Lady Gage is most often described as an overnight sensation in the pop music world, but the truth behind the icon is a story of hard work and dedication to her craft. Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, was born March 28, 1986, in New York. Many sources say she was born in Yonkers, but she denies this, only lending to her already mysterious presence in pop culture.
She is the eldest child, with a younger sister, of Internet entrepreneur Joseph Germanotta and telecommunications assistant Cynthia Bisset Germanotta and grew up in Manhattan. She attended the prestigious, all-girl, Convent of the Sacred Heart Catholic School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a K-12 school. At only four-years-old she could play the piano by ear and according to her own website "she would sing along on her mini, plastic, tape-recorder to Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper hits" when she was a child.
Her distinctive fashion flair started at an early age, too, and by high school she was often scolded for wearing too-short skirts and too much makeup. In one interview she said that when the school allowed the kids a day off from wearing the usual uniform, she would wear her own outfits and get made fun of. Despite her teenage insecurities, she was a straight-A student who was only one of 20 to gain early admission to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
During high school, Lady Gaga performed in theatrical productions at school and at open mike venues at night. After high school, at only 17, she did study at the Tisch School of Arts, but dropped out during her second year. After leaving school, she began playing in clubs across New York City. She got the club gigs by making her own demo, then pretending to be her own manager when calling the clubs and booking shows. In 2009, she told a California reporter "I've sown my oats in every nightclub, every theater, and community club from here to Ibeza. I became a pop artist the way rock bands become rock bands."
A fan of David Bowie, Freddie Mercury of Queen, and Andy Warhol, Lady Gaga credits the stars with helping her to find herself artistically. She saw in them that she could successfully combine rock, pop and theater and has said that they made her realize "it's not just about the music. It's about the performance, the attitude, the look; it's everything." Her stage name is a twist on, and a tribute to, the Queen song "Radio Gaga."
At 20, Lady Gaga wrote songs for Fergie, The Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears and New Kids on the Block. At the same time she was performing her act in various New York clubs. When singer/musician Wendy Starland saw Lady Gaga perform one night, she told Rob Fusari, a producer and songwriter who has worked with artists such as Beyonce, Whitney Houston and Will Smith, about her and suggested he meet with young performer.
At the time, Fusari was looking for a female lead for a rock band, but after seeing Stefani Germanotta (she had not changed her name yet) with her piled-high, bouffant hairdo and dark, black eyeliner he wasn't interested. Then she played the piano and sang one of her own songs. Fusari has been quoted as saying at that moment "it was like the earth stopped." For the next four months, Fusari and Germanotta worked together to create Lady Gaga.
When they began collaborating Lady Gaga's musical style was heavily influenced by rock, but Fusari knew dance music was more commercially salable and encouraged her to incorporate more dance beats into her music. When she resisted, he reminded her that Queen, among other bands, had used drum machines without compromising their own rock style. She finally agreed, and the two wrote the song "Beautiful Dirty, Rich," which convinced Island Def Jam to sign her. The company dropped her months later without any explanation to this day.
In 2007, at age 21, Lady Gaga formed the Ultimate Pop Burlesque Rockshow and performed in bikini tops and hot pants or a leather g-string, singing and dancing while setting hairspray on fire. In August of that year, she performed with Wendy Starland at the annual Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant's Park where she received a citation for indecent exposure while walking around the grounds in hot pants.
That same year she was signed to Streamline Records, a subsidiary of Interscope Records, where a songwriting partnership with Akon was arranged for her. Akon then convinced Interscope to sign Lady Gaga to a joint deal with his own label, Kon Live Distribution, so she could focus on making a record of her own. She then flew to Los Angeles and sat in the studio with record producer RedOne and got to work.
When she wasn't in the studio, she was developing her own fashion style. She dyed her brunette hair platinum blonde and recruited several stylists who are now referred to as the Haus of Gaga. The Haus works closely with the singer to create her distinct style that is applied from fashion to concert sets. Lady Gaga has said her fashion is influenced by David Bowie, Grace Jones, Madonna and Cher. In her new video for the song Alejandro, it's easy to see the reverence played to these artists.
Her own outfits have included a dress made of clear plastic bubbles, a porcelain bikini, and a metal outfit that sports large rings which orbit her body while she performs. Lady Gaga is well known for huge hair bows made from hair extensions, heavy makeup, and veils, hats, wigs, or large sunglasses that hide half her face. "I'm not a T-shirt and jeans girl at all, not even at home on the couch," she told a London reporter. "The most I dress down is a leotard."
With her two albums, "Fame" and "The Fame Monster" flying off music store shelves, she has arrived. But will she stay? "In eight to ten years, I want to have babies for my Dad to hold, grandkids," she said to Miranda Purves. "And I want to have a husband who loves and supports me, just the way anyone else does. I would never leave my career for a man right now, and I would never follow a man around." This isn't to say she can't have both family and career just as her contemporaries Pink and Christina Aguilera have done.
To see her latest video, Alejandro, visit her website. Or, you can contact Lady Gaga herself by writing to: Lady Gaga c/o Intersope Records, 2220 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA, 90404