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Lady Gaga on surviving lockdown, her unwavering self-belief and a touching private moment with her mother

Lady Gaga was one of the few global celebrities we could still ardently admire during lockdown. On top of raising millions for frontline workers, her social-media posts chimed with how we normal folk were actually feeling. Ever-changing, while always herself, here she talks about her unwavering self-belief, a touching private moment with her mother, and her new fragrance with Valentino


Lady Gaga, while looking impossibly glamorous in these photos, managed to convey she was one of us when the world went into lockdown back in March, performing a Zoom concert in casual clothes with scraped back hair, showing her roots

Lady Gaga, while looking impossibly glamorous in these photos, managed to convey she was one of us when the world went into lockdown back in March, performing a Zoom concert in casual clothes with scraped back hair, showing her roots

Lady Gaga, while looking impossibly glamorous in these photos, managed to convey she was one of us when the world went into lockdown back in March, performing a Zoom concert in casual clothes with scraped back hair, showing her roots

There is a school of thought that celebrity has been rendered irrelevant by the pandemic. All that glorification of mere mortals seems so ridiculous now, the argument goes, and with Covid-19 as the leveller, the great and the good don't seem so great or good any more.

There are a few stars who have weathered the storm, not just by being canny - though that helps - but on the strength of the character they have always been. Adaptability has become a most admired characteristic through the Covid-19 crisis, and those who had adaptability in their arsenal in the old world have thrived through this strange year.

Always chameleon-like since bursting on to the music scene in 2008, Lady Gaga has come through 2020 on a high, regularly remastering her image, releasing a new album, Chromatica, raising more than €30m for the WHO, and generally positing herself as the celebrity we can stay interested in through thick and thin.

Then again, of course, she is. That's what Gaga has always been - ever-changing while always determinedly herself. She is adaptability combined with tenacity and that's what makes her a star for our times.

"I have to give confidence to myself for it to be real," Gaga says of the self-belief that seems to underscore everything she does. "I work on building it all the time. I focus on skills I have, and work from there. I feel like it's building a house that's never finished. I also remind myself that skills can be simple."

When we were all going into lockdown back in March, Gaga pressed pause on the release of Chromatica. If you can cast your mind back that far, this was about the time that celebrities were coming in for a bit of a bashing. We were all feeling fairly scared and sore and sorry for ourselves, and these mere mortals with all their privilege came in for criticism.

You may recall Gal Gadot's celeb-filled Zoom rendition of Imagine, or Ellen complaining about how her massive mansion felt like a prison, while, about the same time, Gaga said that her album would have to wait, while she was "focusing on finding solutions" to the international health crisis.

It sounded like just more talk, but Gaga raised tens of millions and organised the One World: Together at Home benefit concert in April. It featured the likes of Paul McCartney, Dermot Kennedy, Rufus Wainright, Anne-Marie and, of course, Gaga herself, all performing from their homes, locked down as they were like the rest of us and keen to promote a feeling of togetherness while apart. It also raised money for frontline healthcare workers and the WHO.

Gaga performed Smile that day in April, seated at a keyboard at home, headphones on, a pair of loose striped trousers and a casual off-the-shoulder top as her costume, hair scraped back and a slash of red lipstick the only bit of drama. She even had plenty of dark roots in her platinum-blonde hair, just as we began sending each other memes and funny clips about hairdresser-deprivation.

She was Gaga. She was fabulous. She was a bit like all of us, too, though.

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"I believe kindness is a human right that should be afforded to all people," Gaga says. "To experience it, to give it, to share it - but it must be equal to all and especially sensitive to those who've been disempowered by their circumstances. This is how I live my life."

That sensitivity, perhaps, has been there in the incarnations of Gaga through lockdown. We have seen them all through her social-media feeds. They have chimed nicely with how the rest of us have been feeling, dressing, and doing to make this strange experience less difficult.

There have been plenty of shots of Gaga living in Lycra like all of us, un-made-up, seeking the exercise endorphins for a bit of a boost. Then, in the summer, she posted on Instagram a photo of herself more in keeping with the Gaga of old.

"When you do your make-up during quarantine just cuz...," went the caption, amusingly, and many among us knew the feeling. That reaching for full make-up, if only to feel a bit like your old self when you sat down to the WFH desk, that desire to dream that there would be nights out and make-up and getting dressed-up again.

In her summer snap, Gaga was resplendent in products from her own Haus Laboratories line, the only make-up she uses daily. Asked what would be her top-five must-have pieces of make-up, Gaga lists her range's highlighter that doubles as an eyeshadow, her Eye-Lie-Ner in the Punk shade and all-important lip gloss in Corset. These days, also, she's feeling the importance of fragrance, and her latest go-to is Valentino's Voce Viva, for which she is the face.

The power of scent is not lost on Gaga, though we think of her primarily as someone with visual impact. Through lockdown, many of us sought or bought a new scent, seeking that mood boost that smell delivers so instantly and powerfully. Many of us also wanted a change of signature scent to cement that feeling that we were slightly altered by this experience and Gaga is very tuned into moods and means of transformation.

"I believe self-care routines, in and of themselves, are the best beauty tip of all," Gaga says. "If you care for your mind, body, skin, heart and healing, you approach beauty holistically. For me, using make-up as well as perfume to transform how I feel at any moment is valuable as well. I believe that even though working on ourselves from the inside is the most crucial, I also cherish the power of visual transformation to affect how we feel inside.

"For Voce Viva," she continues, "we made a beautiful film by Harmony Korine with a song from my new album called Sine From Above. I felt strong and alive, hearing myself echo through the forest as I was singing in this dress. It reminded me of my freedom and how I get to experience magic, a freedom and magic I wish everyone to have."

The pink, voluminous dress she wears for Voce Viva, and pictured on these pages, calls to mind the feathered pink dress, also designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino Couture, which Gaga wore while promoting the Oscar-winning A Star is Born.

"Even though the press and fans saw me wear the pink feather Valentino dress for the first time at the Venice Film Festival," Gaga says. "The truth is that the first time I wore that dress was in my home with my mother in California. I was trying on different dresses for the premiere with my mom, listening to Andrea Bocelli.

"As soon as I was zipped up in the dress by my stylists Tom and Sandra, I turned to my mother and we both burst into tears. With her hands over her face crying, my mother proudly said, 'That's the dress'. I'll never forget this moment with my mother. I was thinking about it on the red carpet. This is the magic of Valentino."

How wonderfully Gaga is that entwining of the magical and mundane? The Venice festival, the fantastical Valentino dress, the simplicity of trying it on with her mother and her delight in her mother's approval ahead of any public applause. This is what Gaga does best, skewing expectations, surprising us with either the audacious or the ordinary and always keeping us guessing as to which she'll deliver next.

"Fresh gravy on the stove, meatballs and pork sausage in my home growing up," Gaga says, when asked about her favourite smell, exercising her ability to surprise. "Every Sunday at 2pm, after church. Whole family at the table. My happiest memories of all. Same scent. Every Sunday."

As a woman from an "Italian immigrant family", she adds, it is a deep honour to represent such a revered Italian fashion house. This is Gaga, a woman worth taking notice of in this time of scant celebrity sensation.

"I believe it is more important than ever to motivate an agenda of kindness," she says of where we are now. "Kindness that leads to the healing of the mind, body and soul. Kindness that invigorates programmes that are fearless in their effort to help humanity learn the importance of self-care.

"Whenever someone told me I wasn't good enough throughout my career and life, I never let it break me," she goes on. "I promised myself that every time I heard 'no', it would motivate me to work harder. The most daring thing I did was believe in myself."

Adaptability is our greatest strength right now, and if Lady Gaga embodies that, she does it with emphasis on the fact that her solid grounding makes it possible. Her fellow celebrities might take note.

Valentino Voce Viva is available now, priced €66-€129

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