Lady Gaga: Part 3

The 2019 season of awards shows is off and an established talking point. Last Sunday’s Grammy Awards were no different, and the 2019 show was discussed, tweeted, and shared as expected. Faces like Michelle Obama, Alicia Keys, and Janelle Monae were prominent figures, and the girl power introduction featuring the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez, and Lady Gaga, alongside Keys and Obama, was a powerful display of diversity and appreciation that music brings to all walks of life.

In light of this spirited display of acceptance and empowerment, it was Lady Gaga who stole the spotlight with a show of simultaneous strength and vulnerability. Standing alongside the strong women in the opening of the show, she was brutally honest with her experiences in the music industry as a woman, recalling that she was told that “I was weird, that my look, my choices, my sound, it wouldn’t work. But music told me not to listen to them.” In light of those discouraging messages, she credits music as a shaping force in her life; “Music took my ears, took my hands, my voice, my soul.” This was just the beginning of the night for the powerful messages shared by the musical powerhouse. Lady Gaga is not new to the arena of advocacy surrounding mental health and the accompanying stigma, speaking out about such issues as early as 2014.

She became the face for mental illness at the 2019 Grammys with her inspiring and emotionally raw speech that took a twist, both literally and figuratively, on the hearts of the millions who connected with her message. Upon receiving the award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for her duet “Shallow” with Bradley Cooper, Gaga quickly moved past the typical statements of appreciation to God, her family, costars, and industry personnel to a reflective statement regarding the film that produced “Shallow.” She emotionally recounted that she is, “so proud to be [a] part of a movie that addresses mental health issues. They’re so important. And a lot of artist’s deal with that, we got to take care of each other. So if you see somebody that's hurting don’t look away. And if you're hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you.” Gaga stressed that we are all human and are all ‘real, human, and valid’, but more importantly emphasized how connection and support are crucial to maintaining healthy mental states. This was the part that resonates most with her grouping of ‘Little Monsters’ wherein more recent conversations, the importance of mental health has taken a forefront position. It was Gaga’s acknowledgement and encouragement of those who may be suffering from a mental illness to find the strength that they all still possess, even if it is not the easiest to find it, and to use it to take the first step towards a path filled with people who want to stand in solidarity with you. It was also a loving reminder that these situations are not the easiest to understand, and that the value found in supporting a loved one and appreciating the lives within ourselves and others is critical to the love you show for someone living with mental illness.

This message is also found in the shadows of the lyrics of the award-winning song “Shallow”, which prompted her speech. Lines such as, “I'm falling / In all the good times I find myself / Longing for change / And in the bad times I fear myself” reflect the struggles to find yourself in the midst of mental illness. Both the experiences that she opened with and her current openness regarding her mental health are reflected in her role as Ally in  “A Star Is Born;” the film that produced the duet of “Shallow.” Gaga stars as a struggling artist who builds her career alongside an established musician struggling with addiction. She credits this movie as a pivotal point in her mental health journey in the Critics Choice Awards earlier this year, where she shares how hard it was to relive some portions of her life, yet she was “thank[ful for] life for all the experiences to draw from.” She furthered her appreciation for the film and the importance she places in the message by dedicating the award “to sufferers of alcoholism and addiction, and the family of those who suffer from alcoholism and addiction” stating that the “true star is bravery and perseverance.”

These awards and moments of reflection have become quite the norm in Gaga’s life. In 2019 alone, Gaga has won 7 awards, among countless nominations, for her work in “A Star is Born”, the accompanying “Shallow”, and her last album “Joanne.” This includes four Grammy nominations of which she took home two – Best Pop Solo for “Joanne,” and as mentioned previously, one for “Shallow.” Despite her transition to the inclusion of filmwork and her accompanying accomplishments, Lady Gaga has remained a relentless mental health advocate on her social media, remaining fearless in sharing her own personal stories to illustrate mental health issues and to continue to promote her Born This Way Foundation. More recently, Gaga posted a reflection on her collaboration with R. Kelly on “Do What You Want”, apologizing for the actions that she felt were condoned through the message of the song. She stated that she was in an unhealthy mindset dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault. She cites therapy as helping her see the error in her thought patterns that lead to these actions, specifying that her mental health is a reason but does not excuse her actions. She has since removed this song from streaming services and for purchase on iTunes. Additionally, her foundation, Born This Way, recently came out with reports on their “comprehensive study of factors that impact youth mental health” to further ground the organization’s work and to spark conversations around mental health. A main finding was that kindness, a peer network, and mental health educational resources are the most important factors,  bringing her message following her 2019 Grammy win full circle.

Lady Gaga continuously puts herself in the forefront of the conversation highlighting mental health. In a society where it’s common to find yourself feeling lonely, it is important to remember the power that music and film have to connect us, and to inspire important conversations that show we are all more connected than we think.