Well, I hunkered down to watch Oprah's interview with Lady Gaga tonight expecting to get some great material for poking fun. I'm not a huge Lady Gaga fan, and frankly Oprah drives me a little nuts, so it seemed like a match made in heaven. I don't want to go so far as to say watching the interview was life changing for me, but let's say that it shifted my perspective. If I made fun of either Oprah or Lady Gaga, I'd be exactly the type of person Gaga is fighting against, and I'm a lover, not a hater. (Ugh, just started to type something snarky about Oprah and couldn't do it- what has happened to me???)
I've always viewed Lady Gaga's crazy outfits and over the top shows primarily as attention seeking vehicles, and I'm not overly impressed by that- I'm about the music. Sure, I know she has a gazillion Twitter followers and she's supportive of and adored by the gay community, but I never really studied WHO she is or why either of those things was true.
This interview was somewhat interesting because it was conducting jointly with Lady Gaga's mother, Cynthia, who is extremely poised and normal looking. The two of them have started the Born This Way Foundation, whose mission is to empower everyone to be themselves and to put an end to bullying. So basically if I make fun of Oprah or Lady Gaga, I'll be exactly the kind of person the foundation is fighting against.
I learned through the interview that Lady Gaga's theatrics and ridiculous costumes are her way of expressing herself, and that doesn't always look the same from one day to the next, which explains why she's always got something different on. She looked rather demure for her Oprah interview, in fact. The kickoff for her Born This Way Foundation was held at none other than Harvard, and while Gaga had kind of a funky hat on, it probably won't land on her the Worst Dressed list like some past looks have. She seems to be working hard to get the message about her foundation across and keep the attention on the words rather than the clothes.
Lady Gaga was bullied and teased as a young girl growing up in New York City. Particularly scarring was an incident in which she was actually thrown in a garbage can by a group of kids during middle school; she referenced it several times during the two hour interview. Lady Gaga's stance is that there really isn't all that much that separates a bully from a victim, and the focus has historically been on the victims. She, however, wants to shift the focus to the bullies, educating people about how to deal with them. She acknowledges that her experiences being bullied are mild compared to what some kids go through. Her point is that someone can become arguably the most famous person in the world, and a bullying incident from a dozen years earlier can still threaten their self confidence. I have to admit, it's a powerful message.
I was very curious to learn more about Mother Gaga, granting her first television interview ever with none other than The Queen. The interview took place in the apartment where Lady Gaga grew up and still often stays. Her parents have been married for 30 years, and have another daughter who is six years younger than their more famous offspring, although they keep the pictures and awards displayed of the girls balanced in their home. Her mother acknowledged that having a daughter who was practically bursting with creativity wasn't at all easy, and I would love to have gotten some how-to tips about encouraging and allowing their daughter to become who she was meant to be while still keeping her from literally running wild. At one point Oprah asked what the apartment would have looked like ten years earlier on a Saturday night, and Gaga (who would have been 15 at the time) laughed that she "wasn't allowed to go anywhere," which leads me to believe there were controls in place.
One of the main points Lady Gaga wanted to make with Oprah was that she is the same person she always has been and doesn't feel like she's any better than anyone else, which is why her fans love her and relate to her. I honestly finished watching the interview with a different impression of her than I had going in. I don't love her music, but what she uses her fame for goes so far beyond a hit single played on on a Top 40 station. She's trying to use her fame for something greater than herself, in this case promoting people to be themselves and not allow themselves to be bullied for it.
This would have been much more fun to write if I really had been making fun of Oprah's weight or the fact that she couldn't get enough of Lady Gaga and her mother gushing over her, but alas... Maybe I'm just drinking the Oprah Kool Aid, but hats off to Lady Gaga's mother for raising such a smart, talented and powerful daughter.
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