Photo: SMP Entertainment / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)
Full name: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
Born: March 28, 1986
Age: 33 years
Born Place: Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, United States
- Record producer
Net Worth: US $275 million (Feb 2016)
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986), known professionally as Lady Gaga, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, actress, and businesswoman. She is known for reinventing herself throughout her career and for her versatility in numerous areas of the entertainment industry. 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 music career. When Def Jam Recordings canceled her contract, she worked as a songwriter for Sony/ATV Music Publishing, where Akon helped her sign a joint deal with Interscope Records and his own 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 a million downloads in less than a week. Following her EDM-influenced third album Artpop (2013), which yielded the single “Applause”, Gaga transcended 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). During this period, 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). She also contributed to the latter’s soundtrack, which spawned the chart-topping single “Shallow”, and 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 featured 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’s 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. She is known for her philanthropy and social activism, including her work related to mental health awareness and LGBT rights. Gaga founded her nonprofit organization, the Born This Way Foundation, which focuses on empowering youth, improving mental health, and preventing bullying.
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. She withdrew from school during the second semester of her sophomore year, in 2005, 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.
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.
Gaga has won 11 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, three Brit Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, thirteen 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 best-selling music artists with estimated sales of 124 million records as of 2014. Some of her singles are also among the best-selling worldwide. She has grossed more than $512.3 million in revenue from her 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 6th top digital singles artist in the US with a total of 77 million equivalent units certified according to Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). She became the first woman to receive the Digital Diamond Award certification from RIAA, is one of three artists with at least two Diamond certified songs (“Bad Romance” and “Poker Face”), and is the first and only artist to have two songs pass 7 million downloads (“Poker Face” and “Just Dance”).
- The Fame (2008) (reissued in 2009 as The Fame Monster)
- Born This Way (2011)
- Artpop (2013)
- Cheek to Cheek (with Tony Bennett) (2014)
- Joanne (2016)
- Chromatica (2020)