Lady Gaga: she’s arguably one of the most well-known names in the world. If you were to go out into the street and ask people of any age, I can almost guarantee they will have heard of Gaga – whether it be the infectious hook from her chart topper ‘Bad Romance’, or for her out-there fashion choices.
However, what some people would fail to mention is the work she’s done away from the music and the fashion – which is arguably what actually makes her stand out from your average ‘pop star’.
For me, like so many others, Lady Gaga has had a massive impact on my life. For this blog, I’ll be taking a look at how she’s inspired so many people – making her more than the eccentric fashion choices and ‘controversial’ music videos.
Introducing Lady Gaga
Born Stefani Germanotta, Gaga was raised Roman Catholic by her parents in New York. Her music career started as the product of a number of gigs at just age 19 – becoming a local fixture of the downtown Lower Eastside club scene. She was eventually picked up by Akon, who signed her to his Kon Live label, an umbrella of Interscope Records.
Bursting onto the scene in 2008 with her debut album ‘The Fame’, Gaga started to make a name for herself internationally. Building her own creative team, ‘Haus of Gaga’, she began what seemed to be a whirlwind career of excessive touring, public appearances and music video after music video.
Although met with a lot of positive critical acclaim, there were also a lot of critics who were not happy about Gaga’s rise to the top. Some saw her as ‘too racy’ or ‘too out-there’ – and her unapologetic, ‘what you see is what you get’ style was too controversial for some.
However, for a lot of people – including myself – this was Gaga’s appeal. She was a strong, prominent female artist who was making the decisions she wanted to make. Every creative decision she took – from her lyrics, to her tour sets – was hers. She was fully in charge of her own career and she refused to apologise for being exactly who she wanted to be – even if it didn’t fit with the typical ‘mainstream popstar’ image.
People started to relate to Gaga and her message, which was, in her own words: “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are”.
Lady Gaga and LGBT Rights
Gaga’s music quickly and easily established her as a bona fide ‘gay icon’. For myself, growing up as a teenager coming to terms with being gay, Gaga’s music resonated with me in a way that music never had before. With her song Born This Way including lyrics like “No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life”, Gaga was making being gay a celebrated part of identity.
In a more political stance, Gaga also released a song from the Born This Way album entitled ‘Americano’, which discussed Gaga falling in love with a woman “but not in court”. The song is a scathing retort to America’s views on same-sex marriage and immigration laws. In her own words, Gaga said “I am singing about immigration law and gay marriage and all sorts of things that have to do with disenfranchised communities in America”.
Gaga continued to be an advocate of gay rights outside of her music, making her voice heard on the matter. Being openly bisexual herself, there was something in Gaga supporting the LGBT community that made her feel that bit more genuine. You knew that when she spoke she spoke with passion, and this was something that she really cared about. She spoke at the 2009 National Equality March in Washington DC, calling it “the single most important event” of her career, and she was a leading activist for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’
Following on from the attack at gay night club Pulse in Orlando, which killed 49 people, she delivered a powerful speech during the Los Angeles vigil for the victims of the attack.
Providing a Voice for Survivors of Sexual Assault
During an appearance on the Howard Stern show in 2014, Gaga revealed that she had been raped at age 19, discussing the meaning behind her song ‘Swine’.
For me, someone who is a survivor of a sexual assault that happened at a very young age, this was a huge moment. To hear Gaga speak so openly and candidly about the things survivors suffer, from fear to disgust to anger, was a refreshing change from the ‘hush hush-ness’ that was present in mass media when it came to discussing sexual assault. I felt like she was my voice – I identified with everything she said and she was honest and unapologetic in her approach – her words helping me to realise that as a survivor I shouldn’t feel ashamed.
In 2015, Gaga co-wrote and released the song ‘Till It Happens To You’ for the documentary ‘The Hunting Ground’, which looked at the prevalence of sexual assault at University campuses in America. She performed the song at the 2016 Oscars, bringing out real survivors of sexual assault to provide a powerful visual representation of the song’s message:
After seeing the performance, like many others who saw it, I was extremely emotional. Gaga was out there, and she was showing that this was a real thing that affected people every day – and she was refusing to let us be ignored.
Being Open About Mental Health
Towards the end of 2016, Gaga wrote an open letter for her Born This Way foundation, telling her story of suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
She emphasised how important it was to not be ashamed of mental illness and that there is a road to recovery.
There is a lot of shame attached to mental illness, but it’s important that you know that there is hope and a chance for recovery.
Again, this was an example of Gaga speaking up about topics that are rarely discussed in the world of ‘celebrity’. With nearly everything in the entertainment columns being about fashion or weight or beauty, Gaga was using her voice to speak up for those who are rarely represented on such a platform.
Women’s Rights & Speaking Out Against Trump
In an interview in 2014, Gaga told the Times “I’m certainly a feminist. A feminist to me is somebody that wishes to protect the integrity of women who are ambitious.”
Her comments came in support of Kesha’s lawsuit against her Producer Dr. Luke for sexual, physical, emotional and verbal abuse. Gaga strongly supported Kesha, saying that she had had her own similar experiences as a female in the music industry.
I promise you that when women who are in the business that are young read this article, I hope [they understand] that you do not have to put up with that.
During the US election campaign, Gaga was also a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and encouraged people to stand up for kindness and equality in the fear of Donald Trump’s election.
Following Trump’s election, Gaga took to Trump Tower in protest, standing in front of the Tower on a large sanitation truck, with a sign saying ‘Love Trumps Hate’. Again, Gaga was using her visibility to stand up for those who weren’t able to have a voice on such a large scale. She represented the feelings of people across America and the rest of the world.
By next year, Lady Gaga will have been a household name for 10 years. With that ten years she hasn’t just become an exceptional talent, but also a strong, inspiring woman that people from a range of backgrounds and ethnicities can identify with.
Not only has she supported me, but thousands of others who don’t have access to the platform that they deserve to make their voices heard. She’s a genuine, relatable woman who isn’t afraid to speak about the stuff that isn’t ‘fun’ to talk about – and in my opinion this is what defines her as a role model.
Written by Holly Redman
Featured image courtesy of www.mundotkm.com