To a majority of the world, Lady Gaga may mean nothing more than a few catchy songs, larger-than-life fashion and outlandish PR stunts. It may even come across as gimmicky at times, and people don't find much substance in her outside of her career. While I respect everyone's own personal opinions, I would like to mention just how much Gaga has meant to me over the past (almost) ten-years since I have been a fan.
I discovered Gaga during her ascent to fame on an on-demand music video channel. There, music videos for Just Dance and Poker Face were up. I remember watching them multiple times, often getting them confused with one another. I continued to follow her when other music videos such as Eh Eh, Nothing Else I Can Say and Love Game were released, the latter I had to watch at home privately when my parents were gone because it was too risqué.
I can't peg specifically what made her resonate me when I was 11 years old. While I was into bands, other pop artists, and various music giants, their music never inspired me to actively follow their career.
I continued to follow her career by violently dancing in my basement to Bad Romance seemingly endless times over Christmas break, actively going out of my way to watch the Telephone video the moment it dropped online, almost standing up my Valentine's Day dance date when Born This Way (the song) was released, live tweeting for her award show appearances, etc.
As I continued to mature, and ultimately separate myself from her because I was "too cool," I began to realize what made me latch onto her:
Lady Gaga has, and will always represent the outsiders. From her very first moments in the spotlight, she highlighted the "weirdos," the "loners," the kids who get bullied, etc. Gaga stood up for people in the LGBT community in a way I hadn't seen from anyone else and made it her cornerstone to mention how everyone was invited to her party.
In those years she rose to a pop-culture phenomenon, I was being heavily bullied at school for various reasons. While most of it was cyber-bullying, I did deal with a fair amount of verbal and sometimes physical bullying.
At the time, I had no clue about sexuality, what it meant, or how I was supposed to act. Gaga's music didn't inherently help me have a self-discovery of who I am, but it made me feel better in those dark times. I would listen to her music (on low, for fear of being caught and being called gay) on the bus rides home. I invested into her message because it felt like she was the only one who understood me.
Seeing her whacky costumes, performances and persona always validated that it's okay to be weird. Despite the controversy for her meat-dress, her "penis," her music videos or anything thrown her way, Gaga always found a way to shrug it off and continued to be a massive tour-de-force in the industry.
Seeing someone who was branded as weird, outside-the-box and gross and seeing that same person succeed was a crucial message I needed to hear in my middle-school years.
As I matured and cared less about others thoughts, my adamant adoration for all things Gaga became much more public knowledge. Gaga taught me it was okay to be different, taught me it was okay to be weird and heavily helped me through the process of accepting my sexuality.
After 9 years of being a fan, I was able to see her this past weekend in Chicago and it was magical. Being there with thousands of fans, people of the LGBT community, and like-minded people and being able to dance, sing and just let go for a few hours is something I will never forget.
Being a fan of Gaga has been effortless, amazing and impactful. Here's to many more years.