Lady Gaga has embraced her place in a long line of rebels and strong women.
In a powerful new essay in Harper’s Bazaar, the pop star weighs in on what it means to be a woman in the modern world, and how her female forbears influenced her.
“Being a lady today means being a fighter,” writes Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. “It means being a survivor. It means letting yourself be vulnerable and acknowledging your shame or that you’re sad or you’re angry. It takes great strength to do that.”
One woman whose legacy Gaga has long carried is the paternal aunt she is named after, Joanne Stefani Germanotta. A survivor of sexual assault, Germanotta died of lupus in 1974, 12 years before Gaga was born.
“The best way to describe my relationship with her is that it’s like the relationship someone might have with an angel or a spirit guide or whatever you think of as a higher power,” Gaga writes. “I learned about her mostly through stories and pictures. But I also learned about her through the rage of my father and watching him pour a drink every night and through seeing my grandparents cry at the Christmas dinner table when it was clear that there was an empty seat they wanted to fill.”
Gaga thought of her aunt when the scandal erupted over Donald Trump’s lewd comments about women on a leaked Access Hollywood tape.
“Here we were, in 2016, and the fact that the sort of language that was being used to talk about women was everywhere — on TV, in politics — was eye-opening,” she writes. “I felt depressed and hurt by it because that’s what that kind of language does. Then I watched our incredible first lady, Michelle Obama, talk in New Hampshire about how hurt she felt seeing it too. She talked about how women are often afraid to say anything because we’re worried that we will appear weak — that we’ll be told we’re being over-the-top, dramatic, emotional. But we’re not. We’re fighting for our lives.”
Gaga’s essay echoes themes explored on her new album, which is titled Joanne in honor of her late aunt.
“The truth is, the album is about being tough,” Gaga recently told EW. “The album is about having endurance and heart no matter how hard things get, and about being unafraid to really look into your heart and how you feel.”
Read Gaga’s full essay at Harper’s Bazaar.