Originally Published: August 14th, 2013; Updated: June 24th, 2014
As a writer trying so desperately to get published and make my mark, I can stand to learn a lot from Lady Gaga. I know what you’re thinking…
But I’ve spent a lot of time over the last three days listening to, obsessing over, and analyzing Mother Monster’s new song, “Applause,” and this is the conclusion that I’ve come to: The key to life is living every moment as if you’re Lady Gaga: Self-aggrandize and exhibit an unbreakable ego, all while being incredibly humble; thrive off of constant negativity AS WELL AS the positivity; showcase an admirable commitment to your craft.
[Not]Born This Way: Self-Aggrandizement & An Unbreakable Ego
I live for the applause, applause, applause / Give me that thing that I love / Put your hands up make ’em touch
As a writer, it is incredibly important to believe in yourself and your craft. If you don’t believe in you, who will?
I constantly have to tell myself:
“My book is important.”
“My words are powerful.”
“My book will make a difference.”
A lot of critics and casual listeners criticize Lady Gaga for being too self-important. “She thinks she’s the best thing since sliced bread.” As clichéd as that saying is, I’ve seen it written about her. I don’t get how that’s criticism, though. Isn’t that the appeal of Lady Gaga? Isn’t the fact that she presents herself as this fantastical creature, this theatrical creation, this over-the-top B-E-I-N-G the reason why she’s so intriguing in the first place? I, for one, wouldn’t have bought into Lady Gaga’s “STATEMENT” if she hadn’t come out claiming — in a less clichéd and more outlandish way — that she WAS the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Is she the greatest thing since sliced bread? Hell no. Sliced bread is delicious. I can eat sliced bread ALL day. But she IS the most intriguing, the most elusive, the most controversial and dedicated pop star. I believe in her bullshit because she claims that her bullshit is NOT, in fact, bullshit, but GOLD.
I’ll take that over fake pleasantries any day.
It’s hard as a writer to believe that what I write is gold, because it certainly isn’t. Most of the time it’s mediocre. And that’s on a good day. Writer’s are notoriously self-deprecating and known to hate every word they’ve ever written [enter:hyperbole], despite being depicted in every TV show/movie/short story as being self-aggrandizing [drunk] pricks. Most of the writers I know personally are so far from that, filled with humility and second-guessing, as I am. But I have to believe that what I write will impact somebody, somewhere, someday.
The ART[POP] of Incredible Humility
My friend and [I totally LOVE saying this!] published author Jess Verdi [whose debut novel My Life After Now came out in April of this past year; you can purchase it here: Amazon] is just as much of a little monster as I am. On her blog, she recently spoke about the inspiration for her second book, due out next summer, The Summer I Wasn’t Me being Lady Gaga’s song “Hair”:
I can say with 100% certainty that if this song didn’t exist, I never would have written Summer.
“Hair” was so incredibly inspiring to me — after listening closely to its lyrics, I knew I wanted to write this book. “I just want to be myself and I want you to love me for who I am … I just want to be free, I just want to be me, and I want lots of friends that invite me to their parties. Don’t want to change, I don’t want to be ashamed.” I wanted to write about that girl. I wanted to write for that girl.
And that’s why Gaga is getting a giant shout out in my acknowledgements. I would kiss her if I could.
It’s not the glamorous, over-the-top Gaga that Jess is talking about, but rather the stripped down Gaga, the girl who lets her talent shine. Jess and I are both huge fans of her stripped down, emotional performances of “Hair,” like this one from The Howard Stern Show:
She has a wonderful blend of God Complex and humility that makes her endearing.
I always felt that the girl in the video above was real. I felt that was the girl who wrote “Hair.”
As a writer, it’s very easy to tap into humility…especially because my book has yet to be picked up. It’s also important to sometimes strip away all of the glitz and glamour and get to the heart. I try to do that with this site; I try to mix a good sense of humor and fun with serious topics and coat it with a nice shiny pop culture glaze.
Still, that doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be easy.
Waiting for that elusive fame monster, as Gaga would put it, is excruciatingly painful. It’s easier to maintain humility than to thrive off of the constant barrage of negativity.
The Fame Monster: How to Thrive off of Negativity AND Positivity
I’ve overheard your theory / “Nostalgia’s for geeks” / I guess sir, if you say so / Some of us just like to read
Lady Gaga’s ability to be very self-aware is probably the quality that most attracts me to her and her whole persona. The above video shows a very artistic Gaga in strobes of flashing light, amidst a lot of chattering noise and jeers and boos. In the text, you see comments like “Lady Gaga is no longer relevant” and “Ever since Born This Way, she’s a flop.” She’s very much aware of what the critics are/have been saying about her.
But does she give up and crawl in a corner?
No. She confronts the jeers HEAD ON.
I wish that I could take the negativity and mold it like clay into something beautiful. I wish that I could flip a switch and write prose so beautiful it would make literary agents jump in line and cut throats to get to the front to sign me. Generally, I call this the Gwen Stefani Effect, for all intents and purposes, I’ll rename it the Stefani Germanotta Effect.
I know that, as a writer, I can’t take what agents-who-don’t-want-to-sign-me say to heart. I know writers who steer clear of critical reviews and fan reviews of their books so that they aren’t consumed by the negativity.
I wish it was that easy. But I admire Gaga for not only taking the negativity, but taking it and turning it into something positive: her craft..
Commitment to [Fame] Craft
Pop culture was in art / now art’s in pop culture, in me
People are surprised when I use Lady Gaga as a teaching tool in my classroom. Yes, I use her to discuss the allure of fame, product placement [“Telephone” music video, anyone?], but I really use her to discuss the construct of her craft.
Many people have commented on her mystique and that it’s not actually a mystique at all; it’s actually a completely fabricated, over-produced, totally staged, costumed, theatrical CREATION.
And to those people, I say: ABSOLUTELY!
And isn’t that exactly what makes show-business so alluring? Isn’t this “Lady Gaga” character that Stefani Germanotta, a working class girl from the Upper West Side in one of the most expensive cities in the world, exactly what that: a character?
When I assign The Hunger Games in my classes, we talk a lot about The Capitol and what it represents, and we also dissect a few pop songs by their lyrics. One of those songs is “The Fame” by Gaga. It in, she claims that she lives for the fame, for the money, power, and recognition.
Lady Gaga is exactly who we all want her to be. If we want her to be the next great Pop Star, she is. If we want her to be a fame whore, she is. If we want her to be the downfall of pop music, she is. If we want her to be the next best thing since sliced bread, she is. If we want her to be a scapegoat, a mouthpiece, a figurehead, a beacon of hope, a symbol of failure, a prospect for the future, she will be. She is walking art. She’s a walking contradiction, which, in it’s honesty, is exactly what art is. Art is what you make of it, what you bring to the table. And Gaga knows that.
Think about this: Do we care who Stefani Germanotta is?
No. We want Gaga. We want to see her wearing a dress of meat, or a cape made of Muppets. We want to see what she’ll do, say, wear, BE next.
The artist formerly known as Stefani Germanotta has created this theatrical, mystical, oft-thought to be fake persona and we, as a public, have eaten her up. Good or bad, we’ve devoured Lady Gaga.
And it’s that commitment to her craft that I admire the most.
She is exactly who she has created herself to be.
As a writer, the freedom to create is right at my fingertips. With a few taps of the keyboard, I can create a new world, a new character, and live vicariously, out loud and proud, without restrictions. I can be whoever I want to be.
As a writer, I am God.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all secretly want?