Not quite sure what to make of electro-pop diva Lady Gaga’s theatrical fashion-forward fierceness? Follow the advice of her international hit single: “Just dance. It’ll be okay.” Still hot off a history-making performance on the Miss Universe Pageant in Vietnam, and with her glittery debut album, The Fame, out in October, the 22-year-old NYC native discusses booze, bisexuality, and even Britney.
By Brandon Voss
HX: Did you always know that the gays were going to go gaga over your music?
Lady Gaga: I have a lot of gay friends, so it was more like, I wonder if my friends will like it. I’m a dancer and grew up in a theater community in New York, so I feel like my music is a product of that environment. I find something really beautiful about the spirit of the gay community. I feel a part of it. I was the girl in high school who never really had a lot of popular friends, so I found my place with my gay friends in acting school and dance class. It’s a really inspiring community, and I feel very privileged to be around it.
Who’s your best gay friend?
I couldn’t say — I have too many! I would upset a lot of people.
You surely earned even more gay fans with the recent announcement that you wrote a track for Britney’s upcoming album. Was that a dream come true?
Yeah. I was working with Rodney Jerkins on Pussycat Dolls, and we wrote this song — I almost slipped and told you the name. Thank God I caught myself; I respect her a lot, so I want to give her control over that. When we were done with the song, I was like, “Oh, I want to sing it,” but my album was already closed. It never even crossed my mind that she was doing a new record. Then Rodney played it for [Britney’s manager] Larry Rudolph, who was in the studio. Rodney called me later and was like, “Britney’s people are freaking out about this song.” Ultimately, she makes the decisions, so when I found out that she loved it and was going to record it, it was amazing. I actually heard it yesterday with her on it for the first time, and I really had chills.
Shouldn’t you start being more selfish with hits that you write?
My record is really great, and it has a lot of hits on there that I can run with for a while. I’m not an egomaniac; I don’t need to sing every great song that I write. If anything, it’s more of an achievement for me as a writer to get to write for a superstar.
You did a mini-promo tour of the NYC gay club scene a couple of months ago. What was that experience like?
It was awesome, and it made me want to work harder. When I was at Splash, I was mad that I was performing, because I wanted to be on E, sweating my pants off in the crowd. When I play at gay clubs, it’s like playing for my friends: They get it and understand what I’m trying to say, and they have a very open mind about art, pop, and commercial music. When I did Miss Universe, all of the gays on my site were like, “Man, you looked so cool. We loved your outfit.” But every now and then you’ll see a comment that’s like, “I love her, but she’s a little weird.” I’m always thinking to myself, Oh, they just don’t know fashion. [Laughs]
Performing for years in downtown clubs, your life could’ve taken a darker turn. How’d you avoid temptation?
Well, I really didn’t for a little while. I was for sure not focused, but I was making great work. I don’t want to encourage people to do drugs for music or anything, but I did it because I wanted to understand what inspired the artistic life of the ’70s and how Andy Warhol functioned. It was sort of a creative journey for myself, and at some point it just got out of hand. I was having trouble sleeping, and I would have a panic attack after one glass of wine just because my body was so afraid of substance. I was too afraid to lose everything.
Was there a night in particular that inspired “Just Dance”?
Yeah, for sure. If you’ve ever been so high that it’s, like, scary, the only way you can deal with it is not deal with it, so you just kind of dance through the intoxication. I wrote the song the day after I had just flew in from New York to L.A., so I was taken very quickly out of my party lifestyle. I wrote it instantly — like it flew out of my body. I’d been working on this album for two-and-a-half years, and I was at a crossroads with my songwriting. I was trying to be so cool with my own music, but I would get better responses when I would write for other artists because I was not trying to be cool. So when I did “Just Dance,” that was my way of being like, “Just fuckin’ write a good song. Stop worrying about what’s going to fly in the underground. Worry about writing a great record.” Actually, that record ended up being more powerful than any of the songs that I racked my brain writing, and after that, it was an influx of record after record. It was almost like a switch went off in my brain, and I figured out how to write a good pop song.
Are you really as boy-crazy as your lyrics suggest?
Yeah. Well, I’m girl-crazy too. I really depends on where I am. I love men, I love women, and I love sex, but I’m actually pretty introverted right now because I’m so enveloped in my work, and it’s hard to let anybody near that. People fuck with your energy, and it’s very hard to find people that are supportive of your art and don’t want to take time away from it. A lot of times, boyfriends and girlfriends get jealous and want all your attention, and I really don’t have time for that.
Do you consider yourself bisexual?
Sure. I mean, I don’t really consider sexual orientation in general. It’s like, people are born the way they are.
If a drag queen wanted to do Lady Gaga, what would be your best advice?
If you’re wearing a blonde wig or extensions, you have to wash it with purple shampoo. Because I don’t have any yellow in my hair and I’m very insane about that.
What’s been your most mind-blowing appearance thus far?
Probably Gay Pride in San Francisco. To be asked to play the main stage and close the whole weekend was — I don’t know. I got very choked up on stage. Right before I did “Just Dance,” I said, “I just want to tell all of you that being here makes me so fucking proud.” Everybody looked very emotional. It was kind of this beautiful moment, because I can put out a lot of records, write for other people, sell and get famous, but it’s not the same as really connecting with and inspiring a community of people. If I can be that for anyone, especially the gay community, that’s incredible.
HX, August 2008; extended online version.