Also Credited As:Stefani Germanotta, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
|Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta on March 28, 1986 in Yonkers, New York, USA|
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Long before the world knew Gaga by her stage name, she was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta on March 28, 1986 in Yonkers, NY. Her father, Joseph, was an Internet entrepreneur and her mother, Cynthia, a telecommunications assistant. The self-described "ham" was a music prodigy, mastering the piano at the age of four, writing her first ballad at 13, and performing on stage by the time she was 14. She attended Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private school in Manhattan where she studied classical piano and sang in an oldies rock band. Growing up, Germanotta was heavily influenced by the city's underground art and fashion while digging on the music of Madonna, David Bowie and Queen. When she was 17, she gained early admission to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, making her only the 20th person to do so. However, her dream to pursue a full time music career left very little time for school. Two years later, the 19-year-old dropped out of NYU, worked a day job as a waitress, and performed at burlesque clubs and dive bars at night. Around this time, Def Jam Recordings' music mogul L.A. Reid signed Germanotta to his label after he heard her singing down the hall from his office. The label ended up dropping the young singer after three months, but her management company introduced her to a couple of influential music producers, including RedOne, whom she would collaborate with on her future debut album, The Fame, and Rob Fusari, who inadvertently helped devise her stage name. Fusari often sang Queen's 1983 classic "Radio Ga Ga" whenever Germanotta walked into the recording studio. Then one day he sent her a text message that was supposed to read "Radio Ga Ga," yet was mistakenly sent to "Lady Gaga." The singer, who was trying desperately to come up with proper stage name, told Fusari "That's it. Don't ever call me Stefani again."
In 2007, the newly named Lady Gaga met artist and clothing designer Lady Starlight, whom she collaborated with on the performance art piece "Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue," a burlesque style show inspired by variety acts of the 1970s. Even better, Interscope signed Lady Gaga to a recording contract shortly after her 20th birthday. She also struck a music publishing deal that enabled her to write songs for artists such as Britney Spears, the Pussycat Dolls, and New Kids on the Block. With things moving in her favor, Lady Gaga moved west to Los Angeles in 2008 to finish recording her debut album, The Fame, which included the RedOne-produced first single, "Just Dance." The electro-pop dance track stormed its way to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 due to its irresistible beat and catchy hook. The album also effectively showcased the artist's eclectic musical influences, performance art, and New York club roots. Lady Gaga's enigmatic public persona and over-the-top style - showing up to events and interviews wearing giant hair bows, glittery bodysuits, and carrying a bedazzled scepter she called her "disco stick" - largely helped the album's sales. "Just Dance" also earned the singer her first Grammy award nomination in 2009 for Best Dance Recording. She graced the May 2009 cover of Rolling Stone magazine wearing strategically placed plastic bubbles and within the interview, revealed her bisexual orientation. Yet even the outspoken singer could not escape being subjected to a ludicrous rumor that claimed she was actually a man. An up-skirt photo taken during Lady Gaga's performance at the Glastonbury Music Festival in England had tabloids and gossip sites wondering if she had a penis. Her manager confirmed with ABC News that the shot was taken at a bad angle and that his client was "all woman," but the hermaphrodite jokes refused to ever die.
Lady Gaga returned to New York as a performer and a favorite to win several trophies at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Her dramatic performance of the song "Paparazzi" included a surrealistic white backdrop and a simulated public execution. The artist also showcased several outfit changes throughout the night, each one more unusual than the next, and included everything from a red lace mask to a bird's nest hat to a crown of thorns. In October of that year, Lady Gaga proved she was much more than a pop star when she attended the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. The singer, who was always a strong supporter and advocate for gay rights, spoke out at the rally and performed a cover of John Lennon's 1971 classic "Imagine," changing one line to refer to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, one of the most gruesome hate crimes in history. Such humanitarian actions also made her one of the more beloved public figures of her time, with fans from all over the world - all of whom she lovingly began referring to as her "little monsters" - filling up stadiums to watch one of her dynamic live performances. One of her most surprising fans was none other than Queen Elizabeth II, whom she met and sang for at the annual Royal Variety Performance. Lady Gaga often went on the record to thank her "little monsters" for her success, and during a March 2010 interview with The New York Times, she even credited her fans for helping her give up drugs.
Her otherworldly fashion sense - often created by her own style team, Haus of Gaga - made Lady Gaga a muse for several couture designers, including Alexander McQueen and Giorgio Armani. Aspiring fashionistas also looked to the artist as a muse for their work, and in 2010, she appeared as the inspiration for an avant-garde challenge on the reality competition series, "Launch My Line" (Bravo, 2010- ). That same year, she turned the Grammy Awards red carpet upside down with a futuristic, custom-made Armani gown surrounded by metallic rings. Her opening number was equally mesmerizing, complete with a dueling pianos duet with Sir Elton John - basically her male equivalent 30 years prior. Lady Gaga won two Grammys that night - Best Dance Recording for "Poker Face" and Best Electronic/Dance Album for The Fame. The singer wasted no time working on her sophomore release. Inspired by her personal ups and downs since releasing her first album, as well as a love letter to her fans, Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster exceeded all critical and commercial expectations. The first single, "Bad Romance" debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and peaked at No. 2. The accompanying music video, which Rolling Stone compared to the work of Stanley Kubrick, featured a sex slavery plotline, fetish costumes, razor blade sunglasses, and an explosive ending. She continued her humanitarian work in 2010, donating proceeds from a concert during her Monster Ball Tour to the Haiti earthquake relief fund, and teaming up with Cyndi Lauper for the MAC AIDS Fund's Viva Glam campaign to raise money for AIDS awareness. In March 2010, the E! Network premiered Lady Gaga's second music video off The Fame Monster titled "Telephone," which featured fellow musical diva, Beyonce. The ambitious clip, which ran over nine minutes long, received over two million views on YouTube.com less than 24 hours after its release.