March 28 is Lady Gaga‘s birthday! Lady Gaga is a pop star, fashion icon, and political activist best known for hit singles like “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “Bad Romance,” “Born This Way,” and more recently “Applause.”
Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germonatta in 1986 in New York City. Her father, Joe Germanotta, was an internet entrepreneur, so Gaga grew up affluently, living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. When she was younger, she attended New York’s Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private all-girls Roman Catholic school which saw other famous alumni pass through such as socialite Paris Hilton. When Gaga later reminisced of her time at the school, she claims she never fit in and always “felt like a freak.” In spite of this, Gaga had a theatrical high school career in which she starred as the lead in school productions like Guys and Dolls.
The lady’s love affair with music started at the age of 4, when she taught herself how to play piano by ear. By age 13, she had written her first piano ballad, and by 14 she was performing at open mic nights in the city with the accompaniment of her mother. Recognizing her daughter’s talents both academically and musically, Gaga’s mother convinced her to apply for the prestigious Collaborative Arts Project 21 at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Gaga was one of only twenty-one students to be accepted for early admission to the program when she was 17. While enrolled in the program, Gaga honed her songwriting skills, while also completing other academic essays and projects on art, religion, social issues and politics.
Feeling stifled and as though she could teach herself more about music than the CAP21 program could, Gaga dropped out of school in the middle of her sophomore year, deciding to focus on developing her music career. Her father made an agreement with her to pay her rent for a year while she focused on her creative interests, under the condition that she re-enroll in Tisch if her efforts were unsuccessful. It was during this time that the soon-to-be star took on several different musical endeavors. For a short period of time, she fronted the Stefani Germonatta Band (SGBand), and was scouted for a new project music producer Rob Fusari was working on which required a female vocalist.
Stefani, as she was still then known, began recording with Fusari, and soon her stage name “Lady Gaga” was accidentally coined through an autocorrect texting error made by Fusari when he was trying to type “Radio Ga Ga.” His phone corrected “radio” to “lady.” The hit song by Queen had become the singer’s “theme song” when she entered the studio every day. When Gaga received the text from Fusari, she replied with, “That’s it. Don’t ever call me Stefani again.”
After recording a series of electropop tracks with Fusari, Gaga was signed to Def Jam records, but was dropped a few months later. Devastated by this blow to her musical reputation, Gaga returned to the underground scene of New York City’s Lower East Side which she had previously made a name for herself in with the SGBand. She began performing neo-burlesque go-go dance shows in Lower East Side clubs. She soon befriended and began performing with Lady Starlight, who helped her experiment with wild costuming and helped mold her on-stage persona. The two performed their “Ultimate Pop Burlesque Rockshow” in which they lit cans of hairspray on fire in between Gaga singing pop songs and Starlight spinning heavy metal and glam records at 2007′s Lollapalooza. Their performance received positive reviews and music producer Vincent Herbert quickly signed Gaga to Streamline Records, a subsidiary of Interscope. Gaga soon began working as a songwriter, writing songs for the likes of Britney Spears, Fergie, and New Kids on the Block. Singer-songwriter Akon recognized Gaga’s vocal abilities and signed her to his Interscope label Kon Live.
Throughout 2007 and 2008, Gaga began recording her first album, The Fame. Though slow to start, the album received positive reviews and commercial success. Her debut single, “Just Dance,” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance Recording, but lost to Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” Gaga began developing her own creative team, the Haus of Gaga, based on Andy Warhol‘s Factory. Her second single “Poker Face” experienced even more critical and commercial acclaim, topping singles charts in almost every country.
Gaga supported her new record by touring in Europe and in small gay clubs in the United States, as well as opening for New Kids on the Block during their reunion tour before eventually embarking on her own Fame Ball Tour. While touring for The Fame, she began writing the EP The Fame Monster, which explored the darker side of her new-found fame. From this was born one of her most iconic singles, “Bad Romance.” It was also during this time that she further developed and was both scrutinized and praised for her highly eccentric and avant-garde fashion choices. She embarked on The Monster Ball World Tour in 2009, and performed sold-out shows to audiences across the world until 2011. The tour grossed over $227 million, and became one of the highest-grossing and critically acclaimed tours of all time, producing an HBO documentary of her Madison Square Garden performance which won several Emmy awards.
2011 also saw the release of Gaga’s next album, Born This Way. Though it received more critical reviews because of it’s reference to religion, sexuality, and politics in many songs, Born This Way still sold over 1 million copies in its first week in the United States and received three Grammy nominations. Scheduled to go on another two-year world tour, Gaga’s Born This Way Ball was cut short when she injured herself too badly to perform anymore and underwent surgery.
Her injury did not set her back however, and she began working on her next album, Artpop, which was released in November 2013. Gaga has already had two hit singles from the album, “Applause” and “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly. She is planning her next world tour, and also made her silver screen debut in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills, though the film did not receive much positive press. The pop star is slated to make another appearance in Rodriguez’s next Sin City film, and is working on a jazz album with Tony Bennett. Gaga is also going to perform the first ever concert in space as part of a three-day music festival called Zero G Colony.
Though she started out playing small shows in New York City’s underground arena, Gaga has risen to a level of international stardom few have achieved.