Where was the Star Born?
By Alexa Silverman
Since the turn of the 21st century, Lady Gaga has been an undeniably renowned popular culture icon. She is a shapeshifter; capable of pulling off both avant-garde and street fashion and experienced in both singing and acting. She skillfully navigates the pop, jazz, and even country genre. She is real-life royalty: a superstar.
Lady Gaga is an iconic figure defined not only by her catchy pop anthems but also by her raunchy red carpet eye candy. Some of the most dazzling Lady Gaga looks include a dress made of bubbles, her 2013 Christmas tree garb, the Artpop-era Venus mermaid look, an inflatable silver spiked dress, her arrival at the 2011 Grammys inside an egg, and her elegant 2016 Oscars white pantsuit—not to mention the Meat Dress, which singlehandedly defined 2010.
Aside from international stardom, however, Germanotta’s story reflects that of a Barnard woman: it is the story of an incredibly ambitious, talented young woman striving to reach her personal definition of success.
Lady Gaga is a New York girl, through and through. Born in Yonkers, Germanotta began playing piano at a very young age. She spent her high school years at Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan (Upper West Side, baby!) and attended Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. According to an NYU article, she withdrew after her freshman year to focus on developing her music career. Soon after, a star was born in the New York City club scene, and Germanotta became “Lady Gaga”—named after the Queen song “Radio Ga-Ga”—and first performing in a burlesque show. After writing songs for artists such as Britney Spears and the Pussycat Dolls, Akon discovered and signed Lady Gaga to his label Interscope Records in 2007.
Amidst the early-2000s trends of low-rise jean skirts and tiny sunglasses, Lady Gaga burst onto the music scene with her first album, The Fame (2008). Iconic tracks such as “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” and “Paparazzi” still linger on popular Spotify throwback playlists today. During the three years following her debut, Lady Gaga released two successful albums: The Fame Monster (2009) and Born This Way (2011). 2013’s Artpop, an edgy EDM/synth-pop masterpiece, and 2014’s Cheek to Cheek, a jazzy collaboration with Tony Bennett followed, bringing her musical career total to five studio albums, six Grammys, seven Billboard Music awards, and 13 MTV Music Video awards by 2015 (As a note, Lady Gaga has won 249 awards from her 549 nominations, but who’s counting anyway?).
2016 marked a turn in Gaga’s career. Not only did she release Joanne, an album criticized for dipping into country territory, but she also stunned fans with her acting debut as the Countess in American Horror Story: Hotel. A Star is Born, Gaga’s recent feature film debut, is simply the crown jewel in a longstanding career of performance and artistry.
As a female superstar who uses her celebrated talents to drive goodness into the world, Lady Gaga’s exquisite ensembles are only part of her allure. Throughout her decade of public performance, Gaga has embraced her role as an advocate for and guardian of marginalized communities, specifically the LGBTQ+: “Born This Way” is a revolutionary anthem of pride, acceptance, and self-love (Gaga herself is bisexual!). In 2011, she and her mother established the Born This Way Foundation, which is dedicated to mediating bullying and ensuring safe spaces for international youth.
Stefani Germanotta is a philanthropist, activist, singer, songwriter, actress, performer, and artist. Not many can say the same. In roughly a decade, her impact transformed how music and art intersect with political advocacy. She is a portrait of strength and success and a role model for the ages.