Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (/ˈstɛfəniˌdʒɜːrməˈnɒtə/STEF-ən-ee JUR-mə-NOT-ə; born March 28, 1986), known professionally as Lady Gaga, is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. She is known for her image reinventions and musical versatility. Gaga began performing as a teenager, singing at open mic nights, and acting in school plays. She studied at Collaborative Arts Project 21, through New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, before dropping out to pursue a career in music. After Def Jam Recordings canceled her contract, she worked as a songwriter for Sony/ATV Music Publishing, where she signed a joint deal with Interscope Records and Akon's label, KonLive Distribution, in 2007. Gaga rose to prominence the following year with her debut studio album, The Fame, and its chart-topping singles "Just Dance" and "Poker Face". The album was later reissued to include the EPThe Fame Monster (2009), which yielded the successful singles "Bad Romance", "Telephone", and "Alejandro".
Gaga's five succeeding studio albums all debuted atop the US Billboard 200. Her second full-length album, Born This Way (2011), explored electronic rock and techno-pop and sold more than one million copies in its first week. The title track became the fastest-selling song on the iTunes Store, with over one million downloads in less than a week. Following her EDM-influenced third album, Artpop (2013), and its lead single "Applause", Gaga released the jazz album Cheek to Cheek (2014) with Tony Bennett, and the soft rock album Joanne (2016). She also ventured into acting, playing leading roles in the miniseries American Horror Story: Hotel (2015–2016), for which she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, and the critically acclaimed musical drama film A Star Is Born (2018). Her contributions to the latter's soundtrack, which spawned the chart-topping single "Shallow", made her the first woman to win an Academy, Grammy, BAFTA, and Golden Globe Awardin one year. Gaga returned to her dance-pop roots with her sixth studio album, Chromatica (2020), which yielded the number-one single "Rain on Me". She followed this with her second collaborative album with Bennett, Love for Sale, and a starring role in the biographical crime film House of Gucci, both in 2021.
Having sold 124 million records as of 2014, Gaga is one of the world's best-selling music artists and the fourth highest-earning female musician of the 2010s. Her accolades include 12 Grammy Awards, 18 MTV Video Music Awards, 16 Guinness World Records, awards from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and recognition as Billboard's Artist of the Year (2010) and Woman of the Year (2015). She has also been included in several Forbes' power rankings and ranked fourth on VH1's Greatest Women in Music (2012). Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010 and 2019 and placed her on their All-Time 100 Fashion Icons list. Her philanthropy and activism focus on mental health awareness and LGBT rights; in 2012, she founded the Born This Way Foundation, a non-profit organization aiming to empower youth, improve mental health, and prevent bullying. Gaga's business ventures include Haus Laboratories, a vegan cosmetics brand that launched in 2019.
1986–2004: Early life
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born on March 28, 1986, at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York City, to an upper middle class Catholic family. Both of her parents have Italian ancestry, and she also has more distant French-Canadian roots. Her parents are Cynthia Louise (née Bissett), a philanthropist and business executive, and Internet entrepreneur Joseph Germanotta, and she has a younger sister named Natali. Brought up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Gaga said in an interview that her parents came from lower-class families and worked hard for everything. From age 11, she attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private all-girls Roman Catholic school, where one of her schoolmates was Nicky Hilton. Gaga described her high school self as "very dedicated, very studious, very disciplined" but also "a bit insecure". She considered herself a misfit and was mocked for "being either too provocative or too eccentric".
Gaga began playing the piano at age four when her mother insisted she become "a cultured young woman". She took piano lessons and practiced through her childhood. The lessons taught her to create music by ear, which she preferred over reading sheet music. Her parents encouraged her to pursue music and enrolled her in Creative Arts Camp. As a teenager, she played at open mic nights. Gaga played the lead roles of Adelaide in the play Guys and Dolls and Philia in the play A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Regis High School. She also studied method acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute for ten years. Gaga unsuccessfully auditioned for New York shows, though she did appear in a small role as a high school student in a 2001 episode of The Sopranos titled "The Telltale Moozadell". She later said of her inclination towards music:
I don't know exactly where my affinity for music comes from, but it is the thing that comes easiest to me. When I was like three years old, I may have been even younger, my mom always tells this really embarrassing story of me propping myself up and playing the keys like this because I was too young and short to get all the way up there. Just go like this on the low end of the piano ... I was really, really good at piano, so my first instincts were to work so hard at practicing piano, and I might not have been a natural dancer, but I am a natural musician. That is the thing that I believe I am the greatest at.
In 2003, at age 17, Gaga gained early admission to Collaborative Arts Project 21, a music school at New York University (NYU)'s Tisch School of the Arts, and lived in an NYU dorm. She studied music there, and improved her songwriting skills by writing essays on art, religion, social issues and politics, including a thesis on pop artists Spencer Tunick and Damien Hirst. In 2005, she withdrew from school during the second semester of her second year to focus on her music career. That year, she also played an unsuspecting diner customer for MTV's Boiling Points, a prank reality television show.
In a 2014 interview, Gaga said she had been raped at age 19, for which she later underwent mental and physical therapy. She has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which she attributes to the incident, and credits support from doctors, family and friends with helping her. In 2021, Gaga gave additional details about her rape, including that "the person who raped me dropped me off pregnant on a corner at my parents' house because I was vomiting and sick. Because I'd been being abused. I was locked away in a studio for months."