Vanity Fair Magazine

Vanity Fair is a magazine of pop culture, fashion and politics published by Condé Nast Publications. The present, Vanity Fair has been published since 1983 and there have been editions for four European countries as well as the U.S. edition. This revived the title which had ceased publication in 1935 after a run from 1913.

Us United StatesEdit

The Style Issue (No. 601, September 2010)Edit

Lady Gaga covered this issue.

Gaga for the Lady - Naked Came the World's No.1 Pop Star - Who is she? Why is she? Should you worry? Bungalow 9, the Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, California: The pink stucco bungalow stands between No. 10--where Marilyn Monroe had a torrid affair in 1960 with her Let's Make Love co-star Yves Montland--and No. 8, home at one time to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Now an S.U.V. with a security team is parked curbside on Crescent Drive. Inside the bungalow, the lights are dimmed, jasmine candles are lit, and there's an open bottle of Pinot Noir. After a day of rehearsal for her "Alejandro" video, Lady Gaga wants to come here and have something to eat, take a bath and change (I'm assuming into something more comfortable), and talk.

She enters the living room--not quite tottering--on eight-inch-high, heel-less black leather boots. So much for comfort. The Gaga is encased in a skintight, black, gauzy turtleneck catsuit covered with rhinestones. Long blond wig. Face covered with black lace netting. With the boots on-I'm guessing-she's close to six feet. Without, possible five two; she is tiny. this mega-star. And--sitting here, curled up on a sofa--it takes only a matter of minutes for her to literally drop her veil. At first, to sip red wine; then she probably figures the hell with it--she alreaady made the Gaga entrance. So she removes it entirely and talks candidly for close to three hours about the surreal life of an international phenomenon.

Singer-songwriter-performer Lady Gaga, born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta 24 years ago in New York City, has been described in thousands of press clippings as bizarre, a drag queen, fierce, a hermaphrodite, a gay man trapped in a woman's body, a self-parody, outlandish, hard-core, trashy, genius, futuristic, grotesque'.' All that;s missing, so far, has been for the Catholic Church to weigh in. She is, without question, the world's biggest pop star--with 12 million sales worldwide of her 2008 debut album (The Fame and bonus disc The Fame Monster). She has had six No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts: "Just Dance", "Poker Face", "LoveGame", "Paparazzi," "Bad Romance", and "Telephone". She has had close to 800 million views on her videos on YouTube. She recently broke the record on Facebook with more than 12 million fans--surpassing those of President Obama's. Digital downloads of her singles have reached more than 25 million. And, says Jimmy Iovine, who heads her record label, Interscope, "We haven't had one of these phenomenons since Eminem. I'm talking about impacting haircuts, everything".

Whenever you have all but given up on the pop music of the day, whenever it hits bottom--where it has been bouncing around for a while with American Idol and all the re-tread--someone always seems to come along, break through, and ring in the next new era. Lady Gaga is just that. Both a catalyst and an amazing artist in her own right, she is part fashion star, part performing artist, but mostly a great singer and performer. She actually gets us excited about what's to come.

—Tom Freston,
former C.E.O., Viacom and MTV Networks.

She's got so much talent, she's at the top echelon of where any star has been. Also, this is only her forst record; there's no telling how far she can go. Her choruses are so catch--and it's like always say: "Get me to the chorus before you bore us."

—Doug Morris,
chairman and C.E.O, Universal Music Group

She reminds me of all the great pop women who have preceded her and, at the same time, none of them. Pop tends to mow through people quickly, but Gaga is still at the beginning of where she is going.

—Judy McGrath,
chairman and C.E.O., MTV Networks.

Lady Gaga was one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people of 2009. She is the highest-ranked newcomer on the 2010 Forbes Celebrity 100 list--coming in at No. 4--with earnings of $62 million. Barbara Walters named her one of last year's "Ten Most Fascinating People." Oprah Winfrey called her a cultural and spiritual leader. Ever since Gaga's first single, "Just Dance," went No. 1 in 2008 (first in Sweden, then Canada, then Australia, then the rest of the world), she has been a supporter of and a hero to the gay community--an audience always appreciative of outrage, flamboyance, and fashion obsessed stars.

But comparisons made to other female pop stars are simply beside the point. Gaga has a much better voice than Madonna, and she's got all those serious Rachmaninoff and Beethoven piano chops. Unlike anyone else who ever sang while sitting at a piano--from Carole king to Tori Amos--Gaga has pianos that are actually part of her attire; when she performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A., her piano was designed by Damien Hirst. Unlike Cher, Whitney, or Britney, Gaga writes all of her own catchy, catchy, can't-get-them-out-of-your-head songs. She swears that she doesn't lip-synch in concert. And how can you not welcome someone who kicked all those dopey, Bush-era pop stars off center stage?

The Gaga has been influenced by Grace Jones (who called her a copycat), Isabella Blow, Leigh Bowery, Freddie Mercury, Daphne Guinness, Klaus Nomi, Led Zeppelin, Patti Smith, Boy George, Carole King (Gaga burst into tears when she met her backstage at a concert), the New York Dolls, Prince, John Lennon, Andy Warhol (who, while currently dead, undoubtedly would have declared Gaga "fabulous"), and David Bowie, who has, so far, made no comment on the Gaga body of work. She's been written about in art magazines, and sooner or later, words like Matthew Barney, Marina Abramovic, and Yoko Ono get thrown into the conversation.

Reactions to her have come in from all walks of show business and, predictably, they're proo and con. Donny Osmond says he would not let his child watch one of her sexually charged provocative videos. Beyonce, after two sexually provocative videos ("Video Phone" and "Telephone") with Gaga, says, "I always admired her work, She and I had an effortless connection and mutual respect for each other." Two years ago Christina Aguilera claimed she had no idea who Gaga was or whether she was "a man or a woman." (Now, with the release of Aguilera's new album, Bionic, she appears to be both musically and visually more than just a bit influenced by Gaga's sound and vision.) Katy Perry called Gaga's most recent video blasphemous. Cyndi Lauper is a fan. Gaga was dissed for taking herself "oddly serious" by the serious self-serious indie singer Joanna Newsom. Elton John adores Gaga, she performed with him at the Grammys last February and at his annual White Ball in the English countryside. Fox News has called her "poison for the minds of our kids".

But despite all the attention, the sold-out world tours, the money, the controversy, the fame and the screaming frenzy that accompanies every step she takes, Gaga has only just recently realized that, at this moment, she is the biggest pop star in the world. "About two weeks ago," she tells me, "I literally realized what had happened in my life. I almost wish it hadn't hit me so late. I wish it had hit me gradually." This revelation occurred while she was on tour somewhere in Australia. "i don't remember what city it was," she says, "but we left [the venue], and after the show there were 5,000 people standing on stairways and platforms leading to a train station--I couldn't even see how far back. The car drove out, and I said, 'Stop the car,' and I got out and walked out, and the scream was so loud, it was a roar. I went over ti the fence and signed as many autographs as I could without them pulling me through. More fans than ever had been waiting for me outside after the show--meaning they [had just seen] two hours of the most visually intense [show], in the heat, standing, jumping, and screaming for two hours--5,000 of them. It was insane. And then, I thought, How could I possibly be better for you? That's all I keep thinking: I just want to be better for you. I want to say and sing the right things for you, and I want to make that one melody that really saves your spirit that one day".

Native New Yorker Lady Gaga hrew up on Manhattan's West Side and attended a private girls' school on the fancier Upper East Side, where she felt like a freak and some of the rich girls were mean to her. She was the daughter of middle-class parents, her mother, Cynthia, and her father, Joseph, worked for telecommunications companies. She gravitated to her family's piano at age four (and eventually took classical piano lessons with a teacher who tied Gaga's wrists together while she had to play scales). Later, voice lessons with renowned New York vocal coach Don Lawrence (who had worked with Mick Jagger, Axl Rose, Christina Aguilera, and Bono) encouraged her showbiz dreams. She says she was a "bad" girl who snuck out of her parents' house to Smalls and Arthur's Tavern to see "what was going on." And when you're born and bred in New York City, especially Manhattan, you don't have a to go somewhere else to be somebody. You already feel like you're somebody, or you're already where the somebodies are. Everything was available to her: she could sneak 80 blocks downtown to perform in clubs and eventually dance on top of bars with actual drag queens; she didn't have to read about it in magazines. She didn't have to take a bus to New York City, ask a taxi driver to deposit her at the center of everything, and get dropped off in Times Square--New Yorkers know from birth that Times Square is a tourist hellhole and the center of nothing. And while a sense of sophisticated entitlement doesn't always fuel big drive or big ambition, lack of drive and/or ambition was certainly not the case when it came to Lady Gaga.

"I just bought my parents a Rolls-Royce for their anniversary," she tells me, "because I knew that they would never buy anything like that for themselves. They spent all their money on sending me and my sister, Natali, the the best school in the city, [where] I saw lots of girls that had no real grasp on reality. Then I'd go home, where I was bot allowed to just come and go as I please or go on playdates like everybody else. It was much stricter. My dad's Italian. Boyfriends were a no-no until I was 16 years old. I was probably more dysfunctional than [anyone] in our family--I dated a 28-year-old when I was 16; I dated a 38-year-old when I was 19. Actually, i don't even know that I would use the word 'dated.' But something inside of me felt like I was living in a delusional world; I wanted to know what the real world was all about. And I used to pray every night that God would make me crazy. I prayed that God would teach me something, that he would instill in me a creativity and a strangeness that all of those people that I loved and respected had".

Gaga, who currently "works with" "spiritual guides," believes that her creativity began before she was conceived. "My father's sister Joanne died when she was 19 and he was 16. And when my mother was engaged to marry my father, they were staying in his house, where he grew up, and a light came into the room and touched her stomach and went away. She believes that Joanne came into the room and sort of O.K.'d her for my dad and that Joanne transferred her spirit into my mom. So I was born, it's almost as if {i was} her unfinished business. She was a poet and a real Renaissance woman, pure of heart--just a beautiful person. She died a virgin. And one of [my guides] told me he can feel I have two hearts in my chest, and I believe that about myself".

Funky but Chic The Gaga presentation wouldn't work without the hit songs, but quite the presentation it is. With the help of her Haus of Gaga team (headed by creative director Matt Williams and stylist Nicola Formichetti), Gaga has appeared in videos, on TV, at award shows, and in "real life" wearing--including but not limited to--a coat made up of Kermit the Frog Muppets, a telephone atop her head, a dress made of oscillating rings, a stripped vinyl sheath (on a transatlantic fight, no less), sunglasses made out of cigarettes, antler headbands, a lobster hat, Marie Antoinette wigs, red lace veils with matching crown, bras spurting fire, catsuits made of bones and Ace bandages, and shoes and boots and accessories by Hermes, Chanel, Saint Laurent, Nina Ricci, Armani, Noritaka Tatehana, Nasir Mazhar, and her "very close friend" the late Alexander McQueen. She wore a red latex dress when presented to Queen Elizabeth, to whom she bowed because, she says, "I respect her. She was very nice. I just love a strong-ass woman".

But along with fame and fortune come the inevitable lawsuits. Gaga is currently being sued by a former producer and self-described ex-boyfriend for $30.5 million, which he feels he's entitled to for song royalties, coming up with her "stage" name, and whatnot. While Gaga can't discuss a pending lawsuit, she's clearly no amused. "Nobody made me," she says, "Nobody fuckin' made me who I am today. And what is so funny is that everyone was spitting in my face and treating me like dirt and making me feel so worthless..." She sighs. "The price that a woman pays for people destroying you over and over again... I'm a fuck' lion. I'm a lion, and I can't be destroyed. The things U have been through, the things I have seen, the people I have taken care of... I would not take any of it back, because it's made me the writer that I am. But how dare [anyone] that treated you like dirt on the bottom of their shoe try to turn around and tell you that they made you? The minute that you have a glimpse of sunlight on your eyelids, they fuckin' made you that mascara." As for her stage name, she says, "One day I texted my friend Tom and asked him what he thought of 'Lady Gaga' and he loves it and I was like, O.K., that's it."

"Want to see what's in my purse?," Gaga asks, picking up a white Birkin bag covered with fan-created graffiti, most of it in Japanese and, she says, some Taiwanese. She takes out a bottle of water, a Chanel sleep mask, seven pairs of sunglasses, a figurine of Michelangelo's David, Chanel Gardenia perfume, a tampon, acid-reflux medicine, Wite-Out, six studded Hermes and Chanel cuffs, some talisman she says was blessed in a Buddhist temple to keep her healthy, and Xanax. "I have anxiety," she says, "and it's so funny... this morning I was placing [Xanax] in my hand and I said, 'i knew this day would come.'"

"I bought the bag," she continues, "because Matt Williams, my creative director and closest friend, said, 'You must buy a Birkin because it's the most classic bag.' I hate all purses; I used to buy cheap, punk-looking, sloppy bags in New York, and I would stud them with stuff. I had a glue gun, and I used to glue rhinestone studs, sequins, mirrors. The disco bra from the 'Just Dance' video I made with my own two hands. So I bought this [Birkin], I carried it, and then I saw stuff on the Internet like 'Oh, Gaga holding a Birkin getting on a private plane--so much for hating money.' So here is the irony: the most classic and iconic bag on the planet, but my fans don't relate to it because it represents something they don't have. So how do I create and make it into a performance-art piece in itself? My fans are more iconic than this purse. And I live fashion, but I don't love it more than my fans. And that's what this bag is all about."

Her relationship with her fans, whom she calls "Little Monster," is intense, to say the least. It borders on the kind of hysteria once reserved for the like of Judy Garland or Michael Jackson, but the difference is that Gaga really, really seems to love them just as much right back. She's going to need a lot of storage space for the thousands of books, paintings, and sketches sent to her by her fans. "You would not believe the books," she says. "I can't in my heart throw any of them away, because it took them so much time. The stories, they break my heart: 'My mom left when I was young'; 'I'm gay ,my friends at school don't like me'; 'I'm overweight, I get beat up, your music helped me lose 50 pounds'...

"The other day my mother calling me crying," Gaga says, "and she said, 'Your sister needs you.' I said, 'What happened?' One of my sister's best friends died, and they're not sure how she died, but she was quite troubled. And it's people like that that I want to help. It's not being No.1; it's not selling the most records. It's what you do when you're at the top to inspire and influence and save the people that lift you. I love my fans more than any artist who has ever lived, and I mean that so genuinely. I've looked every man that I've ever dated in the eye and every woman I've ever been friends with and there will never be something I put before my fans. It's all about loving who you are. I don't want people to love me; I want them to love themselves. I have a relentless pursuit in me to give everything in me to my fans to make them feel good about themselves. And if you don't like it, well, then don't come to the party."

Love Games What with her nonstop touring, videos, side projects (she's creative director for Polaroid, is involved with Beats by Dr. Dre, has done a MAC Viva Glam campaign with Cyndi Lauper), writing all the songs for her next album--set for an early-2011 release--and all that intense dedication to her fans, there hasn't been a lot of time for a private life. Much has been made of Gaga's self-proclaimed, occasional bisexuality. She alludes to faking it with men with her "Bluffin' with my muffin" lyric in "Poker Face," but she blushed when Barbara Walters referenced the line on network TV. Now she tells me, "I don't really have sex. Well, sometimes. but I'm drawn to bad romances. And my song ["Bad Romance"] is about whether I go after those [sort of relationships] or if they find me. I'm quite celibate now; i don't really get time to meet anyone. My relationships with my gay friends have a purity and love that's so simple because we don't want anything from each other except friendship. [Whereas] my relationships with straight men are always abusive, always tumultuous, always emotional. I do fuck, but I'm certainly not promiscuous. And it's very different now too, because when you're younger and nobody knows who you are and you're in a bar and you meet some nice guy, you know, and maybe a week goes by and you sleep with him, it's really no big deal. But now it's like when you let someone into your world... I don't trust anybody. And I don't know if I ever will. I don't trust that wineglass [over there]. But it's O.K. It's the trade-off."

"I'm perpetually lonely. I'm lonely when I'm in relationships. It's my condition as an artist. listen, I prayed for a lunacy, and he gave it to me. It's a bit of a sick thing when a 17-year-old says in her nightly prayers that i would rather die young and a legend than be married with children and die an old lady in my bed. I also think I'm afraid of depleting my energy. i have this weird thing that if I sleep with someone they're going to take my creativity from me through my vagina."

Lady Gaga was initially signed by Island/Def Jam Records, wrote songs for other singers got dropped by Island/Def Jam, and eventually signed to Interscope Records. Jimmy Iovine says, "When she first came in her, she looked like one of my cousins. You know, like an Italian girl from New York. But she was talking about what she wanted to do and how she saw culture... i said, 'Let's do it.' I knew that her record was a hit. And we pushed it... She's saying to people, 'I grew up a freak, an outcast, and I'm you.' Plus she's easily one of the five most professional people I've ever worked with."

You're living in Los Angeles now. Do you drive? Gaga: I don't have a license yet, but I have a permit, and my manager, Troy [Carter], and my A&R guy, Vincent [Herbert], bought me a 1990 red Rolls-Royce Corniche. Her name is Bloody Mary, and I've been driving it all around my [Bel-Air] neighborhood. It's a real representation of freedom and sense of self for me, because I didn't learn [to drive] when I was very young--it's kind of this sense of accomplishment and escape. I just get in the car and I drive, and I never thought I would drive. I just go get coffee or...

Coffee? Can you go around incognito? I've tried. I do do that. I'll dress like a club kid from New York on my off days, just like my friends all dressed, a little heavy metal.

But they still recognize you? Everywhere. My fans can smell me. But a good day off for me on the road is when I'll get super trashed at, like, a really divey, trashy bar...

How can you go to a trashy bar and not get mobbed and hassled? I think it's the way that I carry myself. It's like if you want people to look at you, they're gonna look at you, and if you want to go buy a melon at the store, they won't.

How often do you want--or need--to go to the store to purchase a melon? I went to the grocery store the other day--I figure out a way. it's so funny, though, when people say to me, "Who is the real Gaga?" I'm fuckin' Gaga. I don't know who I am if I'm not Gaga.

This is not like Paul Stanley putting on makeup in Kiss. No... but it's so funny when people ask me, because it's like, You're kidding me, right? I'm Gaga, and I live and breathe it every day. I've said that if there was a movie about my life I would title it Born This Way.

Before the Rolls-Royce, the hits, the "Little Monster" nation, the Birkin, and the paparazzi, there was just baby Gaga on her own, on the Lower East Side. "About six years ago I moved downtown to Stanton Street," she says, "and I lived there for three years. In a tiny, 400-square-foot apartment--just me and my keyboard, with the kitchen in the living room and the turntable next ti the toaster. I had my keyboard and my bed and a dream. i had jobs, paid my own rent, and made music by myself. [At first] it was a very inspired time--just leaving my parents and forcing myself to survive on my own." But then, she did a lot of drugs. "Mostly cocaine," she says. " I have had some friends that have heroin problems, [but] I have never done heroin, I've snorted it, never really looked at it whenever it's been in the room. I'm terrified of heroin." She says that she spent all her money on drugs and that the apartment became a nightmare. "I was so high I couldn't see the roaches beneath my feet. I used to do lines on a Bible in my room." As for whether or not she still indulges in drugs at all, she says, "I won't lie: it's occasional. And when i say occasional, i mean maybe a couple times a year. I really can't do [cocaine] anymore. I haven't done it in, oh, probably six months".

She recalls one day when "I was laying in my bed on my stomach--this is so sick-- but I was eating a salad, and I got a phone call: Can you be at this restaurant in 30 minutes? So-and-so big record executive wants to meet you. And the salad was like a really unhealthy salad; it was like fried chicken or something. So I said, 'I'll be right there.' I got up, went to the bathroom, threw up the salad, did a line of coke went to the meeting. I was completely mental and had just been through so much. But if you print that, I do not want my fans to emulate that or be that way. I don't want my fans to think that they have to be that way to be great. it's in the past. It was a low point, and it led to disaster." And when she got seriously messed up on drugs, she didn't go to rehab: "I went home. To my parents."

January 8, 2006, was, says Gaga, the worst day of her life, and a day, she says, she has not spoken publicly about until now. She learned she was dropped from Island/Def Jam, and she hints at a particularly breakup. "All I will say is I hit rock bottom, and it was enough to send a person over the edge. My mother knew the truth about that day, and she screamed so loud on the other end of the phone, I'll never forget it. And the she said, 'I'm coming to get you.' And I remember laying on the pullout bed in the basement in my parents' house, and I said to my mom, 'Can we go see Grandma?' And we didn't even call her; the next morning we got up at the house and I told my [82-year-old] grandma everything. I cried. i told her o thought my life was over and I had no hope and I've worked so hard, and I knew I was good. What would I do now? And she said,'I'm gonna let you cry for a few more hours. And then after those few hours are up, you're gonna stop crying, you're gonna pick yourself up, you're gonna go back to New York, and you're gonna go back to New York, and you're gonna kick some ass.'"

Video Gaga Lady Gaga's style and performance art started when she began collaborating with her downtown--New York friend D.J. Lady Starlight. The she met designer-D.J. Matt Williams in an L.A. restaurant and they instantly connected. When I ask Gaga what Williams was doing then, she replies, "Sleeping with me." Their rumored romantic relationship has been an on-and-off one--but more importantly, she says, "I hired him: he designed album covers and clothing for me, and he's the inspiration of the beginning of my fashion." According to Williams, who turned Gaga on to Paris Is Burning, the acclaimed documentary about the 1980s Harlem drag-queen balls, "We're joined at the hip. I haven't had time off in three years. We work hard, but with the impact she's had and how she's changing the world, i don't think you can work hard enough. If some 12-year-old kid knows that gaga collaborated with [artist] Terence Koh, and he Googles him and finds his gallery-- it opens up a whole world to an art scene that kid may have never found. All this inspiration wouldn't normally even be accessible to these kids. There's just been a hunger for something new and different on a mass scale; it's just been so bland for he past few years."

How can you tour so much? Aren't you working too hard? Gaga: You know what? It's kind of like when you run a marathon and somebody hands you a glass of water; you don't fuckin' stop and sit down. You throw it back and you keep going. I've been eating shit my whole life in terms of my career--

Your whole life? A few years in clubs with people occasionally booing? Well, I are shit for about four or five years. And I was in offices of attorneys and record labels when I was 15.

Did you keep a list?&nbsp Oh, you'd love that list.

Several of your videos show you poisoning men. It seems to be a recurring theme. Someone recently texted me, "Why do you keep killing all your boyfriends in your videos? Are you gonna kill me?" I'm like... I don't know why, I don't really know.

You poison a boyfriend in "Telephone" I don't technically kill him in that video. Beyonce does. I'm just assisting her.

Do you think people don't get your humor? The "Paparazzi" video, which you did with director Jonas Akerlund, shows you on crutches and in a wheelchair. it's certainly not politically correct, but I think it's hilarious. Was that your intention? Of course it was. Listen--the intention of that video was to show the hilarity to which people will fame-whore themselves. it was playing with the idea that I knew my style was something that people really were admiring. So I thought, Well, what's the most ridiculous thing that we could immortalize? Something not fashion at all and make it fashion. Ans I was [looking at] a lot of Helmut Newton books and photographs, and thee were all these disabled women who look fabulous. So I though watching the celebrity fall apart is so fascinating to everybody, why don't I just fall apart for seven minutes and see what happens. The hilarity of the wheelchair being covered in diamonds...

Did you get protests from organizations for the physically challenged? No, I had girls in wheelchairs crying to me at meet-and-greets, telling me that when they saw that video it changed their lives. And while my fascination with celebrity has almost left the building, I had this incredible fascination with how people love watching celebrities fall apart, or when celebrities die; I wanted to know, what they look like when they died? Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, JonBenet Ramsey... I think all these dead girls, these blonde, dead icons. What did they look like when they died? So then I thought, Well, maybe if I show what I look like when I die, people won't wonder. Maybe that's what I want people to think I'll look like when I die.

After Gaga leaves the Beverly Hills Hotel, I do a sweep-around of the bungalow to make sure nothing has been left behind. A room-service table holds the half-eaten crab cakes and green salad that was the Gaga's dinner. The bathwater has not been drained. And there, on the floor of one of the bathrooms, are a pointy black bra and some sort of G-string/panty concoction with silver metal chains attached. This all may or may not be her daily underwear or her rehearsal clothes for the "Alejandro" video. And leaving them lying around is more common, in this world, than you might think. As a friend says to me, "These girls are just used to leaving their underwear all over town."

Milk Studios, Los Angeles: The following morning, I deliver the undergarments intact in a pink plastic hotel laundry bag to Gaga at the V.F. cover shoot, and she shrieks with delight. "My favorite!! I wondered where I left them!!" These days, it's hard for Gaga to keep her best. She misses New York, she tells me. "Right now, it's good for me to be in the sunlight, and sometimes I just sit on my porch and turn my head up, and the view is so amazing. But i think of New York... and I miss it, and I start to get emotional and cry." She gets emotional, too, when discussing a video message she received the night before from 300 fans: "They said, 'To Mother Monster, thanks for giving us a voice.'" When asked how she would feel if all this disappeared, she says, "If today I were to go back in time, if it never happened or if it all went away, i would still be on a bar making music. i mean, not on purpose. But I'm sitting here with you today as if I've sold no music and no one knows who I am, starving for more inspirationm more music, I am so hungry."

New York City, June 22: We catch up. Gaga has recently been heavily featured in the New York tabloids for (a) showing up at her sister Natali's high-school graduation wearing a beekeeper's hat, (b) going to a Mets game in bejeweled underwear and giving the finger (two, actually) to paparazzi, and (c) reportedly--in black bikini underwear topped by a pin-striped Yankee jersey--drunkenly making her way into the Yankees clubhouse, where she fondled her breasts after a game. What's going on? Is she having a meltdown?

"I'm doing great," she says, "so great. I'm not having a breakdown--I'm happier than I've ever been. I've been in my father's ares for two weeks wishing [him] a happy Father's Day. Of course I got drunk at Yankee Stadium; I was with my girlfriends... but everybody was so nice and sweat, and I met half the team. I don't know where that bit about me fondling my tits came from; I think people want to make me look like a slutty Italian girl--which I am--but I wasn't doing that at the game. Why would I rub my tits in front of the Yankees? I'm not interested in dating any ballplayers."

As for the brouhaha at the Mets game, all she wants to say about that is she went with a group of friends for someone's birthday, wanted to sit in the nosebleed seats and not cause a commotion, but cameras were planted everywhere. She had too many shots of whiskey, and as for giving the finger(s) to photographers, she says."Well, I guess I was my true New York 24-year-old Italian girl who grew up here and how dare you set me up? I want to go to things like ball games, but when I go to the ball game, they're going to write the story that will sell papers. Look, I'm not an idiot--I recognize that if I'm a public figure and I'm going to be recognized if I'm wearing a bikini or a potato sack. The trade-off is I get to see the Yankees, and what the Yankees mean to me in my soul as a young person from New york is more important to me than my reputation in terms of the tabloids. my real fans know who I truly am, and they know what I represent and what I mean, and my music and my performance is what really speaks."

And the beekeeper's hat at the sister's graduation? "My sister loves me; my sister loves the way I dress--she was raving about my hat all day long. I brought her a ton of present, we had the time of our lives, and I'm so proud of the woman she's become. i was there for my family. I wasn't there for anybody else that day, and if people don't like what I wore to my sister's graduation, I don't know why they were taking photos."

Since we last talked, she's been halfway around the world on tour and she was tested for lupus. "I had feart palpitations and some trouble breathing," she says, "and while I don't think it was connected, i got tested for lupus because my aunt Joanne died from it, and it's not uncommon to test positive for it if it's in your family. I just have to take care of myself and not run myself into the ground." How's that working out for her with the anxiety and the Xanax? "I'm not having anxiety and I haven't been taking Xanax for a while." She hints that she's seeing someone "new." (Rumors are that it's an old boyfriend, the drummer who reportedly once broke her heart.) I hear a man's voice in the background, then she puts him on the phone to say hello. but what about all those fears that sex will steal her creativity? "Well," she laughs, "I am afraid all that, but that doesn't mean that I don't confront my fears. Head-on."

The biggest change in her life, despite her earlier remarks to me about loving sunlight and sitting on her porch and driving around L.A., is that Gaga now hates Hollywood, she says. "I got rid of my place, and I'm coming back to spend more time in New York. Everyone in Hollywood is so awful, and awful to me; everyone just wants you to fail. There's no fervor for the fantasy of music anymore. It's all bout No. 1s and who's on iTunes, and [while] I'm on iTunes and I'm No. 1, I still care about the fervor of show business and music and womanhood." Can she get any privacy in New York--especially going out in public in those getups? "I'm not going to change who I am, and New Yorkers know about me and they don't give a shit. I am my music; I am my art; I am my creativity. When I look into a crowd [at my shows], I feel like I'm looking into tiny little disco-ball mirrors and I'm looking into myself. And when I wake up in the morning, that's what makes my heart tick."

Article by Lisa Robinson, photography by Nick Knight.

Alternative coversEdit

After the good reception from the public and the media over the cover, Vanity Fair explained that the editorial staff had trouble initially picking up the cover between 2 other candidates.

The response to the September 2010 cover—featuring pop star Lady Gaga in full Godiva mode—has been gratifyingly positive. So positive, in fact, that it’s hard to believe that the image itself was the subject of a lively debate here in the Vanity Fair offices. Nick Knight’s photo shoot yielded four potential cover images, and the editorial staff was divided over which deserved the coveted front-page treatment. “Some people felt the photograph with her in the bodysuit made more of stylish statement, appropriate for the Style Issue,” explains design director David Harris, who initially fell into the catsuit camp. “I thought it was very strong graphically—typical design director opinion. Graydon won me over to the cover we eventually chose. He said that he had never seen her looking so exposed— and that as a portrait it was a stronger cover. And he’s right.”

January 2012Edit

New York City, September 11, 2011: Cynthia Germanotta opens the door to the apartment in the beautiful building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side where Lady Gaga—born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta—grew up. It was here that Stefani got dressed in her school uniform every day to attend the Convent of the Sacred Heart, practiced piano, and dreamed of stardom. And it is where—despite having a suite at a nearby hotel—Lady Gaga is sleeping this weekend, on an air mattress on the floor of her old bedroom. No journalist has ever visited the Germanottas’ home before, but the last time Gaga and I talked, she described the apartment to me, and when I expressed surprise that she said it had several floors, she told me her parents got a “deal” when they bought it, 18 years ago. She suggested that I see it. She also decided she wanted to cook a meal for me. I never really believed all the stuff about how she likes to cook any more than I believed that she really hung out with her old friends at dive bars on the Lower East Side. But, having done the Lower East Side bar trip with her the day before (more about that later), I was looking forward to seeing Lady Gaga at home with her family.

Lady Gaga’s parents are in their mid-50s and have been married for 30 years. They’re savvy and proud and protective of their famous daughter. They’re involved with her business. It is apparent, seeing them all together, that Gaga’s relationship with her family—as well as with her very tight management team—keeps her levelheaded. Cynthia Germanotta, originally from West Virginia, is a graceful blonde. Forget such inspirations as David Bowie or Marilyn Monroe—it is obvious where Gaga got her sense of style. Today, Cynthia is wearing black-rimmed eyeglasses, a lacy black sweater, and black pants. She looks about 10 years younger than her age. (We discuss plastic surgery and she says, “I always tell my daughters it doesn’t make you look younger. It just looks like you’ve had work done.”) Also present are the family’s two dogs—Alice, a 14-year-old beagle, and Lilu, a 3-year-old dachshund. When I arrive, Gaga’s father, Joe Germanotta, is downstairs in the basement. He’s from New Jersey and is the likely owner of the Bruce Springsteen Darkness on the Edge of Town CD boxed set on the windowsill next to the black baby-grand piano that dominates the living room. In the entrance hallway, there’s a frame with photos of Gaga with Springsteen, Elton John, and Sting, at last year’s Rainforest concert at Carnegie Hall. The apartment is a cozy triplex, with a large beige sofa and many framed family photos on the piano. There is a dining table by the open kitchen, a garden off the living room where Cynthia grows fennel, arugula, Italian parsley, rosemary, and oregano, and where there are small fig, olive, and lemon trees. And, at the kitchen counter by the sink, chopping cherry tomatoes in half for a spaghetti sauce she prepares from scratch, is Lady Gaga. She is wearing a black lace Chanel dress, extra-high Louboutin stiletto heels, glass earrings, full makeup, and a Daphne Guinness-inspired black-and-white wig. Just another Sunday afternoon at the Germanotta home.

Gaga removes the pink ribbon from the box of macarons I have brought from the newly opened Ladurée bakery, on Madison Avenue. She puts the Ladurée box on top of the Dunkin’ Donuts box already on the counter and ties the ribbon around her hairdo. She then proceeds to take me on a tour of the apartment. On the top floor are her parents’ bedroom and the bedroom she shared with her sister, Natali (who, now 19, attends art school in the city), where the red air mattress is on the floor. I note that there are no doors on the bedrooms—her parents could have heard everything she and her sister said growing up. “Yes,” she says, “and I heard them too.” (Later that evening, when we’re at the hotel for a lengthy chat, I ask, Why the air mattress on the floor instead of this suite with the room service, the marble bathrooms, the magnificent views of Central Park? “I’m in hotels all the time,” she says, “and they’re cold. None of this really matters to me. When I can, I’d much rather spend the time with my parents.”)

In the apartment, I watch Gaga prepare the tomato sauce. She adds fennel, rosemary, oregano, and leeks—“My secret ingredient”—and she and her mother discuss whether we should have whole-wheat pasta. She makes a salad. All this slicing and dicing while wearing the Chanel dress seems perfectly natural in the Gaga world. People always ask me what she’s really like. This is what she’s really like. When we talk later, she says she feels she owes it to her fans to always look this way. “I went to an all-girls school”, Gaga says, “and I was very much like my mother; she would do her hair every morning and get dressed nice. So, most of the time I would stay up all night, straightening my hair, and I would even put my makeup on before bed sometimes, so that when I woke up in the morning it would be ready for school. I just liked to be glamorous. It made me feel like a star”.

Joe Germanotta comes upstairs, wearing jeans and a red polo shirt. “That’s a nice dress,” he says, complimenting his daughter. We talk about the Yankees, and he tells me he purchased four seats from the old Yankee Stadium to put in the garden of the restaurant he’s currently renovating at 70 West 68th Street. The restaurant will be called Joanne, after his late sister, and there will be a double fireplace between the main room and the garden area; people will be able to sit outside and watch games on TV. Cynthia is in charge of the restaurant’s décor; she’s picked every tile, every lamp, every fabric, every painting; it’s easy to see where Gaga got her attention to detail. Joe’s been working with a crew for five months to get the restaurant ready, and the plan is for it to be open this month. Cynthia shows me three large U.P.S. boxes of fan mail in the living room that she gets for Gaga every week. I read aloud an e-mail a Gaga fan sent me—12-year-old Maddie P., from Maine. She wrote that Gaga inspired her to help a boy in her school who had been harshly bullied for being gay. Gaga held her mother’s hand while listening to this and tears rolled down her cheeks. Cynthia shows me a letter from the White House commending Gaga for her work on behalf of abolishing “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and then says that she’ll head up Gaga’s new Born This Way Foundation—a charity that will empower youth, with an emphasis on anti-bullying.

Joe and Cynthia take me downstairs to see the basement, which includes a space where Joe used to make his own wine. The basement is a large, wood-paneled room, with a big screen for watching TV shows, baseball games, and N.C.A.A. March Madness. All around the room, Cynthia points out, is “Gaga’s stuff”—as she still has no permanent home other than this one. And, Gaga says, despite all the rumors last year of house-hunting with her on-and-off boyfriend of six years, the bartender/writer Luc Carl, she has no plans to settle down. “Gypsy queen couldn’t take the leap,” she says. “I’m not going to pay millions of dollars for something. I can’t commit to being an adult—I’m not ready.” The basement walls are covered with Gaga’s framed platinum albums, posters from her concerts, and all-access backstage passes. Joe says being on the road is “a lonely life,” so one or both of her parents accompany Gaga on tour when they can. We sit down at the table to eat. In addition to Gaga and her parents, we are joined by Lane Bentley, Gaga’s day-to-day manager. She’s worked with Gaga for three years, has traveled with her since last June, and handles literally hundreds of e-mails daily regarding Gaga’s schedule. We all hold hands as Gaga says grace. And then we eat the whole-wheat spaghetti, with the delicious homemade sauce, and the salad, and drink a bottle of red wine. And, for the record, Gaga ate a lot. “You’ve got a hit,” her father told her about the sauce. After the meal, Gaga went to the piano to play us a new song she was working on about Princess Diana—a song about fame and celebrity death. Even in its rough stages, it has her trademark catchy chorus, and she sang the sad, slightly bitter lyrics in full voice. As I watched her parents listen to her, I could see years of such tableaux: the young Gaga at the piano, singing, her parents watching. “Oh, yes”, Cynthia says when I ask if it had always been this way. “We didn’t push it. She was just determined. But we wouldn’t have encouraged her to pursue this if we didn’t think she had the talent”.

In the mere four years that she’s had a recording contract, Gaga, now 25, has become a global phenomenon. She was No. 11 on last year’s Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, coming in ahead of Oprah Winfrey. She’s sold a total of 23 million albums and 63 million singles worldwide. Her net worth has been reported to be over $100 million. Her sophomore album, Born This Way, sold more than 1.1 million copies in its first week of release, last May. She performed for 2.4 million people in 202 shows in 28 countries on the year-and-a-half-long Monster Ball Tour. She has more than 44.5 million “Likes” on Facebook, and more than 15 million people follow her on Twitter. According to her manager, Troy Carter, initially she wasn’t an easy sell, because (hard to imagine now) at first, way back in 2008, her songs were considered “dance.” Radio stations wouldn’t play her music. Still, Carter says, “she walked into my office in 2007 wearing fishnet stockings, a leotard, big black sunglasses, and confidence. Too much confidence. She walked in as a superstar.” The producer Vincent Herbert, who has worked with Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Toni Braxton, and scores of others, signed Gaga to his own label at Interscope Records in 2007. “I’ve never met an artist so dedicated,” he says. “The first time I met her, she told me, ‘If you sign me, I’ll be the most loyal artist you’ll ever sign. I want to be the biggest pop star in the world. I want to sell 10 million albums.’ That was our first meeting. I knew immediately that she’d be our new superstar, our new Michael Jackson.”

In the past year alone, Gaga has appeared on numerous television shows including Saturday Night Live, where she performed in skits and displayed a real comedic flair; she could easily host the show if she ever had the time. She had her own HBO special: the Monster Ball concert, live from Madison Square Garden. She appeared on the red carpet at last year’s Grammys inside a “vessel”—a semi-transparent egg designed by Hussein Chalayan. At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, she wore a dress made of actual meat (which was chemically treated and then enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). And this past year, she opened the MTV V.M.A.’s dressed as her alter ego, a guy named “Jo Calderone,” who resembled either Ralph Macchio or Marlon Brando, depending on your age or point of view (more about that later, too). Wearing a man’s Brooks Brothers suit (and prosthetic male genitalia inside her trousers), smoking a cigarette, and guzzling a bottle of beer, she shocked the audience and instantly made every female star in attendance who had pink hair or wore a contraption on her head look dated.

Since Lady Gaga’s album Born This Way hit the charts last May, she has promoted it all over the world. She recorded “The Lady Is a Tramp” with Tony Bennett for his Duets II album, prompting Bennett to rave that she’s one of the greatest talents he’s ever seen. When she performed for the Robin Hood Foundation benefit in New York City last May, according to David Saltzman, executive director of the charity, she was one of the very few artists to ever refuse the usual high-six-figure fee, insisting instead that the money go back to help anti-poverty programs in the city. She sang at President Clinton’s 65th-birthday concert at the Hollywood Bowl. She met President Obama, who said that in her 10-inch-high heels she was “intimidating”, and she implored him to do something about bullying. (“Nothing with her is small,” says Bobby Campbell, the head of marketing for her management company. “So if she’s going to be in a room with Obama, she’s going to have to talk about what she wants to achieve in the world.”) And by the time this magazine is on sale, she will have published a book in collaboration with photographer Terry Richardson (Lady Gaga X Terry Richardson) and released the DVD of the HBO special as well as the album Born This Way: The Remix. She headlined an ABC-TV special the night of Thanksgiving, where she performed and cooked with Art Smith (who will be the executive chef of her parents’ restaurant). She and Nicola Formichetti, her close collaborator for her every outfit and every look and the fashion director of her Haus of Gaga, created “Gaga’s Workshop”—a full floor of holiday items selected or inspired by her—at Barneys on Madison Avenue. (A percentage of the profits from all that stuff will benefit the Born This Way Foundation.) She’ll perform in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. She continues her work as a spokesman for Viva Glam and creative director for Polaroid, and is developing a fragrance which is scheduled to debut in 2012. And she is eager to start a Born This Way tour, which could begin sometime in 2012 and will last well into 2013. When I asked Troy Carter if, after three weeks of vacation, Gaga gets antsy and wants to work, he laughed and said, “Three weeks? Or three hours?” When I suggested to Gaga that maybe she works too hard, does too many TV shows, she said, “I love to sing. I love to dance. I love show business. I need it. It’s like breath”.I asked her if she worries about overexposure, or backlash. She said, “I’ve already had the backlash.” But, I said, you don’t want to wind up some crazy casualty. “If I’m supposed to end up like some crazy casualty”, she said, “then that’s my destiny”.

New York City, September 10, 2011: Gaga is taking me to some of her old hangouts, where, she tells me, she grew up. “This is really where I got my education,” she says about the Lower East Side neighborhood where she lived alone in a walk-up apartment at 176 Stanton Street from May 2005 to May 2007, after dropping out of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. This is where she slept on a mattress on the floor, and where, she says, “I wore the same outfit every day. I never did laundry—I stank.” It’s also where she took drugs, wrote songs, and lugged her keyboard up and down several flights of stairs to do club shows. I told her that, even though she’s always said she avoids celebrity parties and prefers to spend time with old friends when she’s in New York, I wasn’t sure I bought it. (“I don’t understand that whole thing of … gathering … in tribes,” she says. “Like a club of famous people. Why would I want to have champagne with celebrities?”) So today she’s called some of her pals to join us on an expedition. She’s just finished a photo shoot, she is spray-tanned and wearing sunglasses, a Lever Couture black lace see-through dress, black underwear, very high heels, and a black lace cape that has been dipped in latex. She rides downtown in a large S.U.V. and insists on sitting in the front seat, with her legs splayed across the dashboard, “because,” she says, “I don’t like to feel cramped.” At East Houston and Avenue B she wants to get out and walk. This foray is not like her appearance on 60 Minutes; no camera crew follows us and no crowd gathers. With her security team a few paces behind us, we walk with Bo O’Connor—her best friend since she was four years old—Lane Bentley, and Bobby Campbell. People on the street occasionally stop and stare, say hello, or ask to take a picture with her. (She says yes every time.) But we manage to walk around fairly hassle-free. She’s showing me some of the landmarks from when she lived in the area. She’s upset that a favorite Mexican restaurant, on Rivington Street between Essex and Norfolk, went out of business. So has a beauty-supply store that she loved. We walk into a T-shirt store owned by a friend of hers. She points out various bars—St. Jerome’s on Rivington, where her former boyfriend worked and where her friend Lady Starlight D.J.’d and go-go-danced, and 151, which some people in the neighborhood refer to as “the cave.” There’s a biker bar where, she says, “I used to stand outside and do drugs.” We walk by a park where Dominican families hang out and listen to music and where, she says, “the rats that ran across that street were huge.” She shows me the liquor store across the street from her old apartment and says, “If I was really fucked up, I would call them to deliver.” She had money for liquor delivery? “Well”, she says, “a $4 bottle of wine”.

And then we go into the Johnsons—a small bar on Rivington. While Lane and Bobby go to the pool table in the back, Gaga, Bo, and I sit at the bar. I say it’s barely five P.M., perhaps a bit early to start drinking. “Are you kidding?,” Gaga says. “Back in the day, this would be late.” Bo and I order beer, and Gaga orders a shot of Jameson’s. For the next three hours, Bo, Gaga’s friend Breedlove (a musician who also does the makeup for the Broadway show Wicked), and Lady Starlight (née Colleen Martin) sit and talk with Gaga and me about their days on the Lower East Side and their friendships. Lady Starlight, who’s preparing to go on tour as the opening act for Judas Priest, gives Gaga a tie-dyed red velour dress and a velour jacket in various shades of gold. Breedlove talks about how they used to kill time in this very bar all day “waiting for Judy,” their code name for cocaine. Gaga talks about how she woke up one day on her tour bus and realized what an idiot she’d been and never touched the drug again. She says that Bo made her understand that, even after working for 17 hours, or after a flight to Tokyo—no matter how exhausted she is—if her phone rings in the middle of the night and it is her parents or Bo, she has to pick it up. Gaga recalls the first time she saw Lady Starlight go-go-dance on a bench in the corner at St. Jerome’s. “There was something... off about it,” Gaga says of Starlight’s performance, “something awkward and uncomfortable. But she was so unapologetic and interesting; I wanted to be like that.” About Gaga, Lady Starlight says, “She’s such an awesome person that you can’t not like her. We hung out, we started to perform together, and people thought we were sisters, or girlfriends—neither of which we ever denied. She has such positive energy; it’s so inspirational to me”. Gaga always credits Lady Starlight with influencing her, and Lady Starlight says, “First of all, no one else gives that kind of credit, but she always does. And I swear to you, everyone says when people get famous they don’t change, and it’s just not true. But she has not changed. [In those early days] I just tried to show her, Don’t be afraid of anything. Go to whatever lengths we need to go to to get people shocked. It was, like, live it and believe it”. Gaga talks about her next tour, and she talks about her fans. It always comes back to her fans. (Nicola Formichetti had told me that when he first met Gaga, three years ago, at a photo shoot early in the morning in Malibu, she showed up in full makeup, wig, heels—the whole bit. And then she took it all off and did it again for the shoot. “She always says to me, ‘I don’t want my fans to see me without my high heels on,’ ” Nicola recalls. “She says, ‘They’ll kill me. They need me to be like this.’ People always ask me what is she really like, and you know, this is who she is”.)

The Mandarin Oriental hotel, New York City, September 11, 2011: Following the afternoon at her parents’ apartment, over the course of three hours (and before she returns to the air mattress to sleep), Gaga talks to me about her work, her fans, her politics, and her private life. She tells me she is seeing someone new (who knows if her rumored romance with Vampire Diaries actor Taylor Kinney will stand the test of time), but she is notoriously private about her private life. “I can’t imagine that people sit and talk for hours about their marriages and their personal relationships,” she says. “It seems strange to me. I always try to be honest with my fans, because I feel like I’ve built this goodwill with them where they know that I’m telling them the truth. The only thing I’m not always forthright with [are] my relationships, because I think it’s not classy to exploit your relationships. I have a very giving heart I’m a lot like my mother. I just let people so far in. And with men, I tend to let them in so far in my heart and my soul because I’m emotionally available. The difference between being with your fans and being with a lover is that with my fans I know what I mean to them, and I will die protecting what we have. I only know the happiness of putting a smile on someone’s face from the stage. But I have never felt truly cherished by a lover. I have an inability to know what happiness feels like with a man. I have this effect on people where it starts out good. Then, when I’m in these relationships with people who are also creative, or creative in their own way, what happens is the attraction is initially there and it’s all unicorns and rainbows. And then they hate me.

“Perhaps it’s a whose-dick-is-bigger contest. If I go to the piano and write a quick song and play it back, they are angry with how fast and effortless it is. That’s who I am, and I don’t apologize for it. But it’s a hideous place to be in when someone that you love has convinced you that you will never be good enough for anyone. I had a man say to me, ‘You will die alone in a house bigger than you know, with all your money and hit records, and you will die alone.’ ” I suggest that perhaps she’s picked the wrong men. “That’s what my mother says,” she admits. “And even though I know it sounds a bit Hallmark, whenever I [was] in that kind of stressful, worthless moment, I would think, I’ll show you. But it’s more than just saying, ‘Oh, they can’t handle a strong woman.’ ‘Oh, I’m intimidating.’ ‘Oh, it’s the money.’ I think what it really is, is that I date creative people. And I think that what intimidates them is not my purse; it’s my mind.” I suggest that she’s just going to have to find somebody more talented than she is. “Yes, please,” she says.

Then she laughs and says the weird thing is, after she’s left a few people, they’ve asked her to marry them. “How fuckin’ romantic, you asshole. Sure, pop a ring on my finger and make it all better. I can buy myself a fuckin’ ring.” She continues: “I say this honestly, and this is my new thing as of the past year: when I fight with someone I’m in a relationship with, I think, What would my fans think if they knew this was happening? How would they feel about my work and about me as a female if they knew I was allowing this to go on? And then I get out. [My fans] saved me from myself, because they would never allow it—the same way I would never allow anything to hurt them. And I have always picked the music first. If anything gets in music’s way, they’re gone. My work has always been primary. It’s not money and it’s not record sales and it’s not photographs. It’s this invisible thing I imagine all the artists I ever loved could smell that energy.”

One of the things that made Gaga more aware of how she was in relationships was the acting piece she did as “Jo Calderone” for the MTV awards. “I thought it would be an interesting cultural exercise to create someone [who’s] not me,” she says, “[someone] infinitely more relatable than me. A blue-collar Italian guy in a Brooks Brothers suit who just wants this girl to stay the hell home. It took a performance piece for me to understand things about who I am. And through doing this [with acting coach Larry Arancio] I learned about how I am in bed. I said, ‘Isn’t it strange that I feel less able to be private in private, and more able to be private in public?’ And Larry said, ‘Well, maybe that’s the problem.’ And I said, ‘That’s exactly the problem.’ When I’m onstage, I’m so giving and so open and myself. And when the spotlight goes off, I don’t know quite what to do with myself. As we were working, and talking this through, Larry told me to write everything down. And I had to get the prosthetic cock and balls hanging between my legs—how else could I walk like a guy? And I remember one of the things I said [when writing] was that I cover my face a lot when I have an orgasm. Like I’m ashamed or something.” And so, when she performed this onstage as “Jo” talking about Lady Gaga, she said, “When she comes, she covers her face, like she doesn’t want me to see, like she can’t stand to have an honest moment when nobody’s watching.” She also utilized “Jo” in her video for “You and I”: “It was a sweet and youthful moment in a cornfield where I could create what the most perfect relationship would be like,” she says. “It was a metaphor. I haven’t had it yet”.

As the sun goes down and it starts to get dark in the suite, all the crudités, figs, and pomegranates are gone from the room-service tray—yes, we ate even after that meal at her parents’. We sip some red wine and the conversation turns to politics. I ask Gaga what she cares about in regard to what’s happening in our country. “I care about gay marriage. I care about immigration. I care about education,” she says. “I care about families and what is taught in schools and what is taught at home. And I feel liberated by my ability to be political with no political affiliation.

“I think that we’re the land of the free and the home of the brave and inviting people to come in and pursue the American Dream,” she continues. “And now we’re kicking everybody out and essentially making citizens explain for themselves why they should be as equal to the person sitting next to them. I don’t understand why anyone would interpret the Constitution as more relevant for one person over another, based on choices that have nothing to do with committing a crime.” We discuss, among other things, the current presidential candidates, the Tea Party, Fundamentalists, and a woman’s right to choose. “How can we create within society a sense of respect and leadership [when a woman is put in a position] where she’s so young and has to make a choice,” Gaga says. “The problem is not women being irresponsible. The problem is everyone being irresponsible. I talk to my sister about this a lot because she’s young. Maybe sex isn’t that big a deal anymore, but I don’t have sex without monogamy, and maybe that’s very old-fashioned. But still, the way men treat women in this society … How is it O.K. for a guy not to call a girl back after sex? And how can you deny a woman the right to choose [whether or not] to have a child? It’s completely outrageous”.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, Staten Island, New York, October 11, 2011: Lady Gaga is directing the video for her new single, “Marry the Night.” She wrote the treatment for it over a year ago and tells me it’s “autobiographical.” By the time you’re reading this story, the video will likely be out, and while she may not spell it out, she wants people to interpret the video for themselves. But on this night, while it’s being filmed on a closed set, what I see being filmed is a very, very personal story. There is footage of Gaga in a dance class, when she was just starting her career. There is a scene where she is lugging her keyboard up the flights of stairs in her old apartment building, with neighbors coming out of their apartments to stare at her. The director of photography is Darius Khondji, who did Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, and Gaga speaks to Darius in fairly fluent French. She laughs when she sees the playback of her falling down the stairs—very physical, Lucille Ball-style—with her keyboard. And then there are the two scenes that she says depict the worst day of her life.

Over a year and a half ago, when she talked to me about “the worst day of my life,” she said she had never talked about it before. But all she would reveal at that time was that she called her mother, who screamed into the phone and went to get her at her Stanton Street apartment, and that she was dropped by her first record label, Island Def Jam, on the same day. Soon afterward, she and her mother went to visit her grandmother in West Virginia. Now, in this video, she says, she is reliving “the worst day of my life.” In one scene, Gaga, with obvious bruises on her body, looks completely drugged and out of it as she is wheeled on a gurney into a hospital—which, she pointedly tells me, is a “women’s clinic.” (Although, she says, laughing, in this video “the nurses are wearing Calvin Klein ‘uniforms’ and Yves Saint Laurent shoes.”) Following the hospital scene, a woman playing the part of her best friend, Bo, takes her back to her Stanton Street apartment, where Gaga undresses and gets into bed. And then, after she’s in bed, she gets a phone call informing her that she’s been dropped by her record label. Prior to filming this scene, Gaga asks the few of us assembled in her trailer how far she should go with this. She decides to go all the way. “It’s chaotic,” she says, “and sad. But I don’t want it to be safe.”

Outside the set made to look like her original apartment—with a mattress on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, a hot plate, open cereal boxes, a leather jacket draped over a chair, a keyboard—she prepares to film the scene. She has a short dark wig on and is wearing a Stephane Rolland dress that has latex blood along the hem. She and “Bo” are wearing gloves and heels. “We look like we just came from church,” she says, joking, then takes a sip out of a bottle of Jameson’s. I mutter something about how the Catholic Church will view this. “What, as if I’m their pinup girl to begin with?” she says. Clearly, this was a traumatic day; now this video is a cathartic experience for her. The soundtrack comes on; she tells me it’s the Beethoven sonata Pathétique. As she prepares to film the scene, she starts to cry, and hugs her choreographer, Richie Jackson. She’s the director and the actress, and, she says, with those two jobs “I have to get my bearings.” Then she adds, “I’m getting ready to relive the worst day of my life.” Tears roll down her face, and she turns to me. But, I say, you won. You won.

The following night, motor homes and trucks are lined up on 126th Street in Harlem. Gaga is filming another scene for the “Marry the Night” video, this time on the rooftop of a parking garage. Joe Germanotta is there; Cynthia had been there earlier. Joe and I talk about how pissed off we are about the Yankees’ loss in the playoffs and Alex Rodriguez in particular. Everyone is given earplugs because cars are about to be exploded. The pyrotechnic guys are wearing what look like protective fireproof suits. They set fire to three cars. The explosions are loud; it’s like an action movie. Gaga, wearing a short blond wig, a skimpy black leather outfit, and thigh-high black leather boots, says in a determined voice, “I’m going in.” And as the cars burst into flames and we all hold our collective breath, Gaga walks—no, she struts—fearlessly, up to the fire.

Article by Lisa Robinson, photography by Annie Leibovitz.

April 2016 Edit

Photography by Mark Seliger.

Gb United KingdomEdit

The Style Issue (No. 601, September 2010)Edit

Same article as the US version.

It ItalyEdit

December 2009Edit

Article by Luca Bianchini, photography by Francesco Vezzoli.

May 2010Edit

Article by Vanessa Grigoriadis, photography by Veronica Ibarra.

May 2011Edit

Photography by Mario Testino.

January 2012Edit

Article by Lisa Robinson, photography by Annie Leibovitz.

October 2012Edit

Lady Gaga al caviale.
I retroscena della cena a casa Versace, tra barboncini e altri Little Monsters.
Donatella Versace non è certo una che si lascia intimidire da ospiti importanti: ha incontrato, vestito, coccolato e intrattenuto personaggi come Madonna, Prince, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Elton John, Patrick Dempsey, ed è stata invitata alla Casa Bianca prima da Bill e Hillary Clinton e poi da Barack e Michelle Obama. La settimana scorsa, però, è toccato a lei fare da anfitrione a Palazzo Versace. In via Gesù a Milano, tra le ormai solite ali di folla urlante, è arrivata Lady Gaga, pronta a passare con Lady Medusa la sera prima dell’unica tappa italiana del suo Born This Way Ball Tour, mentre il fotografo Terry Richardson le immortalava allegramente. Menu a base di pasta fatta in casa al caviale, cotolette alla milanese e torta al cioccolato. Non sappiamo quanto e cosa Miss Germanotta abbia mangiato, [quasi] tutto il resto, però, Donatella ce l’ha raccontato.

Pasteggiare con Lady Gaga capita a ben pochi. Che cosa l’ha colpita di più della cena?
E’ una donna molto comunicativa e ti mette subito a tuo agio, con lei puoi parlare veramente di tutto, ci siamo confrontate su tante cose e abbiamo toccato anche argomenti molto personali.

Mica glieli posso raccontare, sennò che confidenze sarebbero? Ma è stato troppo carino quando mi ha confessato che da giovanissima girovagava per i mercatini del vintage andando a caccia di vecchi Versace. Diceva che sperava tanto, un giorno, di potersene comprare almeno uno.

E il barboncino Fozzi Bear, che Gaga ha portato con sé, si è comportato bene?
Benissimo. Per la cena non avevo portato Audrey, la mia jack russel, perchè avevo paura che non andassero d’accordo. Un po’ me ne sono pentita perchè, vista la sua simpatia, sono sicura che avrebbero giocato tutto il tempo , saltando su poltrone e divani.

Che effetto le ha fatto salutare il pubblico dal balcone insieme a lei?
Beh, ti senti un po’ regina. Del resto, non potrebbe essere diverso. Scherzi a parte, è stata una grande emozione ritrovarsi di fronte a tante persone, letteralmente impazzite, che la chiamavano a squarciagola.

Qual è stato il momento più divertente della serata?
A un certo punto abbiamo messo un po’ di musica e i fan che stazionavano fuori d’improvviso si sono azzittiti. Un gran silenzio, poi quacuno ha cominciato a gridare ”E’ la nuova canzone di Gaga, è la nuova canzone di Gaga!”. A quel punto lei ha aperto il portone ed è uscita ancora una volta a salutare i suoi Little Monsters, sennò non si sarebbero più dati pace.

Ma che cos’ha Gaga di tanto speciale?
Ha una caratteristica che la rende unica: sa coinvolgere e conquistare il pubblico con la sua immagine che rompe gli schemi, e che si basa più sull’intelligenza e sul dialogo che sulla bellezza in sé. E’ molto diversa da certe star degli anni ’80, che spesso si basavano solo sull’avvenenza.

Article by E. Brocardo, photography by Mert and Marcus and Terry Richardson.

December 2016Edit

Photography by Collier Schorr.

October 2018Edit

Photography by Peter Lindbergh.

Es SpainEdit

May 2011Edit

Article by Vanessa Grigoriadis, photography by Mario Testino.


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