Lady Gaga has worked hard to get to the top. Now she's there – she's not going.
Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta into a strict Catholic family on 28 March 1986 in New York. She began playing piano at the age of four and honed her formative skills while attending the private all-girls Roman Catholic school ‘Convent of the Sacred Heart’. She wrote her first ballad at the age of thirteen and from fourteen was performing at local open-mic nights. She also appeared in several school productions, such as ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.’ At fifteen she even had a small role in ‘The Sopranos’.
Aged seventeen, after leaving high-school, she was encouraged by her mother to apply for the 'Collaborative Arts Project' in New York to study music -she was one of twenty students to gain early admission to the establishment.
In her second year, she dropped out in order to focus on her music career, her father agreed to pay her rent for a year if she promised to return home if things didn’t go according to plan.
Gaga's first foray into the limelight occurred in summer 2005 when she recorded two songs with hip-hop artist Grandmaster Melle Mel for an audio book that accompanied a children's novel called ‘The Portal in the Park’. In September that year she established the Stefani Germanotta Band with some friends from her former university. Playing a mixture of self-penned tracks and covers of classic rock songs, SGB generated a small fan base at bars across New York.
In 2006 Stefani worked with music producer Rob Fusari who’d chosen Stefani to front a new band, he also helped create her persona and, he claims, the stage name Lady Gaga. Their musical relationship took a while to become successful but in 2006, when Def Jam’s A&R man heard some of their electropop recordings, he signed Gaga to the label. The intention was to release an album in nine months' time but after just three the label dropped her.
Devastated, Gaga returned home and submerged herself in the seedy nightlife of New York’s Lower East Side, she became a go-go dancer, experimented with drugs and alienated her once supportive family. It was during this time that she met Lady Starlight and the pair began to perform together, they were invited to perform at 'Lollapalooza’ in 2007 and the show was a success, confirming to Gaga that her musical oeuvre, ostensibly, glam rock with a pop twist, was working.
Later that year, Fusari encouraged Gaga to work with Streamline Records and she became a songwriter for Sony/ATV. After writing songs for the likes of Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block and the Pussycat Dolls she signed to Cherrytree Records.
In 2008 she moved to Los Angeles and released her debut album ‘The Fame’ on 19 August 2008. The ‘Fame Ball tour’ helped the album to sell but it wasn't until the lead single ‘Just Dance’ reached the international charts that she became a household name. In January 2009, it topped charts across the globe, the sale of her album went through the roof and ‘Just Dance’ earned her first Grammy nomination which became one of the world’s best-selling singles.
Her next song ‘Poker Face’ was even bigger selling 9.8 million copies and winning Best Dance Grammy at the 52nd edition of the awards, ‘The Fame’ won Best Dance/Electronica album. More accolades followed including Billboard's Rising Star title, three MTV VMA nominations and she took home the prize for Best New Artist for the video of her third single ‘Paparazzi’.
In 2009 she realised her EP, ‘The Fame Monster’, the lead single ‘Bad Romance’ topped the charts in eighteen countries and won her two more Grammys. Her next single ‘Telephone’, featuring Beyonce Knowles, became her fourth UK number one single.
Her following single ‘Alejandro’ was criticised for the accompanying video. ‘Telephone’ had been risqué but ‘Alejandro’ was criticised for being blasphemous, despite this (or because of it) she became the first musician to attract more than one billion views on YouTube. She also went on to win eight of its thirteen nominations at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards to which she wore her now iconic meat dress.
Gaga’s second worldwide tour ‘The Monster Ball’, was one of the highest-grossing tours of all time and was followed by the release of her second album ‘Born This Way’ on 23 May 2011 to positive critical acclaim. It sold 1.108 million copies in its first week but the tour had to be cut short after Gaga damaged her hip. The subsequent singles, ‘Born this Way’ (the 1000th number one single in the history of the charts) ‘Judas’ -featuring another controversial video- and ‘The Edge of Glory’ did well in the charts but ‘Marry the Night’ and ‘You and I’ didn’t fair quite as well. Nonetheless, in the same year she was ranked as the second most played artist of the year.
After taking a sabbatical, Lady Gaga released ‘ARTPOP’ in November 2013. It went on to become her second number one album, though not as critically well-received as her previous two efforts. The singles ‘Applause’, ‘Do What U Want’ and ‘G.U.Y’ released on Gaga’s 28th birthday have merely added to her impressive CV.
Gaga took a break from pop music after the release of 'ARTPOP', releasing a jazz album with Tony Bennett. 'Cheek to Cheek' gave her another Number 1 hit in the US, and landed in the Top 10 in the UK. She co-wrote and performed the song 'Till It Happens To You' for the documentary 'The Hunting Ground', a look at the handling of sexual assault in America's college campuses. The song was nominated for an Oscar in 2016, with Gaga performing an emotional rendition of the song at the ceremony, but lost out to Sam Smith's Bond track 'Writing On The Wall'.
Her fifth album, Joanne, was released in late 2016. In a departure from her pop/dance roots, Joanne was influenced by country and rock music. Its title is a tribute to Gaga's aunt who died as a young woman. The album became her fourth #1 in the US – selling 170,000 copies in its first week.
She also delved deeper in to acting, with an appearance in the film Machete Kills. She appeared on the FX television series 'American Horror Story: Hotel' as the mysterious Countess – a role that landed her a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Miniseries.
Her achievements include six Grammy Awards, thirteen MTV Video Music Awards as well as a string of acting credits and a burgeoning portfolio of philanthropy and activism. Lady Gaga remains an irrepressible tour de force at the top of her game.