Lady Gaga: Part 2
2017 was a year in the making: for Lady Gaga, that is. On January 31, her fifth studio album Joanne was released, reaching the ears of millions upon millions of fans. It is her fourth No.1 album on Billboard 200 album charts, ranking as the most popular album of the week in the United States. It was more than just a hit, though. Gaga explains, "I wrote Joanne to help understand my physical and emotional pain through my family's history of the death of my aunt at a young age in 1974 of the autoimmune disease Lupus. I wrote Joanne to heal me and find the strength to power through everything.” Music is her escape, unlocking the door to her world of emotional and mental pain for herself, but also, for her listeners. Her songs are heartfelt and sincere, offering a look inside to the hidden world of mental illness, far too often lost in the shadows of our monochromatic world. It is through her pain-filled chords tugging on our heartstrings that the grey matter is cast into the light, breaking down the black and white barriers set around mental illness. It is there out in the open, captivating audiences around the world.
From tour stops in the United States to Europe, her story of living with PTSD, her battles with depression and anxiety, and her rollercoaster claim to fame, all came to life on stage. There was nothing to be said or done beyond just listening. Her voice was enough to leave an entire crowd speechless time and time again. Then at the peak of her Joanne world tour, tragedy strikes. The singers falls victim to fibromyalgia, suffering symptoms that include unbearable pain, overwhelming fatigue, and irritable bowel syndrome. Heartbreakingly, there is no known cure. "I use the word suffer not only because trauma and chronic pain have changed my life, but because they are keeping me from living a normal life. They are also keeping me from what I love the most in the world: performing for my fans.” She may be stripped of her voice and bed ridden, but this doesn’t stop Gaga from speaking out about mental health. The time to speak up is the time it knocks you down, especially when it is with Prince William himself. In an April 18 video, Lady Gaga joined the Duke of Cambridge's Heads Together, a campaign he leads along with the Duchess and Prince Harry to raise awareness of mental illness. To speak for those under the powerful hold of stigmas interlaced with fear, falling in line with the collective silence. "There's a lot of shame attached to mental illness. You feel like something it's wrong with you," Lady Gaga said in regard to people incapable of opening up about their feelings. They can’t help but blame the failure of their own thought process. They end up feeling completely alone, when, in reality, they are far from it. Gaga drives this message home to her fans.
In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10, Lady Gaga posted a photo of herself holding her head in her hands that spoke volumes. It indeed was louder than words, not to say the caption paired with it did not speak for itself. "The National Institute of Mental Health’s research shows 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness," she added with a photo of herself holding her head in her hands. "More than 18%, 42 million people in America live with an anxiety disorder, 16 million have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year/ National Alliance on Mental Illness research tells us depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide AND serious mental illness costs America more than $193 billion in lost earnings every year due to the affects these mental health issues have on people’s ability to work, be functional, & provide for themselves and others. Jama Network research tells us 50% of all chronic mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24.” We’re all suffering, all debilitated in some way by severe pain, which is the fact headlining the big screen with the documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two.
On September 12, she gave a piece of herself to the world. It was a private, vulnerable piece of her heart and mind that her fans cherished, but more importantly, the media ate up. It was as if she saw herself for the first time. "With Gaga: Five Foot Two I found myself witnessing myself in a way I am unable to see on my own," she wrote in the message posted on Twitter. She could for once see all the beauty amidst the chaos that was her mind. "I felt proud, I felt sadness, I felt empowered, I felt vulnerable... but what struck me the most was the film's authenticity in the way Chris, the director, chose to show my lowest lows, my highest highs, and the close relationship with my family that I clung to fiercely while writing my album Joanne.” There was no photoshop. No pretending. Only her in her natural state, crumbling under the pressures of fame. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It is lonely, it is isolating, and it is very psychologically challenging because fame changes the way you’re viewed by people.” But Gaga was determined to control fame’s portrayal of her life, to see through the glamour plastered on magazine covers, but more importantly, to read between the lines in order for mental health to finally take front and center stage. She took off her poker face, showing stardom is never as perfect as it seems. But there was more to it. "Yet I am so humbled by the side of fame that breeds love from the world, the voice I've been given by my fans to spread messages of empowerment and equality, the fortunate life it's brought to me and my family and how we can now give to others in need." Everyone is affected by mental health to some extent. It’s felt by everyone. And now it’s heard by the entire world tuning into Lady Gaga’s Joanne.