One carefree night, a couple years back, my best friend and I took a car ride around our South Jersey town. She has the habit of blasting music out of her sports cars, but I will never forget her putting in Lady Gaga and our mutual satisfaction in both knowing the then fairly obscure pop singer. It was like our secret. That didn’t last very long.
Lady Gaga, born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, has become an international pop superstar. At age 24, she is constantly in the media spotlight and insanely successful, as of May she has sold over 15 million albums and over 40 million singles worldwide including her first release the Fame and second the Fame Monster. In early 2009 her first headlining tour was called The Fame Ball Tour, and her second sold out tour known as the Monster Ball Tour. In case you aren’t in on her cultural powerhouse she has her own creative production team called the Haus of Gaga. Time In May, included Gaga in its Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. In case you’re not in on her influence, she’s creating waves, whether it is on , in universities and academia, or with her loyal fans she has donned her ‘Little Monsters’.
Gaga is not only arguably the most influential international pop superstar right now, but she’s also a rising gay icon. She just won the outstanding music artist award at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Awards in San Francisco. She has attributed her early success to gay fans and although she had difficulty initially achieving radio airplay she commented to MTV "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. ... Being invited to play [the San Francisco Pride rally], that was a real turning point for me as an artist." She also added "it's funny because some friends of mine from New York, they all came out to see [last weekend's] show in New York. And they all said to me, 'Gaga your fans are all of the misfits. They are all of the kids in school that everybody makes fun of,' " she explained. "All of the weird kids, the artistic kids, all the bad ones. And I love that, because that's who I was. We're all together and they get it. It's our own little world.”
After ‘Poker Face’ came out Lady Gaga revealed that it was about her bisexuality. Gaga also revealed the October 11, 2009 National Equality March rally on the national mall was "the single most important event of her career." She exited proclaimimg “Bless God and bless the gays”, echoing her speech at the MTV Video Music Awards for Best New Artist the month before. Lady Gaga’s third video from The Fame Monster, Alejandro, she told Larry King is about her “love of the gay community”. The director, fashion-photographer Stephen Klein, inspired Gaga to put up a countdown clock on her website flashing "GAGA, KLEIN, ALEJANDRO" and her dedicated Twitter followers to try to get #GAGAKLEIN trending. During a recent night out with TimeOnline.co.uk’s Caitlin Moran, Lady Gaga explained “her video is about the “purity of my friendships with my gay friends. And how I’ve been unable to find that with a straight man in my life. It’s a celebration and an admiration of gay love – it confesses my envy of the courage and bravery they require to be together. In the video I’m pining for the love of my gay friends – but they just don’t want me.”
The video is reportedly 7 minutes long, with three actors casted to play ‘Alejandro’ (German actor Jordan Brower), ‘Fernando’, and ‘Roberto’, and with a burial and resurrection scene. On June 1st, a 19-second clip was shown on Larry King Live showing Gaga in black stilettos dancing alone alternating with half naked men marching in a military fashion (which is meant to be a gay military movement). She is also shown in bed with an aggressive man and in a latex gown circled by men. There is also a teaser of a woman (presumably Gaga) lying on the bed with a white headdress on and black ovals covering her eyes and mouth. On June 3rd, a 21-second clip, mostly the same scenes slowed and in different sequence, was shown. The video will be shown on Gaga’s official page, Vevo, and9am pacific time.
Certaintly Gaga’s fans, her ‘little monsters’ which she proudly displays a tattoo of on her arm, are counting down the hours with her. I researched my information about the Alejandro video over at Gagapedia, a collaborative wiki about Gaga whose mission is to “create the most definitive, accurate, and accessible encyclopedia and reference about her”. It’s welcoming message jumps out to you on the home page—called a “Manifesto of Little Monster” which was a video shown at an interlude at her concert at the “Monster Ball”. It reads:
“This is the manifesto of little monster. There’s something heroic about the way my fans operate their cameras. So precisely, so intricately, and so proudly. Like kings writing the history of their people. It’s their prolific nature that both creates and procures what will later be perceived as ‘the kingdom.’ So, the real truth about Lady Gaga fans, my little monsters, lies in this sentiment: They are the kings. They are the queens. They write the history of the kingdom, and I am something of a devoted jester. It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond, or the lie I should say, for which we kill. We are nothing without our image, without our projection, without the spiritual hologram of who we perceive ourselves to be, or rather to become, in the future. When you’re lonely, I’ll be lonely too. And this is ‘the fame.’ Love and art, 12/18/1974, Lady Gaga.”
A collection of scholarly works are being done over at Gaga Stigmata, started by doctoral student Meghan Vicks and poet and performer Kate Durbin bringing together their distillations of Gaga videos, original artwork, and guest essays. Kathryn Leedom’s “Grab Your Old Girl With Her New Tricks”: Lady Gaga and Reflective Performance” analyzes the manifesto video.
“The ideas about perception and projection in this video, in which Gaga reads the text over images of herself dressed in various masks, provide a solid basis for what is referred to in this paper as reflective performance: an aspect of Gaga’s projection in which she functions as a mirror for consumer culture and her audience. She performs this mirroring through her fashion and her music. In terms of fashion, Gaga will occasionally dress in accordance with a specific person for whom she is performing; for example, when she sang forof England during the 2009 Royal Variety Performance, she wore a dress reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth I. There are several other instances of Gaga using fashion and her body as a mirror, including the outfit she wore to meet for a televised interview titled “The Ten Most Fascinating People of 2009,” her mirroring of ’s dress and dance moves in the video for Beyonce’s “Video Phone,” in her mimicking of ’s publically-established cuteness, and in taking pictures of the paparazzi as they take pictures of her. Most recently, on June 1st, 2010 Gaga appeared on “Larry King Live” for an interview dressed in attire reminiscent of Larry King himself -- even her posture and hand gestures echoed his.
The sound and content of her music also plays a role in reflective performance. Scott Plagenhoef writes in a review of The Fame Monster, “Elsewhere on The Fame Monster, she morphs into other stars--on ‘Speechless’, on ‘Alejandro’, on ‘Dance in the Dark’, on ‘Telephone’, Kylie Minogue on ‘Monster’, and Christina Aguilera on ‘Teeth’” (Plagenhoef 1). Considering the reflective aspects of her fashion and music combined, a certain paradox begins to emerge in which Lady Gaga is extremely unique and yet reminiscent of many various people.
Lady Gaga also mirrors the love her fans give to her back to them, and the community that they form is something she is set on cultivating. Powers, in her interview, writes of Lady Gaga, “She is growing ‘more compassionate,’ she says, and focusing more on ideas of community, especially the one formed by her core fan base . . . ”(Powers 1). Lady Gaga also said in an interview with Jonathan Ross, “In the show, I look out into the audience and at the end of the night I say, ‘If the show was successful, they don’t leave connected to me, they leave connected to each other.’” The message this sends is similar to the one Lady Gaga embodies herself: everyone is unique, yet similar enough to form a giant community. Getting past obsessions with individual uniqueness allows the fan base to unify and recognize their power in numbers. In creating a congregation, Gaga makes something larger than herself. The feeling of power and almost transcendence that accompanies the harmony of the community tightens the bond this population has to its subject: Gaga. Mirroring her fan’s love has the benefit of securing her position in fame, while also playing into her larger performance theme of reflection.”
Lady Gaga’s harmonious community, and tight knit at that, form bonds over Twitter and gush over every detail on their websites. I contacted several fans and sites like GaGanews.com (@gaganewsdotcom) and GagaDaily.com (@gagadaily). So far none have responded.
However, one fan and friend, 23-year old New Jersey native and stylist, Simona Boccuto recently paid homage to Gaga by dying her dark locks blonde for the first time.
“I think she’s brilliant!” says Boccuto, quoting her popular feminist take on things in Cosmo—“some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you're wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn't love you anymore. "
Other peers of Gaga like 24-year-old Maxx Wessel of Orlando, Florida explain, “I agree with M.I.A. Gaga’s not as cool and weird as she thinks she is. Its all an act from a formally normal art major. She poses because it sells records.” 25-year-old Stephanie Fredericks adds “she's overrated, she'd be cooler if her hair wasn't blonde.”
The Sri Lanken underground pop sensation M.I.A. recently said in NME “Again, there’s Lady Gaga — people say we’re similar, that we both mix all these things in the pot and spit them out differently, but she spits it out exactly the same! None of her music’s reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is. She models herself on Grace Jones and Madonna, but the music sounds like 20-year-old Ibiza music, you know? She’s not progressive, but she’s a good mimic. She sounds more like me than I f—ing do! That’s a talent and she’s got a great team behind her, but she’s the industry last’s stab at making itself important — saying, ‘You need our money behind you, the endorsements, the stadiums’ Respect to her, she’s keeping a hundred thousand people in work, but my belief is: Do It Yourself.”
What’s your belief? Is Lady Gaga doing it herself with her Haus of Gaga and team of ‘little monsters’ or is she just a poser?