LGBT Icons: Lady Gaga

18 Sep
photo by Stephen Carlile

Lady Gaga

On March 28, 1986, Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in Manhattan, New York. Stefani was a precocious child with a proclivity for streaking as was often evidenced by her greeting her babysitters at the door in the nude. She was known for more than running around the house in the buff though, but nobody expected she was going to rise to the heights she has and become known as one of the most in demand entertainers on two continents and and LGBT icon.

Young Stefani immediately showed a knack for music as she was playing simple songs on the piano she learned by ear at about four years old. Her talent was was strong enough that she was accepted to the Julliard School in Manhattan, but she was instead enrolled at the Convent of the Sacred heart where both Paris and Nicky Hilton were also students. By the time she was thirteen she had composed her first ballad on the piano and demonstrated that she was not quite going to be a child that fit the typical mold. Although she was an excellent student and had already been tabbed by some as an artistic genius, her draw to the wild side was slowly working its way out into the open.

She was admitted to the Tisch School of Arts at New York University at seventeen making her a rare early admission as they had only bestowed this privilege on nineteen other students. Although her professors and instructors noted she was a strong composer and conceptual artist, none really believed she was ready for the big time when she dropped out after only one year.

When asked about dropping out she told Elle magazine “I thought I could teach myself about art better than the school could.” Stefani picked up a job as a waitress and spent some time dancing in burlesque bars on the lower East Side to pay the bills and as she intimated in a series of interviews to learn about how to work a crowd. When the sun went down her available nights were spent singing in some of the worst dive bars in the city, often only as a soloist with her keyboard.

Before long she adopted the name Lady Gaga – the Gaga coming form the Queen song “Radio Gaga.” She was signed by Def Jam Records, but released before anything of substance ever manifested. It didn’t take long to land another gig signing a writing contract with Interscope Records on her twentieth birthday. While under this initial deal she wrote for the New Kids on the Block reunion tour, but scored the most visibility writing for Fergie, Britney Spears, and the Pussycat Dolls whom many reviewers were constantly saying she absolutely blew away while opening for them.

She was given a chance to do some studio work and immediately the engineers knew there was some magic in the making. her sound was identified as being the type of stuff that would almost certainly become dance club staples, but getting her out to the public was not going to be as easy. Given that much of her material wasn’t necessarily tagged as radio friendly was a problem, but it wasn’t enough to stop Interscope from pushing forward.

Lady Gaga made her first splash in the gay clubs in the northeastern U.S. when “Just Dance” became an instant hit. A video for it was shot that was picked up by the Logo Network to run on Now Next Pop Lab and from there it took off. It wasn’t all quite as easy as that though.

Along the way Lady Gaga was transformed. Her natural brunette hair tossed in favor of platinum blond wigs with her signature hair bow. She always had a thing for blond wigs, but it wasn’t something she employed as a full-time part of her look until this point. Her mini traveling stage show was expanded to put the full range of her theatrics on display. The “Haus of Gaga” as the loose collection of friends Lady G clung to created new light shows, more outrageous outfits, and she went from dive bars, to upscale clubs, to opening on a moderately sized label tour almost overnight.

By 2009 Lady Gaga was not only on display, she was out as well. She admitted with little hesitation she was bisexual, which came as little shock to anyone that followed her career prior to the Fame Monster. What people seemed to notice more the insane outfits she wore like her homage to Kermit the Frog or her transparent bubble outfit she wore on the 6/11/09 cover of Rolling Stone.

Coming out never hurt Lady G when it came to her career, in fact some insiders believe if she hadn’t been embraced as readily as she was by the gay community she would still be writing songs for someone else waiting for her turn at the big time. The big time has been good to Lady G as she was nominated for five Grammy Awards including song album and record of the year and as of 2010 “Poker Face” hit #1 in almost 20 countries. She was voted the 2009 fashion icon, and she picked up her fifth #1 hit with “Bad Romance” with only two albums released. If that wasn’t enough the Haus of Gaga is negotiating for a new clothing to be released. She even performed for Queen Elizabeth II.

All the fame has yet to change who Lady Gaga is however as she attended the 2009 Human Rights Campaign Dinner and took part in the National Equality March the next day. When speaking at the march she stated “In the music industry there’s still a tremendous amount of accommodation of homophobia. […] So I’m taking a stand,”. She also stated in another interview: “The turning point for me was the gay community. I’ve got so many gay fans and they’re so loyal to me and they really lifted me up. They’ll always stand by me and I’ll always stand by them. It’s not an easy thing to create a fanbase.”

In the album liner for her album “The Fame” it states:

“I love you so much. You were the first heartbeat in this project, and your support and brilliance means the world to me. I will always fight for the gay community hand in hand with this incredible team.”, in reference to the New York based LGBT PR firm FlyLife.

Since then she has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show discussing her bisexuality, the gay community, and the oft overlooked meaning behind her song “Poker Face” which she states was written about her bisexuality and how men are often intimidated by her attraction to women. She also went on record as saying that of all she has done to this point, the most important event of her career was her attendance and speech at the National Equality march on Washington.

That is why Lady Gaga is and long will be an iconic figure to the LGBT community. To read about another woman in music, Joan Jett, that is also an LGBT icon, click here for her story in words and video.

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