As Lady Gaga reveals her newest, hottest, topless shot for Versace's spring/summer 14 campaign on Twitter we look back on i-D’s first ever interview with the pop phenomenon. Spot the early signs of her Versace obsession…
It's no secret that Lady Gaga is a big fan of Donatella Versace. With silky blond locks down to her waist and a pout to match the queen of Italian glamour herself as well as a song dedicated to her, titled 'Donatella', Gagaloo is obsessed. To repay her devotion, in November last year Donatella named Gaga as the face of her spring/summer 14 campaign. As Gaga reveals her newest, hottest, topless shot for the campaign on Twitter with a ‘Happy New Year,’ we look back on i-D’s first ever interview with the pop phenomenon by Contributing Music Editor, Hattie Collins, for The 30th Birthday Issue, No. 309, Fall 2010. Spot the early signs of her Versace obsession…
The W Hotel, Westwood, Los Angeles
4pm, 7 May 2008
The girl sits upright on the sofa looking both austere and outrageous all at the same time. She has poker-straight blond hair, (in homage to Donatella Versace, she says later), custom-made smoking gloves that hold an unlit cigarette in a 1980s, Joan Collins inspired smoking holder, a Burberry bag, tighter than tight Tory Burch skirt and a figure-hugging homemade leather corset. On her right cheek is a hand-painted Ziggy Stardust style flash of lightning. She looks like a dominatrix doing Britney Spears. Does she have some kind of photoshoot later? “Uh, no,” she shrugs, looking puzzled at such a peculiar question. “This is just how I am all the time.”
Two days later this same girl performs at gay and lesbian bar The Abbey, in West Hollywood. The scantily clad boys barely look up from checking each other out as she slinks onstage through plumes of smoke wearing a leotard and brandishing a ‘disco stick’. Suddenly, angry synths blast from the speakers: “Duh-da-duh-da-duh-da-duh-da-da-da! RedOne! GaaaGa! Konvikt!” The boys stop what they’re doing and refocus towards the stage; it may only be a club hit at the time, but Just Dance is already huge on the gay scene. Audience fully engaged, the then 22 year-old performs Poker Face, Lovegame and Beautiful, Dirty, Rich with an irreverent sense of humour, a large helping of campness and a whole lot of balls.
“It’s the future of pop music,” she pronounces back at the W Hotel, not a hint of a smile in sight, all serious again. Even though no one knew of her back then, “I already feel famous,” she announces when it’s wondered if she called her album The Fame simply because she craved celebrity. “It’s something that I’m trying to say with my music; I want to give people the self-confidence and the sense of inner fame that I feel without being pummeled by the paparazzi as I walk down the street. I’m trying to do something interesting in a way that’s easy for people to understand.”
She appears totally in character; this Warholian vision of everyone and their 15 minutes. GaGa has decided she’s famous, and whether anyone else knows it or not, she is. She’s so into being GaGa that during i-D ‘s first meeting, she refuses to reveal her real name. “I don’t give it out. ‘GaGa’ was the journey to myself. I found her and then I found me and I think that’s how it is with any great artist; to morph and change. Anyway, when I make love, they say GaGa,” she insists with a faux-coy grin.
It’s during this first interview, before she’s pummeled by the paparazzi for real, that GaGa breaks down the journey from Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta - as we’ll later find out - to the incredible being we see before us today. “For many years, I was trying to steer away from this part of myself,” she says, explaining that she went to a privileged private school, Convent of the Sacred Heart, in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. A classically trained pianist, her fellow students included the likes of Paris and Nicky Hilton. “It was uniforms and nuns and having to be a certain way, so I totally suppressed this part of myself.” Though her parents, Cynthia and Joe, were affluent, she felt out of place among the blonde hair and manicured nails of the socialite scene. “I never saw those girls for more than 10 seconds down the hallways. I was the arty girl, the theatre chick. I dressed differently and I came from a different social class from the other girls. But being around that gave me some artistic ideas,’ she points out. “Taking something as ridiculous as self-proclaimed fame, where you’re simply famous because you have money or your father is famous... I took that idea and found something luminous in it. What about that is interesting? It’s not about the cameras or the paparazzi or the media and the magazines. It’s more like Andy Warhol; we decide what’s great, and if the ideas are powerful enough, we can convince the world that it’s great.”
In the early days, after graduating from NYU in Art, she headed south to the Lower East Side and found a family of like-minded creative’s, including hard rock DJ Lady Starlight and future members of The Haus Of GaGa. “Everyone is under the age of 26 and we do everything together,” she insists blithely. Her father was unsurprisingly shocked when his daughter ran off to downtown dive bars to dabble in drugs and appear in burlesque shows with drag queens and go-go dancers. "He couldn’t look at me for a few months," she admitted of her early experimentations. "I was in leather thongs, so it was hard for him - he just didn’t understand. But my parents saw me getting better and now my father cries when he sees me perform." The drugs disappeared around the same time as her act began to take serious shape. “I had a very scary experience one night and thought I might die. I woke the fuck up. I decided it was more important to become a centred, critical thinker. That was more powerful than the drug itself.”
Today, in a bland suite at the W, this curious newcomer named everything from A Clockwork Orange to Donatella Versace and Helmut Lang, Warhol, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury as inspirations. After 45 minutes in her company, i-D has no idea if she’s putting on an act of calculated eccentricity, or is totally genuine. We’re also not sure whether she’s about to be the biggest thing in the history of the world ever, or if she’ll sink without trace, another of the hordes of hopefuls who get signed each year, but never quite make it. “I want to be the greatest artist of the digital era and show that we can fight downloading with an artist that is through and through about everything that the fan wants to eat, taste and lick and touch.” Her final words that day followed, “People think I’m really underground, but I just think I’m me; I’m music, fashion, art, film and technology and I’m bringing all of those worlds together. I think the way I’m doing it is particularly groundbreaking, I don’t think it’s been done before. There are figures in history that have combined fashion and music and technology, like David Bowie, Madonna and Prince, but I’m going to do it in a new way.”