Born into a Catholic family in New York City on March 28, 1986, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is known today as Lady Gaga, one of the world’s preeminent pop music performers. Raised in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, this musical prodigy learned to play the piano by the age of 4 and was accepted to the prestigious Juilliard School at age 11, but opted instead to attend a private Catholic school. She continued to study music and perform throughout her teens, and then attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for one year before dropping out in 2005. At that time, Gaga began a brief stint under contract with Def Jam Records, and in 2007 she signed on as a songwriter with Interscope Records. In 2008 she released her debut album, The Fame, which was followed by The Fame Monster (2009), Born This Way (2011), Artpop (2013), and Cheek to Cheek (2014, with Tony Bennett). For additional information on Gaga’s career in the entertainment industry, click here and here.
Aside from her music, Gaga—a self-identified bisexual—is widely known as an outspoken activist for LGBT rights. She called her appearance at the October 11, 2009 National Equality March in Washington, D.C. “the single most important event of my career,” finishing her address with the words: “Bless God, and bless the gays.”
In September 2010, Gaga denounced the U.S. military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuals in the military as “wrong,” “unjust,” and “fundamentally … against all that we stand for as Americans.” Dismissing the opinions of “the Pentagon and senators such as John McCain,” who had claimed that openly gay soldiers would disrupt the cohesion and morale of the majority, Gaga said that such arguments were rooted in the unacceptable premise that “it’s OK to discriminate or discharge gay soldiers because we are homophobic, we are uncomfortable, and we do not agree with homosexuality.” “Wasn’t that the defense of Matthew Shepard’s murderers?” she asked rhetorically, citing the victim of a horrific 1998 homicide that gained national publicity as an alleged hate crime against a homosexual. (Evidence subsequently showed that Shepard was not killed because of his sexual orientation, but in fact was killed by two drug-crazed acquaintances—one of whom may have been his gay lover—in a dispute over money and narcotics.)
In June 2011 in Rome, Italy, Gaga appeared at Europride, an international event dedicated to celebrating LGBT lifestyles, and she hailed those in attendance as “revolutionaries of love.”
When Gaga, waving a rainbow flag, sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at a New York City gay-pride rally in the summer of 2013, she changed the last line of the song to: “Oh, say does that star-spangled flag of pride yet wave, o’er the land of the free, and a home for the gays.”
Gaga has not confined her outspokenness to matters of sexuality and gender. In 2010, for instance, she forcefully denounced Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, SB 1070, which deputized state police to check with federal authorities on the immigration status of criminal suspects. The slogan “Stop SB 1070” was displayed prominently on Gaga’s forearm during her July 31 concert in Arizona, where she told the audience about her recent encounter with a local boy “who is suffering” because “his house was raided because of a parking ticket or something.” “They [immigration authorities] took his brother,” Gaga continued, “and now he is in Mexico…. It’s really [unfair], and it’s really disgusting. I think it’s important that people understand that it’s a state of emergency for this place and this state.” “I’ll tell you what we have to do about SB 1070,” she thundered. “We have to be active. We have to protest…. I will yell and I will scream louder and I will hold you, and we will hold each other, and we will peaceably protest this state. Because if it wasn’t for all you immigrants, this country wouldn’t have shit.”
Gaga also casts herself as someone who is deeply committed to the tenets of left-wing environmentalism, as evidenced when she donned a “Climate Revolution” t-shirt while strolling the streets of London in September 2012. But two years later in California, amidst one of the worst droughts in the history of that state, Gaga, for the sake of a music video (featuring synchronized swimmers) that she wished to shoot, filled the famous Neptune Pool at the Hearst Castle with 365,000 gallons of water.
At the California home of Facebook chief operating officer Cheryl Sandberg in September 2011, Gaga attended a $35,800-per-person political fundraiser for President Barack Obama‘s re-election campaign. On January 22, 2013, she performed at the White House Staff Ball celebrating the victorious Obama’s second inauguration. And she showed her devotion to Obama yet again in early October 2013, when she issued tweets in support of Obamacare and its long-anticipated rollout, which would ultimately prove to be a model of bureaucratic ineptitude.
In 2014 Gaga became an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church—where ordination is a mail-order process that indiscriminately accepts any and all applicants—so that she could perform a wedding ceremony for two of her longtime lesbian friends who wished to get married.
On March 7, 2015, Gaga and the rapper R. Kelly performed together in Selma, Alabama, after President Obama had delivered a speech to mark the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery civil-rights march.
In June 2015, Gaga and Tony Bennett performed together at a New York City fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s newly announced presidential campaign. When Gaga met Mrs. Clinton for the first time, the singer sported a “Yaaas Hillary” t-shirt.
After Hillary Clinton’s election loss to Donald Trump in November 2016, Gaga promoted a petition exhorting Electoral College voters to defy the will of their state and vote for Mrs. Clinton anyway. “If you feel scared about the current state of American politics and Whitehouse sign this petition,” she wrote to her 64 million Twitter followers. Describing President-Elect Trump as “unfit to serve,” the petition read, in part: “On December 19, the Electors of the Electoral College will cast their ballots. If they all vote the way their states voted, Donald Trump will win. We are calling on the Electors to ignore their states’ votes and cast their ballots for Secretary Clinton.” “Secretary Clinton WON THE POPULAR VOTE and should be President,” the petition added. “Hillary won the popular vote. The only reason Trump ‘won’ is because of the Electoral College.”
In October 2018, Gaga spoke out against an announcement that President Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services was considering a plan to terminate the Obama Administration’s practice of expanding the definition of gender for federal programs, and to institute new language indicating that there are only two genders — male and female — based on biology. If the new language were to be adopted, for example, it would direct the Department of Justice to apply sexual discrimination charges only to incidents based on biological gender, rather than those based on transgender status. On her Twitter feed, Gaga stated that that President Trump was “living in an alternate universe” and was being “driven by ignorance” on gender issues.
In a November 2018 interview with Variety magazine, Gaga said that the Senate’s confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — who had been accused, without evidence, of having sexually molested Christine Blasey Ford at a party 36 years earlier when both were teenagers — sent a terrible message to all female survivors of sexual assault. “We are living in a time where there’s so much conversation about women’s voices being heard,” she said. “Men listening to those voices. And also, men not listening to those voices. Women being silenced in very public ways, like Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford with Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh being appointed is basically like telling every single woman in the country that’s been assaulted, ‘We don’t care. Or we don’t believe you.’”
In January 2019, Gaga referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a “disgrace,” saying: “There are people who live paycheck to paycheck and need their money. And to Mike Pence, who thinks its acceptable that his wife worked at a school that bans LGBTQ, you are wrong. You said we should not discriminate against Christianity. You are the worst representation of what it means to be a Christian. I am a Christian woman, and what I do know about Christianity is that we bear no prejudice and everybody is welcome. So you can take all that disgrace, Mr. Pence and you can look yourself in the mirror and you’ll find it right there.”
In a January 2020 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Gaga said: “I was raped repeatedly when I was 19 years old, and I also developed PTSD as a result of being raped and also not processing that trauma.” “I all of a sudden became a star and was traveling the world going from hotel room to garage to limo to stage,” she added, “and I never dealt with it, and then all of a sudden I started to experience this incredible intense pain throughout my entire body that mimicked the illness I felt after I was raped.”
In April 2020, Gaga applauded World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, after President Trump announced that the U.S. would withhold all funding to the WHO while conducting a 60-to-90 day investigation of the Organization’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “Dr. Tedros, you’re truly a superstar,” said the singer. “Thank you so much to the media for telling the stories of all of these medical professionals and getting the word out about how under-resourced their systems are.”
In June 2020, Gaga used her virtual high-school commencement speech, titled “Dear Class of 2020,” to reflect on the protests and riots that had swept the nation since the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who had died on May 25 after having been physically abused by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Said Gaga:
“You are watching what is a pivotal moment in this country’s evolution. You are watching society change in a deeply important way. This change will be slow, and we will have to be patient. But change will happen and it will be for the better.
“I think about a broad forest filled densely with tall trees. Trees as old as this country itself. Trees that were planted with racist seeds. Trees that grew prejudice branches and oppressive leaves and mangled roots that buried and entrenched themselves deep within the soil, forming a web so well developed and so entangled that push back when we try to look clearly at how it really works. This forest is where we live, it’s who we are. It’s the moral and value system that we as a society have upheld and emboldened for centuries. I make this analogue between racism and nature in this country because it’s as pervasive and real as nature. It is some part of everything the light touches. All of us are being invited to challenge that system and think about how to affect real change.”
Lady Gaga’s Wealth
Further Reading: “Lady Gaga” (Biography.com).