It’s hard for a fifty-eight year old woman (that would be me) to sing the praises of a woman who renamed herself Lady Gaga and wraps herself in raw meat to go onstage and talk about being authentic. Before I got to know her music, I had a hard time considering the wearing of red meat on your body to be authentic. But I thought it might be a generational thing. I, like so many of my peers, thought of the Gaga as a 2011 remake of Madonna, who was more show than talent. I was wrong.
Lady Gaga was Stephanie someone-or-other, and she grew up in New York City at the same time as my fabulous daughter, Sarah. She went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart, the very name of which tells you that they didn’t celebrate her desire to wear only a few token pieces of clothing on any given day and otherwise go around pretty much naked. But her parents always told her she was fab just the way she was. And good for them, because she is. I can’t help wondering: if I had told Sarah it was ok to go to school in her underpants, would she have forgone law school in order to get onstage at Madison Square Garden and sing about following your dreams? Sorry Sarah, if I inhibited your sense of self. You do the best you can, and when you know better, you do better (thank you Maya Angelou).
My first inkling of Ga Ga’s brilliance and talent came via 60 Minutes. She was smart, articulate, and sincere (although who really knows; one of my colleagues once worked with Jeffrey Dahmer and he thought he was a nice guy). Most of all, her music was amazing. I didn’t realize she could sing. Her music is her own, and her lyrics actually speak to me.
My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir
There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are
She said, ’cause He made you perfect, babe
So hold your head up, girl and you’ll go far
Listen to me when I say
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way, born this way.
She puts it to fabulous music, and while her performance attire is outrageous, I now find myself looking forward to seeing what she is going to wear next. It is a total package.
I see kids crying during her performances, not because they are worshiping her, but because she is telling them they are ok the way they are in that moment. I wish that Paul Simon had told me I was ok the way I was instead of telling me that he would be my Bridge Over Troubled Water, or to go look for America. I don’t really mean that, Simon was my Bridge Over Troubled Water when I cried my seventeen-year-old self to sleep to that song over and over again over Bob Reid, whom I had rejected for some silly reason that made no sense to me immediately after I did it. But I never felt like he knew me, or was supposed to know me personally.
I don’t know if Lady Ga Ga is an anomoly, or if today’s social media platforms allow performers (she says she is a performance artist) to speak more personally to their fans. But whatever it is, take a look at her, peers of mine. It is well worth the trip.