Behind the Poker Face
Another headline, another candid photograph with her face shielded by a pair of futuristic sunglasses, yet another reason for people to keep talking about Lady Gaga. I’ve never really cared about Lady Gaga. I appreciated her vocal talent and avant-garde attitude toward pop music, her outspokenness, and her shameless sense of self. But as her popularity grows, this exaggerated version of a pop star becomes more pompous, more grotesque. I wonder if she ever wears jeans and a t-shirt, or what her real hair looks like. I wonder if she ever remembers what it’s like not to be Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga’s biggest problem is not that she abandoned who she was for a new persona, it’s that she is sacrificing her talent for an image. What once was innovative has now become expected from Lady Gaga, and by making herself so different so quickly, she has limited herself to being pigeonholed as a “shock artist." The attention she is getting for doing her job in a more outlandish and unrestrained way than other pop performers is overshadowing the quality of the job itself.
Once a Catholic school girl from the Upper West Side, Lady Gaga—then Stefani Germanotta—got her start in Burlesque Bars and open-mic nights in lower Manhattan, and pursued formal training at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. By age 22, “Stefani, NYU, and Sacred Heart” sound more unusual than anything else about Lady Gaga.
Now, two years and two albums into pop stardom, Lady Gaga is more famous for her collection of antique porcelain teacups than her convictions or her talent. Whether or not she will be able to withstand the scrutiny and attention span of the pop culture audience remains to be determined. The choice she made to be unconventional and over-the-top as a performer leaves her little room for growth. Yet another transformation of her image puts her at risk of losing her enormous and ever-growing fan base.
Every moment of every day, Lady Gaga is living fiction. Somewhere down the line she went from female pop star to inhuman, existing somewhere between myth and sideshow freak. Everything from her identity to her gender has been scrutinized and questioned by the public, but unlike her peers, Lady Gaga hasn’t shaved her head in a Britney Spears breakdown, or fled from the spotlight never to be heard from again. She abandoned normalcy for fame and has no desire go back, regardless of exhaustion or ridicule. Lady Gaga probably doesn’t know how to be anything but Lady Gaga anymore, and I doubt there is a scared little girl hiding underneath the glitz and glamour. Lady Gaga is exactly who she appears to be: a pair of talented vocal chords dressed in sequins and camp whose only purpose is to entertain. And underneath all that glitters is not gold, but more glitter.