See Gaga's Self-Portrait for Our Cover 



LADY GAGA 1050 COMBO XLRG (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM | ADVOCATE.COM While Gaga was being interviewed for a February segment on 60 Minutes, she took control of the lighting and camera setup. Anderson Cooper remarked that he’d never seen anyone do that before, but he’d heard Barbra Streisand and Madonna had done the same. Gaga laughed and called the two performers her “sisters.”

More so than any of the female entertainers in her peer group (it’s doubtful Gaga will ever need a conservatorship), she merits comparison to these decades-older “sisters.” All have legendary iron wills, legions of devout gay followers since their earliest public performances, and folklore surrounding their prefame existences, and all have been defiant, outspoken advocates for equality. Also like the other two, Gaga has transcended unconventional, ethnic looks to redefine a new standard of beauty. Sex appeal sells, but longevity requires passion and chutzpah. Gaga understands that. “There’s no drama, there’s no jealousy, there’s no competition,” she says about the females she admires. “They’re just happy to see other women winning.”

“I just feel so connected to Madonna in a lot of ways, and I feel connected to Barbra, and I feel connected to Cher and Blondie and all of the women who came before me,” Gaga adds. “I worshipped them my whole life, and I would never be where I am today without all of them to inspire me. I feel so grateful that I have such strong women to look up to.”

Considering the flair for comedy she demonstrated during her two guest appearances on Saturday Night Live, perhaps Gaga is ready to follow the lead of her “sisters” and launch an acting career. She shrugs off the suggestion. “I don’t know,” she tells me. “Maybe someday. Right now I’m just really focused on this record. I really love making music. I know that sounds crazy, but I’m obsessed…obsessed with music. I’m just really enjoying making albums right now.”

Gaga doesn’t take the accompanying fame for granted. She knows that with it comes an equal measure of responsibility. “I believe I was destined to be an artist,” she says. “At the end of the day I could be rolling around in Rolls-Royces, buying mansions for myself, making records, and dancing around in my underwear. But to be honest, I’m not interested in doing that at all. I’d rather be at rallies with the fans, being a part of their voice, helping to mobilize and enforce change. If people don’t believe me, they don’t have to be a part of it.”