Beginning with her 2008 debut, The Fame, Lady Gaga has emerged as one of the biggest Pop stars of the new millennium, with a flamboyant, shape-shifting persona and a theatrical approach to music that’s often likened to performance art, whether she’s wearing a dress made of meat or wrapping herself in gauze like a burn victim.
A New York City native, Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in 1986. She showed musical ability from an early age, and spent her childhood taking music and acting classes. By her teen years was writing songs, appearing in school plays and occasionally performing at open mic nights in city clubs. After high school she attended New York University's Tisch School for the Arts but left midway through her second year to pursue a musical career.
The ambitious teen had a few false starts. She fronted a Rock band and made demos in the Singer-Songwriter vein, then switched to Dance music before she realized she had a knack for catchy Pop songs. She signed to the Def Jam label, but nothing came of the partnership. She teamed with performance artists Lady Starlight and the duo began performing as "Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue," their act incorporating many of the elements of Pop, Burlesque, and outrageous fashion that Gaga would soon be known for. She was signed to a subsidiary of Interscope Records, where at first she wrote songs for acts on the label like Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, and the Pussycat Dolls. In 2007 she relocated to Los Angeles and began work on her debut album.
Gaga’s The Fame was released in August 2008 and became an international smash, with four singles charting in the U.S., including the No. 1 hits “Just Dance" and "Poker Face.” Reviews often mentioned the influence of David Bowie, Madonna, and Queen; meanwhile, Gaga established her own image through a series of highly stylized videos and a seemingly endless array of attention-generating outfits.
In 2009 Gaga released an eight-song EP, The Fame Monster, which explored the dark side of her newfound celebrity and was another global success, with three U.S. Top Ten singles. Her 2009 Monster Ball Tour became one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time, helping to grow an especially dedicated fan base that identified with Gaga’s message of nonconformity; Gaga called them her “little monsters.”
Lady Gaga's second album 2011s “Born This Way” fused Electronica with Rock, Pop, and massive dance beats. The title track, a danceable anthem with lyrics preaching self-acceptance, reached No. 1 in eight countries and eventually inspired the Born This Way Foundation, Gaga’s nonprofit organization focusing on youth empowerment. Gaga’s latest record, ARTPOP, was released in late 2013.