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Lady Gaga

Biography

Lady Gaga
Mariano Vivanco

At a time when mainstream pop was getting dangerously bland, Lady Gaga came charging to the rescue. Here was a New York art diva who knew how to make a spectacle of herself, refusing to wear pants and storming the Top 40 with the battle cry "This beat is sick/ I wanna take a ride on a disco stick!" Gaga revels in show-biz excess with enough self-parodying flamboyance to make Kanye West seem like the shy type, while she tours the world in one eye-popping outfit after another. As she explained to Rolling Stone, "I feel freer in underwear, and I fucking hate pants." Bland she isn't.

Although Gaga broke out of the underground gay club scene, experimenting with electro beats and avant-garde fashion, she has quickly become one of the world's biggest pop stars. She seemed to arrive on the scene as a fully formed performer, like one of Bette Mider's Harlettes crossed with Madonna circa "Truth or Dare." But in reality, she was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in 1986 and spent her childhood in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She trained with Christina Aguilera's vocal coach, learned classical piano, and studied her father's classic rock albums. She joined a band her freshman year at an upscale New York prep school, doing covers of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin oldies.

At New York University's Lady Gaga, she became obsessed with glam rock artists like Queen and Elton John. She worked the downtown cabaret clubs as a singer-pianist, and began developing the visual side of her act during early shows with New York scenester Lady Starlight.

Though her singer-songwriter material earned her a deal with Island Def Jam, she grew bored with her own sound and began writing dancier pop songs. The switch cost her the record deal, but ultimately brought her to producer RedOne, who worked on many of the songs that became The Fame. Another one of her earliest collaborators, producer Rob Fusari, officially turned Stefani into Lady Gaga when he sang Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" in response to hearing some of her glam-influenced harmonies.

Fusari also led Lady Gaga to a songwriting job for an imprint of Interscope Records, and she contributed to the New Kids on the Block's comeback album before Akon signed her to his own label. She spent 2007 recording The Fame (Number Four, 2009), which generated the Number One singles "Just Dance" (Number One) and "Poker Face" — which Gaga used to reveal her bisexuality, announcing the lyrics described dreaming of being with a woman while in bed with a man. "LoveGame" hit Number Five, and "Paparazzi" (Number Six) became known for its provocative video, which added to Gaga's reputation for glitzy visuals. Not surprisingly, she has cited Andy Warhol as a key influence.

Her outrageous live performances won her a hardcore gay following, and she often says she relates to her misfit fans — dubbed her "little monsters — because she felt like a freak growing up. She appeared at the National Equality March in October 2009 in support of the gay community, performing John Lennon's "Imagine" and declaring, "Bless God and bless the gays."

A joint tour with Kanye West called "Fame Kills" was announced but cancelled after West's public meltdown at the 2009 Video Music Awards. Gaga instead set off on her solo trek, dubbed the Monster Ball, which featured elaborate stage sets and costumes designed by her Haus of Gaga team.

In November 2009, she reissued The Fame along with an eight-song EP of new tracks called The Fame Monster, explaining that she'd been grappling with different kinds of demons and fears as her profile grew. The record's "Bad Romance" hit Number Two and spawned another beloved video featuring Gaga and her backup dancers turning their hands into a contorted monster claw, which became one of her signatures. "Telephone" includes a guest spot from Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga returned the favor, singing on a remix of I Am ... Sasha Fierce's "Video Phone."

In January 2010, Lady Gaga teamed up with Elton John to open the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, performing her own "Poker Face" before settling in at a piano and dueling with Sir Elton on "Speechless" and his "Your Song." She won two awards at the ceremony, for Best Dance Recording ("Poker Face") and Best Electronic/Dance Album. Her next move is anyone's guess —trying to predict her future would be as futile as trying to read her poker face.

Lady Gaga arrived as a perfectly formed 21st-century star in the late 2000s, a highly self-aware diva riding shiny electro-beats and sporting some of the most entertaining (and strange) outfits in all of pop culture.

Though she'd later say she has "always been Gaga," she was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in 1986 and spent her childhood in the comfortable Upper West Side of Manhattan. She trained with Christina Aguilera's vocal coach, learned classical piano, and adopted her father's classic-rock tastes, joining a cover band her freshman year at an upscale New York prep school.

Her interest in glam rock grew in college, and she cited Queen and Elton John as influences when she reached New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Lady Gaga worked the downtown cabaret clubs as a singer-pianist, and began developing the visual side of her act during early shows with New York scenster Lady Starlight.

Though her singer-songwriter material helped her land an early record deal with Island Def Jam, she grew bored with her own sound and began writing dancier pop songs. The switch cost her the record deal, but ultimately brought her to producer RedOne, who worked on many of the songs that became The Fame. Another one of her earliest collaborators, producer Rob Fusari, officially turned Stefani into Lady Gaga when he sang Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" in response to hearing some of her glam-influenced harmonies.

Fusari also led Lady Gaga to a songwriting job for an imprint of Interscope Records, and she contributed to the New Kids on the Block's comeback album before Akon signed her to his own label. She spent much of 2007 recording The Fame (Number Four, 2009), which generated the Number One singles "Just Dance" (Number One) and "Poker Face" — which Gaga used to reveal her bisexuality, announcing the lyrics described dreaming of being with a woman while in bed with a man. "LoveGame" hit Number Five, and "Paparazzi" (Number Six) became known for its lengthy, cinematic video, which solidified Gaga's dedication to accompanying every performance and song with striking, provoking visuals.

Her flamboyant live performances won her early supporters in the gay community, and she often says she relates to her misfit fans — dubbed her "little monsters — because she felt like a freak growing up. Lady Gaga's shows and public appearances are all marked by her elaborate fashions, which have drawn comparisons to Grace Jones and Madonna. (She also cites Andy Warhol as a large influence.)

A joint tour with Kanye West called "Fame Kills" was announced and then nixed following West's controversial stage-crashing incident at the 2009 Video Music Awards. Gaga instead set off on her trek, dubbed the Monster Ball, which featured elaborate stage sets and costumes designed by her Haus of Gaga team.

In November 2009, she reissued The Fame along with an eight-song EP of new tracks called The Fame Monster, explaining that she'd been grappling with different kinds of demons and fears as her profile grew. The record's "Bad Romance" hit Number Two and spawned another beloved video featuring Gaga and her backup dancers turning their hands into a contorted monster claw, which became one of her signatures. "Telephone" includes a guest spot from Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga returned the favor, singing on a remix of I Am ... Sasha Fierce's "Video Phone."

In January 2010, Lady Gaga teamed up with Elton John to open the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, performing her own "Poker Face" before settling in at a piano and dueling with Sir Elton on "Speechless" and his "Your Song." She won two awards at the ceremony, for Best Dance Recording ("Poker Face") and Best Electronic/Dance Album.

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