The label ‘gay icon’ is thrown around a lot these days, whether it’s describing a woman embracing and flaunting her sexuality or a straight artist subtly hinting at attraction towards a member of the same-sex in their lyrics. However, the title of an LGBTQ+ musical legend is one bestowed on only a few. One of the more recent additions to this group is Lady Gaga. Although her career is somewhat short when compared to artists such as Madonna, Elton John or Bowie, the impact that her actions and music have had in the last decade solidify her position in this group. It’s difficult to consider Lady Gaga’s career without considering the LGBTQ+ community because the two have always been and continue to be so closely intertwined, as she attributes her success to her gay fanbase. Not only does Gaga possess the musical skill and innovative artistry of others in this group but she also has fought for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community on several occasions.
Gaga has always carefully mixed her music, artistry and political beliefs into one. A perfect example of this is the meat dress which served as an iconic visual statement whilst also preaching her support of repealing the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Act in 2010. By doing this, she can grab your attention, shock you, and then follow-up with an important political message. The setting up of the Born This Way Foundation a year later followed a similar path. Gaga grabbed the media’s attention with new music about inclusion, shocked the audience with a Grammys performance in which she emerged from an egg and then announced the charity which had aims at helping LGBTQ+ youth. This is a fundamental part of her legend status. She knows how to get the general public interested in political issues in an age where the younger generation get most of their information from social media. If a picture of her wearing meat goes viral, it’s ultimately going to shed light on the issues Lady Gaga is interested in.
she can grab your attention, shock you, and then follow-up with an important political message
Aside from the political activism, it is undeniable that Gaga’s music has always been made with a skew towards the LGBTQ+ community. She manages to make music for gay people without it being read as pandering – a lesson many other artists want and need. ‘Poker Face’ is possibly her most explicitly LGBTQ+ centred songs being about bisexuality and incidentally one of her biggest hits. A few years later, ‘Born This Way’ was released becoming a modern LGBTQ+ anthem on arrival. Nowadays, it is hard to go to any pride event without seeing a flag emblazoned with the song’s title. Along with this, the song encapsulates Gaga’s message – be who you are, wear what you want and love others. Corny, I know, but also some of the basic principles of the LGBTQ+ community. In just a short time, Gaga has become a pioneer for the pop music landscape and an ambassador for the values of gay people. All this without losing her artistic self and breaking new boundaries in music.
She is unpredictable. There’s no knowing what music she’ll release next or the visual story she’ll present with it. Like Madonna and Bowie, each era of her music is different as she has mastered the art of reinvention. The constant rediscovery of who they are musically and artistically is akin to gay people’s process of finding themselves. Whilst it may not be as glamorous as a pop diva moving from disco to jazz to country, Gaga’s message clearly resonates in the community allowing our self-expression to run wild and us to truly feel accepted for who we are.