Portrait of a Lady
BY Jeremy Kinser
July 05 2011 6:50 AM ET
Lady Gaga has just touched down in Los Angeles after a red-eye flight from New York City, following a meet-and-greet with fans at a Best Buy store—a crowded event that lasted until 2 a.m. The 25-year-old musician, who since the release of her debut studio album, The Fame, in 2008 has seen her celebrity rocket to stratospheric heights, is riding in a car on her way to rehearse for a performance she’ll give the next evening on American Idol.
Most entertainers with her schedule would be exhausted. Gaga feels euphoric. “I’m so, so happy,” she tells me. “I got to spend all night with the fans last night, and it was so much fun.” She sounds genuine. The inflection in her voice when she says the word “fans” is saturated with affection.
Gaga is a very busy lady, and consequently our interview has been postponed four times. Her wildly hyped, hugely anticipated album Born This Way was released the day before. First-week sales of the album have defied even the most optimistic estimates by her record label, and everyone from David Letterman to The Wall Street Journal wants a piece of her. I just want her to describe what she’s wearing.
An enormous part of Gaga’s appeal comes from her avant-garde fashion sense—from her surreal Alexander McQueen footwear to the facial spurs she sports in the Born This Way artwork. I tell her that I don’t want to sound like a pervert, but I want the details on today’s ensemble. Gaga laughs at this. “That’s OK, pervy is fine,” she says before describing her entire outfit down to her bra and panties (Calvin Klein), the dance tights, and the leather jacket with the new album artwork hand-drawn on the back. The jacket is a gift from one of the fans she met the previous night.
“My love for my gay fans is just pure, authentic love for them as supporters of me from the beginning, and me feeling connected to their struggles as someone who is a part of their fight,” she says.
The mutual love affair between Gaga and her intensely devoted — and largely gay — disciples has come into the conversation a second time within a few minutes. She has declared numerous times that, like many of her “little monsters,” she was bullied. In one instance, as a young girl in Manhattan, she was literally tossed into a trash can by classmates. It’s not just sympathy she feels, though. Her connection to her fans goes deeper, to the point of identification. She says she is one of them.
Though she’s recently ended an on-off relationship with musician Luc Carl, Gaga has discussed her attraction to other women in the past. As to whether she also considers herself an actual member of the LGBT community — “yes” is her response after a brief pause. Gaga draws the word out, perhaps steeling herself for the follow-up question, wondering if she’ll be forced to address the rumor that she has a penis. “The b letter,” Gaga answers, and lets out a giggle. She really is in good spirits today.
Is this declared affinity for LGBTs, the championing of equality, just pandering, so much lip service to an album-buying public, all in the service of promoting a new release? It would be easy to be skeptical of her enthusiasm, of her rainbow flag–waving. She’s been accused of not being gay enough to claim a letter in the acronym, and it’s been said that her activism for marriage equality, against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and for AIDS awareness (she once appeared on Good Morning America dressed as a condom) is as superficial as her outré fashion.
“To say that I would use the gay community to sell records is probably one of the most ridiculous statements anyone can make about me as a person,” Gaga states. The timbre of her voice changes, deepening with frustration. “I would say the top thing I think about every single day of my life, other than my fans, loving the music, and my family being healthy, is social justice and equality.” Her conviction is convincing.