Lady Gaga Biography

Lady Gaga
Photo by Christopher Polk / Getty Images

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986) rose to fame as a dance-pop music performer. She stood out from other artists with a uniquely provocative approach to her work. Later, she expanded her work into performing conventional jazz and acting on television.

Early Life and Underground Career

Stefani Germanotta attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart school in New York. As a teenager, she began writing songs and playing open mic nights at clubs in Manhattan. While in high school, she performed in a wide range of dramatic plays and musicals. At the age of 17, Stefani was admitted to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

Through her club connections in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Stefani Germanotta met and began working with producer Rob Fusari in 2006. It was Fusari who helped create the stage name Lady Gaga with inspiration from Queen's classic hit "Radio GaGa." It is a reference to sharing the flamboyant spirit of Queen's lead vocalist Freddie Mercury. Lady Gaga also joined forces with DJ / performance artist Lady Starlight, and the pair made a name for themselves with such stage projects as "Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue."

Unlike many of her counterparts in the Lower East Side club scene, Lady Gaga turned away from rock toward pop music as her primary inspiration. She incorporates elements from a wide variety of influences including the Cyndi Lauper music from her childhood, 70's variety shows, disco, and Madonna.

Songwriting Success and Pop Stardom

Lady Gaga was briefly signed to a contract by the Def Jam record label, but no recordings came out of the agreement. In 2007, she was signed by Interscope as a songwriter and began collaborating with Akon. She also wrote songs for artists like the Pussycat Dolls and New Kids on the Block. While having her do initial reference vocals for recordings, Akon sensed Lady Gaga's talent and helped begin promoting her career as a solo recording artist.

Working with a creative team titled "House of Gaga," Lady Gaga headed to the studio to record her first album "The Fame." Interscope released the first single "Just Dance" in April 2008 and sent Lady Gaga on tour with the New Kids on the Block reunion show. With "Just Dance" in the pop top 40, the debut album "The Fame" was released in late October, and it debuted inside the top 20 of the album chart.

Lady Gaga's singles "Just Dance" and "Poker Face" both became #1 smash hits. She followed them with summer 2009 top 5 hit "LoveGame." All three of these were produced by RedOne. For a fourth single from "The Fame," she turned to work with Rob Fusari and the song "Paparazzi." It was accompanied by a controversial Jonas Akerlund video examining death and murder.

In the fall of 2009, Lady Gaga's next musical step forward appeared with the release of "Bad Romance" in advance of the mini-album "The Fame Monster." Her music garnered both critical acclaim and commercial success. The release of the music video for "Telephone" became a major pop culture event.

After months of feverish anticipation, Lady Gaga released "Born This Way," the title single from her third album. The album "Born This Way" hit stores in May 2011. It sold 1,108,000 copies in its first week of release giving it the best single week of sales for any album since 2005.

Commercial Disappointment

After a phenomenal string of eleven consecutive top 10 pop hit singles, Lady Gaga was widely acclaimed as one of the world's top pop stars. Her 2013 album "Artpop" was one of the most highly anticipated releases in pop history. The first single "Applause" was released in August 2013. It received mixed reviews. While many critics gave positive assessments, they were quick to state that it did not match the quality of Lady Gaga's best previous singles. "Applause" failed to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #4. 

Leading up to the release of the album. questions were raised about the quality of Lady Gaga's new music. Amid massive fanfare and public events, "Artpop" was released in November 2013. It debuted at #1 on the album chart selling over 250,000 copies in its first week, but the sales were a far cry from the million copies sold by "Born This Way" in its first week. Follow up singles failed to reach the pop top 10. 

New Directions and Artistic Acclaim

Following "Artpop," Lady Gaga turned in a number of different directions with strong success. She recorded a traditional jazz duet album with Tony Bennett titled "Cheek To Cheek." Released in September 2014, it hit #1 on the album chart and won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. 

In early 2015, Lady Gaga appeared at the Academy Awards to sing a medley of songs from "The Sound Of Music" in tribute to the film's 50th anniversary. She earned tremendous positive acclaim. In October 2015 Lady Gaga appeared as a star of the fifth season of hit TV series "American Horror Story." She won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film.

In February of 2016, Lady Gaga gave a celebrated performance of the national anthem at the Super Bowl. She co-wrote the song "'Til It Happens To You" and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. Lady Gaga performed the song live at the Academy Award ceremony. 

Lady Gaga's next studio album "Joanne," named after her late aunt, was released in October 2016. It debuted at #1 on the album chart. The single "Million Reasons" returned her to the top 5 on the pop singles chart for the first time since 2013. In the summer of 2017, she embarked on a 59-date world concert tour in support of "Joanne." Despite starting more than midway through the year, the tour was ranked as one of the 15 most lucrative of 2017.

For 2018, Lady Gaga announced two other new projects. She is co-starring in a new movie version of "A Star Is Born" along with Bradley Cooper. It follows three previous film versions. Gaga plans to record new music for the soundtrack. In December, she will kick off a two-year Las Vegas residency with the MGM Park Theater.


The rise of Lady Gaga's popularity brought a resurgence in popularity of dance-pop music. It also helped resurrect disco as a legitimate element of contemporary dance-pop. The broad conceptual nature of Gaga's music and videos expanded the palette of topics, images, and sounds in mainstream pop.

Lady Gaga developed a new contemporary model of pop star activism. She strongly supported LGBT rights around the world. She is seen by her gay fans as a pop icon. She played a key role in bringing about the end of the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning out homosexuals from military service. She also took a frontline approach to fighting fracking, AIDS, and sexual assault on college campuses. Lady Gaga made large donations to assist victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Top Songs

  • "Just Dance" (2008)
  • "Poker Face" (2008)
  • "Paparazzi" (2009)
  • "Bad Romance" (2009)
  • "Alejandro" (2010)
  • "Born This Way" (2011)
  • "You and I" (2011)
  • "Million Reasons" (2016)

Awards and Honors

  • MTV Video Music Award - Best New Artist (2009)
  • Grammy Award - Best Electronic / Dance Album - "The Fame" (2010)
  • Grammy Award - Best Dance Recording - "Poker Face" (2010)
  • MTV Video Music Award - Video of the Year - "Bad Romance" (2010)
  • Grammy Award - Best Female Pop Vocal Performance - "Bad Romance" (2011)
  • Grammy Award - Best Pop Vocal Album - "The Fame Monster" (2011)
  • Grammy Award - Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album - "Cheek to Cheek" with Tony Bennett (2015)
  • Songwriters Hall of Fame Award - Contemporary Icon (2015)
  • Golden Globe Award - Best Actress Miniseries or Television Film - "American Horror Story: Hotel" (2016)

Sources and Recommended Reading

  • Lady Gaga and Terry Richardson. Lady Gaga. Grand Central Publishing, 2011.
  • Morgan, Johnny. Gaga. Sterling, 2010.