Life and career
1986–2005: Early life
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born on March 28, 1986, at the Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York City, to a Catholic family with Italian and French Canadian roots. Her parents are Cynthia Louise (née Bissett) and Internet entrepreneur Joseph Germanotta, and she has a younger sister, Natali. Brought up in the affluent Upper West Side of Manhattan, she says 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 academic life in high school as "very dedicated, very studious, very disciplined" but also "a bit insecure". She considered herself a misfit among her peers and was mocked for "being either too provocative or too eccentric".
Gaga began to play the piano at the age of four when her mother insisted she become "a cultured young woman", taking lessons and practicing the instrument throughout her childhood. The lessons taught her to create music by ear, which she preferred over reading sheet music and practiced professionally. Her parents encouraged her to pursue music, and enrolled her in Creative Arts Camp. As a teenager, she played at open mic nights. At her high school, Gaga played the lead roles of Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. She also studied method acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute for ten years. Gaga unsuccessfully auditioned for New York shows, though appeared 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 (CAP21)—a music school at New York University (NYU)'s Tisch School of the Arts—and lived in an NYU dorm. At NYU, she studied music 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. During the second semester of her sophomore year in 2005, she withdrew to focus on her music career. The same year, she played an unsuspecting diner customer for MTV's Boiling Points, a prank reality television show.
In 2014, Gaga said she had been raped at the age of 19, for which she 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.
2005–2007: Career beginnings
In 2005, Gaga recorded two songs with hip-hop singer Grandmaster Melle Mel for an audio book accompanying Cricket Casey's children's novel The Portal in the Park. She also formed a band called the SGBand with some friends from NYU. The band played at gigs around New York, becoming a fixture of the downtown Lower East Side club scene. After the 2006 Songwriters Hall of Fame New Songwriters Showcase at The Cutting Room in June, Gaga was recommended to music producer Rob Fusari by talent scout Wendy Starland. Fusari collaborated with Gaga, who traveled daily to New Jersey, helping to develop her songs and compose new material. The producer said they began dating in May 2006, and claimed to have been the first person to call her "Lady Gaga", which was derived from Queen's song "Radio Ga Ga". Their relationship lasted until January 2007.
Fusari and Gaga established a company called Team Lovechild, LLC to promote her career. They recorded and produced electropop tracks, sending them to music industry executives. Joshua Sarubin, the head of Artists and repertoire (A&R) at Def Jam Recordings, responded positively and, after approval from Sarubin's boss Antonio "L.A." Reid, Gaga was signed to Def Jam in September 2006. She was dropped from the label three months later and returned to her family home for Christmas. She began performing at neo-burlesque shows, which according to her represented freedom. During this time, she met performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped mold her onstage persona. The pair began performing at downtown club venues like the Mercury Lounge, The Bitter End, and the Rockwood Music Hall. Their live performance art piece, known as "Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue" and billed as "The Ultimate Pop Burlesque Rockshow", was a tribute to 1970s variety acts. They performed at the 2007 Lollapalooza music festival.
Having initially focused on avant-garde electronic dance music, Gaga began to incorporate pop melodies and the glam rock style of David Bowie and Queen into her songs. While Gaga and Starlight were performing, Fusari continued to develop the songs he had created with her, sending them to the producer and record executive Vincent Herbert. In November 2007, Herbert signed Gaga to his label Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records, established that month. Gaga later credited Herbert as the man who discovered her. Having served as an apprentice songwriter during an internship at Famous Music Publishing, Gaga struck a music publishing deal with Sony/ATV. As a result, she was hired to write songs for Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, Fergie, and The Pussycat Dolls. At Interscope, musician Akon was impressed with her singing abilities when she sang a reference vocal for one of his tracks in studio. Akon convinced Jimmy Iovine, chairman and CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M, to form a joint deal by having Gaga also sign with his own label KonLive, making her his "franchise player".
In late 2007, Gaga met with songwriter and producer RedOne. She collaborated with him in the recording studio for a week on her debut album, signing with Cherrytree Records, an Interscope imprint established by producer and songwriter Martin Kierszenbaum; she also wrote four songs with Kierszenbaum. Despite securing a record deal, she said that some radio stations found her music too "racy", "dance-oriented", and "underground" for the mainstream market. She stated: "My name is Lady Gaga, I've been on the music scene for years, and I'm telling you, this is what's next."
2008–2010: Breakthrough with The Fame and The Fame Monster
By 2008, Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles to work extensively with her record label to complete her debut album, The Fame, and to set up her own creative team called the Haus of Gaga, modeled on Andy Warhol's Factory. The Fame was released on August 19, 2008, reaching number one in Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and the UK and appearing in the top five in Australia and the US. Its first two singles, "Just Dance" and "Poker Face", reached number one in the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The latter was also the world's best-selling single of 2009—with 9.8 million copies sold that year—and spent a record 83 weeks on Billboard magazine's Digital Songs chart. Three other singles, "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)", "LoveGame", and "Paparazzi", were released from the album; the last one reaching number one in Germany. Remixed versions of the singles from The Fame except "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)" were included in Hitmixes in August 2009. At the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, The Fame and "Poker Face" won Best Dance/Electronica Album and Best Dance Recording, respectively.
Following her opening act on The Pussycat Dolls' 2009 Doll Domination Tour in Europe and Oceania, Gaga headlined her worldwide The Fame Ball Tour, which ran from March to September 2009. While traveling the globe, she wrote eight songs for The Fame Monster, a reissue of The Fame. Those new songs were also released as a standalone EP on November 18, 2009. Its first single, "Bad Romance", was released one month earlier and went number one in Canada and the UK, while reaching number two in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. "Telephone", with Beyoncé, followed as the second single from the EP and became Gaga's fourth UK number one. Its third single was "Alejandro", which reached number one in Finland and attracted controversy when its music video was deemed blasphemous by the Catholic League. Both tracks also reached the top five in the US. The video for "Bad Romance" became the most watched on YouTube in April 2010, and Gaga became the first person with more than one billion combined views the following October. At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, Gaga won 8 awards from 13 nominations, including Video of the Year for "Bad Romance". She became the most nominated artist for a single year, and the first female to receive two nominations for Video of the Year at the same ceremony. The Fame Monster won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album, and "Bad Romance" won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Music Video at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.
In 2009, Gaga spent a record 150 weeks on the UK Singles Chart and became the most downloaded female act in a year in the US, with 11.1 million music downloads sold—earning an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Fame and The Fame Monster together have since sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. This success allowed Gaga to start her second worldwide concert tour, The Monster Ball Tour, and release The Remix—her final record with Cherrytree Records and among the best-selling remix albums of all time. The Monster Ball Tour ran from November 2009 to May 2011 and grossed $227.4 million, making it the highest-grossing concert tour for a debut headlining artist. Concerts performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City were filmed for an HBO television special titled Lady Gaga Presents the Monster Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden. Gaga also performed songs from her albums at the 2009 Royal Variety Performance, the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, and the 2010 BRIT Awards. Before Michael Jackson's death, Gaga was set to take part in his canceled This Is It concert series at the O2 Arena in the UK.
During this era, Gaga ventured into business, collaborating with consumer electronics company Monster Cable Products to create in-ear, jewel-encrusted, headphones called Heartbeats by Lady Gaga. Gaga also partnered with Polaroid in January 2010 as their Creative Director and announced a suite of photo capturing products called Grey Label. Her collaboration with past record producer and ex-boyfriend Rob Fusari led to her production team, Mermaid Music LLC, to be sued.[b] At this time, Gaga was tested borderline positive for lupus, but claimed not to be affected by the symptoms and hoped to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
2011–2014: Born This Way, Artpop, and Cheek to Cheek
In February 2011, Gaga released "Born This Way", the lead single from her studio album of the same name. The song sold more than one million copies within five days, earning the Guinness World Record for the fastest selling single on iTunes. It debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the 1,000th number-one single in the history of the charts. Its second single "Judas" followed two months later, and "The Edge of Glory" served as its third single. Both reached the top ten in the US and the UK. Her music video for "The Edge of Glory", unlike her previous work, portrays her dancing on a fire escape and walking on a lonely street, without intricate choreography and back-up dancers.
Gaga promoting Born This Way
with performances in Sydney, Australia
Born This Way was released on May 23, 2011, and debuted atop the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.1 million copies. The album sold eight million copies worldwide and received three Grammy nominations, including Gaga's third consecutive nomination for Album of the Year. Born This Way's following singles were "You and I" and "Marry the Night", which reached numbers 6 and 29 in the US, respectively. While filming the former's music video, Gaga met and started dating actor Taylor Kinney in July 2011, who played her love interest. She also embarked on the Born This Way Ball tour in April 2012, which was scheduled to conclude the following March, but ended one month earlier when Gaga canceled the remaining dates due to a labral tear of her right hip that required surgery. While refunds for the cancellations were estimated to be worth $25 million, the tour grossed a total of $183.9 million globally.
In 2011, Gaga also worked with Tony Bennett on a jazz version of "The Lady Is a Tramp", with Elton John on "Hello Hello" for the animated feature film Gnomeo & Juliet, and with The Lonely Island and Justin Timberlake on "3-Way (The Golden Rule)". She also performed a concert at the Sydney Town Hall in Australia that year to promote Born This Way and to celebrate former US President Bill Clinton's 65th birthday. In November, she was featured in a Thanksgiving television special titled A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, which attracted 5.7 million American viewers and spawned the release of her fourth EP, A Very Gaga Holiday. In 2012, Gaga guest-starred as an animated version of herself in an episode of The Simpsons called "Lisa Goes Gaga", appeared in the documentary films The Zen of Bennett and Katy Perry: Part of Me, and released her first fragrance, Lady Gaga Fame, followed by a second one, Eau de Gaga, in 2014.[c]
Gaga began work on her third studio album, Artpop, in early 2012, during the Born This Way Ball tour; she crafted the album to mirror "a night at the club". In August 2013, Gaga released the album's lead single "Applause", which reached number one in Hungary and number four in the US. A lyric video for Artpop track "Aura" followed in October to accompany Robert Rodriguez's Machete Kills, where she plays an assassin named La Chameleon. The film received generally negative reviews and earned less than half of its $33 million budget. The second Artpop single, "Do What U Want", featured singer R. Kelly and was released later that month, topping the charts in Hungary and reaching number 13 in the US. Artpop was released in November 2013 to mixed reviews. Helen Brown in The Daily Telegraph criticized Gaga for making another album about her fame and doubted the record's originality, but found it "great for dancing". The album debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, and sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide as of July 2014. "G.U.Y." was released as the third single in March 2014 and peaked at number 76 in the US.
Gaga hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live in November 2013, performing "Do What U Want" (with Kelly) and an album cut, "Gypsy". After holding her second Thanksgiving Day television special on ABC, Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular, she performed a special rendition of "Do What U Want" with Christina Aguilera on the fifth season of the American reality talent show The Voice. In March 2014, Gaga had a seven-day concert residency commemorating the last performance at New York's Roseland Ballroom before its closure. Two months later, she embarked on the ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour, building on concepts from her ArtRave promotional event. Earning $83 million, the tour included cities canceled from the Born This Way Ball tour itinerary. In the meantime, Gaga split from longtime manager Troy Carter over "creative differences", and by June 2014, she and new manager Bobby Campbell joined Artist Nation, the artist management division of Live Nation Entertainment. She briefly appeared in Rodriguez's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and was confirmed as Versace's spring-summer 2014 face with a campaign called "Lady Gaga For Versace".
In September 2014, Gaga released a collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett titled Cheek to Cheek. The inspiration behind the album came from her friendship with Bennett, and fascination with jazz music since her childhood. Before the album was released, it produced the singles "Anything Goes" and "I Can't Give You Anything but Love". Cheek to Cheek received generally favorable reviews; The Guardian's Caroline Sullivan praised Gaga's vocals and Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune wrote that "Cheek to Cheek serves up the real thing, start to finish". The record was Gaga's third consecutive number-one album on the Billboard 200, and won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. The duo recorded the concert special Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live!, and embarked on the Cheek to Cheek Tour from December 2014 to August 2015.
2015–2017: American Horror Story, Joanne, and Super Bowl performances
In February 2015, Gaga became engaged to Taylor Kinney. After Artpop's lukewarm response, Gaga began to reinvent her image and style. According to Billboard, this shift started with the release of Cheek to Cheek and the attention she received for her performance at the 87th Academy Awards, where she sang a medley of songs from The Sound of Music in a tribute to Julie Andrews. Considered one of her best performances by Billboard, it triggered more than 214,000 interactions per minute globally on Facebook. She and Diane Warren co-wrote the song "Til It Happens to You" for the documentary The Hunting Ground, which earned them the Satellite Award for Best Original Song and an Academy Award nomination in the same category. Gaga won Billboard Woman of the Year and Contemporary Icon Award at the 2015 Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards.
Gaga had spent much of her early life wanting to be an actress, and achieved her goal when she starred in American Horror Story: Hotel. Running from October 2015 to January 2016, Hotel is the fifth season of the anthology horror series, American Horror Story, in which Gaga played a hotel owner named Elizabeth. At the 73rd Golden Globe Awards, Gaga received the Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film award for her work on the season. She appeared in Nick Knight's 2015 fashion film for Tom Ford's 2016 spring campaign and was guest editor for V fashion magazine's 99th issue in January 2016, which featured sixteen different covers. She received Editor of the Year award at the Fashion Los Angeles Awards.
In 2016, Gaga sang the US national anthem in February at Super Bowl 50, partnered with Intel and Nile Rodgers for a tribute performance to the late David Bowie at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, and sang "Til It Happens to You" at the 88th Academy Awards, where she was introduced by Joe Biden and accompanied on-stage by 50 people who had suffered from sexual assault. She was honored that April with the Artist Award at the Jane Ortner Education Awards by The Grammy Museum, which recognizes artists who have demonstrated passion and dedication to education through the arts. Her engagement to Taylor Kinney ended the following July; she later said her career had interfered with their relationship.
Gaga played a witch named Scathach in American Horror Story: Roanoke, the series' sixth season, which ran from September to November 2016. Her role in the fifth season of the show ultimately influenced her future music, prompting her to feature "the art of darkness". In September 2016, she released her fifth album's lead single, "Perfect Illusion", which peaked at number 15 in the US. The album, titled Joanne, was named after her late aunt who was an inspiration for the music. It was released on October 21, 2016, and sold 170,000 copies in the US during its first week. Joanne was Gaga's fourth number one Billboard album, making her the first woman to reach the US chart summit four times in the 2010s. Its second single "Million Reasons" followed the next month, and reached number four in the US. Joanne and "Million Reasons" were nominated for Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance, respectively. To promote the album, Gaga embarked on the three-date Dive Bar Tour.
Gaga performed as the headlining act during the Super Bowl LI halftime show on February 5, 2017. Her performance featured a group of hundreds of lighted drones forming various shapes in the sky above Houston's NRG Stadium—the first time robotic aircraft appeared in a Super Bowl program. It attracted 117.5 million viewers in the United States, exceeding the game's total of 113.3 million viewers. The performance led to a surge of 410,000 song downloads in the United States for Gaga and earned her an Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Special Class Program category. CBS Sports included her performance as the second best in the history of Super Bowl halftime shows. In April, Gaga headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. She also released a standalone-single, "The Cure", which reached the top 10 in Australia and France. In August, Gaga began the Joanne World Tour which she announced after the Super Bowl LI halftime show. Gaga's creation of Joanne and preparation for her halftime show performance were featured in the documentary , which premiered on Netflix in September. Throughout the film, she was seen suffering from chronic pain, which was later revealed to be the effect of a long-term condition called fibromyalgia. It resulted in Gaga canceling the last ten shows of Joanne World Tour, which ultimately grossed $95 million from 842,000 tickets sold.
2018: A Star Is Born, upcoming sixth studio album and Enigma
In March 2018, Gaga supported the March for Our Lives gun-control rally in Washington, D.C. and released a cover of Elton John's "Your Song" for the tribute album Revamp & Restoration. She later starred in Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born, a remake of the 1937 film of the same name. Her character is a woman named Ally whose romance with singer Jackson Maine (played by Cooper) becomes strained after her career begins to overshadow his. Gaga said she agreed to the project because she is a fan of Cooper's work, and of the film's portrayal of addiction and depression. He approached Gaga for the role after seeing her perform at a cancer research fundraiser. The two also co-wrote and produced most of the songs on the film's soundtrack, which she insisted they perform live in the movie. The film premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival in August 2018, and will release worldwide in October. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian described the film as "outrageously watchable" and wrote that "Gaga's ability to be part ordinary person, part extraterrestrial celebrity empress functions at the highest level". Time's Stephanie Zacharek similarly highlighted her "knockout performance" and found her "charismatic" without her usual makeup, wigs and costumes.
Gaga has confirmed that she has started working on her sixth studio album. She has been in recording studios with producers like Boys Noize, DJ White Shadow and BloodPop. She has signed a two-year residency, named Lady Gaga Enigma, to perform at the MGM Park Theater in Las Vegas, which is scheduled to begin in December 2018.