy“. After holding her second Thanksgiving Day television special on ABC, Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular, she performed a special rendition of “Do What U Want” with Christina Aguilera on the fifth season of the American reality talent show The Voice. In March 2014, Gaga had a seven-day concert residency commemorating the last performance at New York’s Roseland Ballroom before its closure. Two months later, she embarked on the ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour, building on concepts from her ArtRave promotional event. Earning $83 million, the tour included cities canceled from the Born This Way Ball tour itinerary. In the meantime, Gaga split from longtime manager Troy Carter over “creative differences”, and by June 2014, she and new manager Bobby Campbell joined Artist Nation, the artist management division of Live Nation Entertainment. She briefly appeared in Rodriguez’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and was confirmed as Versace‘s spring-summer 2014 ambassador with a campaign called “Lady Gaga For Versace”.
In September 2014, Gaga released a collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett titled Cheek to Cheek. The inspiration behind the album came from her friendship with Bennett, and fascination with jazz music since her childhood. Before the album was released, it produced the singles “Anything Goes” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love“. Cheek to Cheek received generally favorable reviews; The Guardian‘s Caroline Sullivan praised Gaga’s vocals and Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune wrote that “Cheek to Cheek serves up the real thing, start to finish”. The record was Gaga’s third consecutive number-one album on the Billboard 200, and won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. The duo recorded the concert special Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live!, and embarked on the Cheek to Cheek Tour from December 2014 to August 2015.
2015–2017: American Horror Story, Joanne, and Super Bowl performances
In February 2015, Gaga became engaged to Taylor Kinney. After Artpop‘s lukewarm response, Gaga began to redo her image and style. According to Billboard, this shift started with the release of Cheek to Cheek and the attention she received for her performance at the 87th Academy Awards, where she sang a medley of songs from The Sound of Music in a tribute to Julie Andrews. Considered one of her best performances by Billboard, it triggered more than 214,000 interactions per minute globally on Facebook. She and Diane Warren co-wrote the song “Til It Happens to You” for the documentary The Hunting Ground, which earned them the Satellite Award for Best Original Song and an Academy Award nomination in the same category. Gaga won Billboard Woman of the Year and Contemporary Icon Award at the 2015 Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards.
Gaga had spent much of her early life wanting to be an actress, and achieved her goal when she starred in American Horror Story: Hotel. Running from October 2015 to January 2016, Hotel is the fifth season of the television anthology horror series, American Horror Story, in which Gaga played a hotel owner named Elizabeth. At the 73rd Golden Globe Awards, Gaga received the Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film award for her work on the season. She appeared in Nick Knight‘s 2015 fashion film for Tom Ford‘s 2016 spring campaign and was guest editor for V fashion magazine’s 99th issue in January 2016, which featured 16 different covers. She received Editor of the Year award at the Fashion Los Angeles Awards.Gaga performing on the Joanne World Tour in 2017
In February 2016, Gaga sang the US national anthem at Super Bowl 50, partnered with Intel and Nile Rodgers for a tribute performance to the late David Bowie at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, and sang “Til It Happens to You” at the 88th Academy Awards, where she was introduced by Joe Biden and was accompanied on-stage by 50 people who had suffered from sexual assault. She was honored that April with the Artist Award at the Jane Ortner Education Awards by The Grammy Museum, which recognizes artists who have demonstrated passion and dedication to education through the arts. Her engagement to Taylor Kinney ended in July; she later said her career had interfered with their relationship.
Gaga played a witch named Scathach in American Horror Story: Roanoke, the series’ sixth season, which ran from September to November 2016. Her role in the fifth season of the show ultimately influenced her future music, prompting her to feature “the art of darkness”. In September 2016, she released her fifth album’s lead single, “Perfect Illusion“, which topped the charts in France and reached number 15 in the US. The album, titled Joanne, was named after Gaga’s late aunt, who was an inspiration for the music. It was released on October 21, 2016, and became Gaga’s fourth number one album on the Billboard 200, making her the first woman to reach the US chart’s summit four times in the 2010s. The album’s second single, “Million Reasons“, followed the next month and reached number four in the US. She later released a piano version of the album’s title track in 2018, which won a Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance. To promote the album, Gaga embarked on the three-date Dive Bar Tour.
Gaga performed as the headlining act during the Super Bowl LI halftime show on February 5, 2017. Her performance featured a group of hundreds of lighted drones forming various shapes in the sky above Houston’s NRG Stadium—the first time robotic aircraft appeared in a Super Bowl program. It attracted 117.5 million viewers in the United States, exceeding the game’s total of 113.3 million viewers. The performance led to a surge of 410,000 song downloads in the United States for Gaga and earned her an Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Special Class Program category. CBS Sports included her performance as the second best in the history of Super Bowl halftime shows. In April, Gaga headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. She also released a standalone-single, “The Cure“, which reached the top 10 in Australia. In August, Gaga began the Joanne World Tour, which she announced after the Super Bowl LI halftime show. Gaga’s creation of Joanne and preparation for her halftime show performance were featured in the documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, which premiered on Netflix in September. Throughout the film, she was seen suffering from chronic pain, which was later revealed to be the effect of a long-term condition called fibromyalgia. It resulted in Gaga canceling the last ten shows of the Joanne World Tour, which ultimately grossed $95 million from 842,000 tickets sold.
2018–present: A Star Is Born, Enigma, and Chromatica
In March 2018, Gaga supported the March for Our Lives gun-control rally in Washington, D.C., and released a cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” for his tribute album Revamp. Later that year, she starred as struggling singer Ally in Bradley Cooper‘s musical romantic drama A Star Is Born, a remake of the 1937 film of the same name. The film follows Ally’s relationship with singer Jackson Maine (played by Cooper), which becomes strained after her career begins to overshadow his. Cooper approached Gaga after seeing her perform at a cancer research fundraiser; an admirer of Cooper’s work, Gaga agreed to the project due to its portrayal of addiction and depression. A Star Is Born premiered at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, and was released worldwide that October. Gaga’s performance was acclaimed by film critics, with Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian describing the film as “outrageously watchable” and stating that “Gaga’s ability to be part ordinary person, part extraterrestrial celebrity empress functions at the highest level”; Stephanie Zacharek of Time magazine similarly highlighted her “knockout performance” and found her “charismatic” without her usual makeup, wigs and costumes. For the role, Gaga won the National Board of Review and Critics’ Choice awards for Best Actress, in addition to receiving nominations for the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and BAFTA Award for Best Actress.
Gaga and Cooper co-wrote and produced most of the songs on the soundtrack for A Star Is Born, which she insisted they perform live in the film. Its lead single, “Shallow“, performed by the two, was released on September 27, 2018 and topped the charts in various countries including Australia, the UK and the US. The soundtrack contains 34 tracks, including 19 original songs, and received generally positive reviews; Mark Kennedy of The Washington Post called it a “five-star marvel” and Ben Beaumont-Thomas of The Guardian termed it an “instant classics full of Gaga’s emotional might”. Commercially, the soundtrack debuted at number one in the US, making Gaga the first woman with five US number-one albums in the 2010s, and breaking her tie with Taylor Swift as the most for any female artist this decade; Swift tied with her again in 2019. It additionally topped the charts in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland and the UK. As of June 2019, the soundtrack had sold over six million copies worldwide. The album won Gaga four Grammy Awards—Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Song Written for Visual Media for “Shallow”, as well as the latter category for “I’ll Never Love Again“—and a BAFTA Award for Best Film Music. “Shallow” also won her the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Original Song.
In October, Gaga announced her engagement to talent agent Christian Carino whom she had met in early 2017. They ended the engagement in February 2019. Gaga signed a two-year residency, named Lady Gaga Enigma, to perform at the MGM Park Theater in Las Vegas. The residency consists of two types of shows: Enigma, which focuses on theatricality and includes the singer’s biggest hits, and Jazz and Piano, which involves tracks from the Great American Songbook and stripped-down versions of Gaga’s songs. The Enigma residency show opened in December 2018 and the Jazz and Piano in January 2019. Gaga launched her first, vegan makeup line, Haus Laboratories, in September 2019 exclusively on Amazon. Consisting of 40 products, including liquid eyeliners, lip glosses and face mask sticker, it reached number-one on Amazon’s list of best-selling lipsticks. In February 2020, Gaga began a relationship with entrepreneur Michael Polanksy.
Gaga’s sixth studio album, Chromatica, was released on May 29, 2020 to positive reviews. It debuted atop the US charts, becoming her sixth consecutive number-one album in the country, and reached the top spot in more than a dozen other territories including Australia, Canada, France, Italy and the UK. Chromatica was preceded by two singles, “Stupid Love“, on February 28, 2020, and “Rain on Me“, with Ariana Grande, on May 22. The latter debuted at number one in the US, making Gaga the third person to top the country’s chart in the 2000s, 2010s and 2020s. At the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, she won five awards, including the inaugural Tricon Award recognizing artists accomplished in different areas of the entertainment industry. In September 2020, Gaga appeared in the video campaign for Valentino‘s Voce Viva fragrance, singing a stripped-down version of Chromatica track “Sine from Above“, along with a group of models.
Gaga is next committed to portray Patrizia Reggiani, who was convicted of hiring a hitman to murder her ex-husband and former head of the Gucci fashion house Maurizio Gucci, in an upcoming film directed by Ridley Scott.
Gaga grew up listening to artists such as Michael Jackson, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Mariah Carey, the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Blondie and Garbage, who have all influenced her music. Gaga’s musical inspiration varies from dance-pop singers such as Madonna and Michael Jackson to rock artists such as David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, as well as the theatrics of the pop artist Andy Warhol and her own performance roots in musical theater. She has been compared to Madonna, who has said that she sees herself reflected in Gaga. Gaga says that she wants to revolutionize pop music as Madonna has. Gaga has also cited heavy metal bands as an influence, specifically Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Marilyn Manson. She credits Beyoncé as a key inspiration to pursue a musical career.
Gaga was inspired by her mother to be interested in fashion, which she now says is a major influence and integrated with her music. Stylistically, Gaga has been compared to Leigh Bowery, Isabella Blow, and Cher; she once commented that as a child, she absorbed Cher’s fashion sense and made it her own. She considers Donatella Versace her muse and the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen as an inspiration. In turn, Versace calls Lady Gaga “the fresh Donatella”. Gaga has also been influenced by Princess Diana, whom she has admired since her childhood.
Gaga has called the Indian alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra a “true inspiration”, and has also quoted Indian leader Osho‘s book Creativity on Twitter. Gaga says she was influenced by Osho’s work in valuing rebellion through creativity and equality.
Musical style and themes
Critics have analyzed and scrutinized Gaga’s musical and performance style, as she has experimented with new ideas and images throughout her career. She says the continual reinvention is “liberating” herself, which she has been drawn to since childhood. Gaga is a contralto with a range spanning from B♭2 to B5. She has changed her vocal style regularly, and considers Born This Way “much more vocally up to par with what I’ve always been capable of”. In summing up 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.”
Gaga’s songs have been called “depthless” by writer Camille Paglia in The Sunday Times, but according to Evan Sawdey of PopMatters, she “does manage to get you moving and grooving at an almost effortless pace”. Gaga believes that “all good music can be played on a piano and still sound like a hit”. Simon Reynolds wrote in 2010, “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.”
Gaga’s songs have covered a wide variety of concepts; The Fame discusses the lust for stardom, while the follow-up The Fame Monster expresses fame’s dark side through monster metaphors. The Fame is an electropop and dance-pop album that has influences of 1980s pop and 1990s Europop, whereas The Fame Monster displays Gaga’s taste for pastiche, drawing on “Seventies arena glam, perky ABBA disco, and sugary throwbacks like Stacey Q“. Born This Way has lyrics in English, French, German, and Spanish and features themes common to Gaga’s controversial songwriting such as sex, love, religion, money, drugs, identity, liberation, sexuality, freedom, and individualism. The album explores new genres, such as electronic rock and techno.
The themes in Artpop revolve around Gaga’s personal views of fame, love, sex, feminism, self-empowerment, overcoming addiction, and reactions to media scrutiny. Billboard describes Artpop as “coherently channeling R&B, techno, disco and rock music”. With Cheek to Cheek, Gaga dabbled in the jazz genre. Joanne, exploring the genres of country, funk, pop, dance, rock, electronic music and folk, was influenced by her personal life. A Star Is Born contains elements of blues rock, country and bubblegum pop. Billboard says its lyrics are about wanting change, its struggle, love, romance, and bonding, describing the music as “timeless, emotional, gritty and earnest. They sound like songs written by artists who, quite frankly, are supremely messed up but hit to the core of the listener.” On Chromatica, Gaga returned to her dance-pop roots, and discussed her struggles with mental health.
Videos and stage
Featuring constant costume changes and provocative visuals, Gaga’s music videos are often described as short films. The video for “Telephone” earned Gaga the Guinness World Record for Most Product Placement in a Video. According to author Curtis Fogel, she explores bondage and sadomasochism and highlights prevalent feminist themes. The main themes of her music videos are sex, violence, and power. She calls herself “a little bit of a feminist” and asserts that she is “sexually empowering women”. Billboard ranked her sixth on its list of “The 100 Greatest Music Video Artists of All Time” in 2020, stating that “the name ‘Lady Gaga’ will forever be synonymous with culture-shifting music videos.”
Gaga has called herself a perfectionist when it comes to her elaborate shows. Her performances have been 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 News. She continued the blood-soaked theme during The Monster Ball Tour, causing protests in England from family groups and fans in the aftermath of the Cumbria shootings, in which a taxi driver had killed 12 people, then himself. At the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, Gaga appeared in drag as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone, and delivered a lovesick monologue before a performance of her song “You and I”. As Gaga’s choreographer and creative director, Laurieann Gibson provided material for her shows and videos for four years before she was replaced by her assistant Richard Jackson in 2014.
In an article for Billboard by Rebecca Schiller in October 2018, the author traced back Gaga’s videography from “Just Dance” till the release of A Star Is Born. Schiller noted how, following the Artpop era, Gaga’s stripped-down approach to music was reflected in the clips for the singles from Joanne, taking the example of the music video of lead single “Perfect Illusion” where the singer “[ditched] the elaborate outfits for shorts and a tee-shirt as she performed the song at a desert party”. It continued with her performances in the film as well as her stage persona.
Public reception of Gaga’s music, fashion sense, and persona is polarized. Because of her influence on modern culture, and her rise to global fame, sociologist Mathieu Deflem of the University of South Carolina has offered a course titled “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame” since early 2011 with the objective of unraveling “some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga”. When Gaga met briefly with then-president Barack Obama at a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser, he found the interaction “intimidating” as she was dressed in 16-inch heels, making her the tallest woman in the room. 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 expressed her fondness for androgyny. In a 2010 Sunday Times article, Camille Paglia called Gaga “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”.
Gaga’s outlandish fashion sense has also served as an important aspect of her character. During her early career, members of the media compared her fashion choices to those of Christina Aguilera. In 2011, 121 women gathered at the Grammy Awards dressed in costumes similar to those worn by Gaga, earning the 2011 Guinness World Record for Largest Gathering of Lady Gaga Impersonators. 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 that she “brought performance art into the mainstream”.
Time placed Gaga on their All-Time 100 Fashion Icons List, stating: “Lady Gaga is just as notorious for her outrageous style as she is for her pop hits … [Gaga] has sported outfits made from plastic bubbles, Kermit the Frog dolls, and raw meat.” 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 also made out of raw beef. Partly awarded in recognition of the dress, Vogue named her one of the Best Dressed people of 2010 and Time named the dress the Fashion Statement of the year. It attracted the attention of worldwide media; the animal rights organization PETA found it offensive. The meat dress was displayed at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 2012, and entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in September 2015.
Gaga’s fans call her “Mother Monster”, and she often refers to them as “Little Monsters”, a phrase which she had tattooed on herself in dedication. In his article “Lady Gaga Pioneered Online Fandom Culture As We Know It” for Vice, Jake Hall wrote that Gaga inspired several subsequent fan-brandings, such as those of Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Justin Bieber. In July 2012, Gaga also co-founded the social networking service LittleMonsters.com, devoted to her fans. According to Guinness World Records, Gaga was the most followed person on Twitter in 2011, and the most followed female pop singer and the most powerful popstar in 2014. Forbes included Gaga on its Celebrity 100 from 2010 to 2015 and then from 2018 to 2020 and its list of the World’s Most Powerful Women from 2010 to 2014. She earned $62 million, $90 million, $52 million, $80 million, $33 million, and $59 million from 2010 through 2015, and $50 million, $39 million and $38 million between 2018 and 2020. She was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2010 and 2019, and ranked second in most influential people of the past ten years in a Time magazine readers’ poll in 2013. In March 2012, Gaga was ranked fourth on Billboard‘s list of top moneymakers of 2011 with earnings of $25 million, which included sales from Born This Way and her Monster Ball Tour. The following year, she topped Forbes‘ List of Top-Earning Celebs Under 30, and in February 2016, the magazine estimated Gaga’s net worth to be $275 million. In December 2019, Gaga placed 10th on Forbes‘ list of Top-Earning Musicians Of The Decade with earnings of $500 million in the 2010s; she was the fourth highest-earning female musician on the list.
After declining an invitation to appear on the single “We Are the World 25” (because of rehearsals for her tour) to benefit victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Gaga donated the proceeds of her January 2010 Radio City Music Hall concert to the country’s reconstruction relief fund. All profits from her online store that day were also donated, and Gaga announced that $500,000 was collected for the fund. Hours after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Gaga tweeted a link to Japan Prayer Bracelets. All revenue from a bracelet she designed in conjunction with the company was donated to relief efforts; these raised $1.5 million. In June 2011, Gaga performed at MTV Japan‘s charity show in Makuhari Messe, which benefited the Japanese Red Cross.
In 2012, Gaga joined the campaign group Artists Against Fracking. That October, Yoko Ono gave Gaga and four other activists the LennonOno Grant for Peace in Reykjavík, Iceland. The following month, 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. Sales have raised more than $202 million to fight HIV and AIDS.
In April 2016, Gaga joined Vice President Joe Biden at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to support Biden’s It’s On Us campaign as he traveled to colleges on behalf of the organization, which has seen 250,000 students from more than 530 colleges sign a pledge of solidarity and activism. Two months later, Gaga attended the 84th Annual US Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis where she joined with the Dalai Lama to talk about the power of kindness and how to make the world a more compassionate place. Due to her meeting with Dalai Lama, the Chinese government added Gaga to a list of hostile foreign forces, and Chinese websites and media organizations were ordered to stop uploading or distributing her songs. The Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CCPPD) also issued an order for state-controlled media to condemn this meeting. In April 2020, Gaga curated the televised benefit concert, One World: Together at Home, a collaboration with Global Citizen to benefit the World Health Organization‘s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The special raised $127 million, which according to Forbes “puts it on par with the other legendary fundraiser, Live Aid, as the highest grossing charity concert in history.”
Born This Way Foundation
In 2012, Gaga launched the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF), a non-profit organization that focuses on youth empowerment. It takes its name from her 2011 single and album. Media proprietor Oprah Winfrey, writer Deepak Chopra, and US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius spoke at the foundation’s inauguration at Harvard University. The foundation’s original funding included $1.2 million from Gaga, $500,000 from the MacArthur Foundation, and $850,000 from Barneys New York. In July 2012, the BTWF partnered with Office Depot, which donated 25% of the sales, a minimum of $1 million of a series of limited edition back-to-school products. The foundation’s initiatives have included the “Born Brave Bus” that followed her on tour as a youth drop-in center as an initiative against bullying.
In October 2015, at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Gaga joined 200 high school students, policy makers, and academic officials, including Peter Salovey, to discuss ways to recognize and channel emotions for positive outcomes. In 2016, the foundation partnered with Intel, Vox Media, and Re/code to fight online harassment. The sales revenue of the 99th issue of the V magazine, which featured Gaga and Kinney, was donated to the foundation. Gaga and Elton John released the clothing and accessories line Love Bravery at Macy’s in May. 25% of each purchase support Gaga’s foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Gaga partnered with Starbucks for a week in June 2017 with the “Cups of Kindness” campaign, where the company donated 25 cents from some of the beverages sold to the foundation. She also appeared in a video by Staples Inc. to raise funds for the foundation and DonorsChoose.org.
On the 2018 World Kindness Day, Gaga partnered with the foundation to bring food and relief to a Red Cross shelter for people who have been forced to evacuate homes due to the California wildfires. The foundation also partnered with Starbucks and SoulCycle to thank California firefighters for their relief work during the crisis. The singer had to previously evacuate her own home during the Woolsey Fire which spread through parts of Malibu.
In March 2019, she penned a letter to supporters of the Born This Way Foundation, announcing the launch of a new pilot program for a teen mental health first aid project with the National Council for Behavioral Health. Gaga revealed her personal struggles with mental health in her letter and how she was able to get support which saved her life: “I know what it means to have someone support me and understand what I’m going through, and every young person in the world should have someone to turn to when they’re hurting. It saved my life, and it will save theirs.” On September 22, 2020, Gaga released an anthology book, Channel Kindness: Stories of Kindness and Community, featuring fifty-one stories about kindness, bravery, and resilience from young people all over the world collected by the Born This Way Foundation, and introduced by herself. She had been promoting it with a 21 days of kindness challenge on her social medias, using the “BeKind21” hashtag.
Gaga is a bisexual woman[c] and actively supports 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.
Gaga spoke at the 2009 National Equality March in Washington in support of the LGBT movement. She 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 US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which banned open homosexuality in the military. Gaga urged her fans via YouTube to contact their senators in an effort to overturn the policy. In September 2010, she spoke at a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network‘s rally in Portland, Maine. Following this event, The Advocate named her a “fierce advocate” for gays and lesbians. Gaga appeared at Europride, an international event dedicated to LGBT pride, in Rome in June 2011. She criticized the poor state of gay rights in many European countries and described gay people as “revolutionaries of love”. Gaga was ordained as a minister by the Universal Life Church Monastery so that she could officiate the wedding of two female friends.
In June 2016, during a vigil held in Los Angeles for victims of the attack at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Gaga read aloud the names of the 49 people killed in the attack, and gave a speech. Later that month, Gaga appeared in Human Rights Campaign‘s tribute video to the victims of the attack. She has opposed the presidency of Donald Trump and deplored his military transgender ban. She supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. In 2018, a leaked memo from Trump’s office revealed that his administration wanted to change the legal definition of sex in order to exclude transgender Americans. Gaga was one of the many celebrities to call him out and spread the #WontBeErased campaign to her 77 million Twitter followers. In January 2019, during one of her Enigma shows, she criticized Vice President Mike Pence for his wife Karen Pence working at an evangelical Christian school where LGBTQ people are turned away, calling him “the worst representation of what it means to be a Christian”. Gaga also stated “I am a Christian woman, and what I do know about Christianity is that we bear no prejudice, and everybody is welcome”.
Gaga performing on the ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour in 2014
Gaga was named the “Queen of Pop” in a 2011 ranking by Rolling Stone based on record sales and social media metrics. In 2012, she ranked fourth in VH1‘s Greatest Women in Music and became a feature of the temporary exhibition The Elevated. From the Pharaoh to Lady Gaga, which marked the 150th anniversary of the National Museum in Warsaw.
Gaga has been often regarded as a trailblazer for utilizing controversy to bring attention to various issues. According to Frankie Graddon of The Independent, Gaga—who wore a meat dress to highlight her distaste for the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy—influenced protest dressing on red carpet. Because of The Fame‘s success—it was listed as one of the 100 Greatest Debut Albums of All-Time by Rolling Stone in 2013—Gaga has been credited as one of the artists that popularized synthpop in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Scott Hardy, CEO of Polaroid, praised Gaga for inspiring fans and for her close interactions with them on social media.
According to Kelefa Sanneh of The New Yorker, “Lady Gaga blazed a trail for truculent pop stars by treating her own celebrity as an evolving art project.” Including Born This Way as one of the 50 best female albums of all time, Rolling Stone‘s Rob Sheffield considers it “hard to remember a world where we didn’t have Gaga, although we’re pretty sure it was a lot more boring”. In 2015, Time also noted that Gaga had “practically invented the current era of pop music as spectacle”. Her work has influenced artists including Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Ellie Goulding, Halsey, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Jonas, Sam Smith, Noah Cyrus, Katherine Langford, MGMT, Allie X, Greyson Chance, Taylor Swift, Cardi B, Rina Sawayama, and Blackpink.
A new genus of ferns, Gaga, and three species, G. germanotta, G. monstraparva and Kaikaia gaga, have been named in her honor. The name monstraparva alluded to Gaga’s fans, known as “little monsters”, since their symbol is the outstretched “monster claw” hand, which resembles a tightly rolled young fern leaf prior to unfurling. Gaga also has an extinct mammal, Gagadon minimonstrum, and a parasitic wasp, Aleiodes gaga, named for her.
Gaga has won 11 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, three Brit Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, eighteen MTV Video Music Awards, various Guinness World Records, and the inaugural Songwriters Hall of Fame‘s Contemporary Icon Award. She received a National Arts Awards‘ Young Artist Award, which honors individuals who have shown accomplishments and leadership early in their career, and she won the Jane Ortner Artist Award from the Grammy Museum in 2016. Gaga has also been recognized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) with the Fashion Icon award, and was a finalist for The Advocate‘s Person of the Year in 2016. In 2019, she became the first woman to win an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe Award in one year for her contribution to A Star Is Born‘s soundtrack.
Gaga is one of the world’s best-selling music artists, with estimated sales of 124 million records as of 2014, and has produced some of the best-selling singles of all time. She has grossed more than $512.3 million in revenue from concert tours and residencies, becoming the fifth woman to pass the half-billion total as reported to Billboard Boxscore. Gaga has consecutively appeared on Billboard magazine’s Artists of the Year (scoring the definitive title in 2010), and ranked 11th on its Top Artists of the 2010s chart. Named Woman of the Year in 2015, she is the eighth top digital singles artist in the US, with a total of 83 million equivalent units certified according to Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[d] She was the first woman to receive the Digital Diamond Award certification from RIAA, one of three artists with at least two Diamond certified songs (“Bad Romance” and “Poker Face”), and the first and only artist to have two songs pass seven million downloads (“Poker Face” and “Just Dance”).