Lady Gaga's Stunning Transformation Is Turning Heads

Lady Gaga is one of pop culture's most famous and successful stars. She was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta on March 28, 1986, in New York City. At an early age, Gaga learned music, and she started performing in clubs in New York during her teenage years. She studied music at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University for two years, but the aspiring star dropped out so she could manage her own path.

In 2007, she kickstarted her career by writing hits for the likes of the Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears, and Fergie. That same year, musician Akon signed Gaga to Interscope Records, the label that would eventually release her debut album, "The Fame," in 2008. From there, Gaga became more than a musician; She became an indisputable pop culture icon, a Mother Monster to her fans (the Little Monsters), whose transformation over the years has shown both a professional and personal transformation that only legendary pop divas can boast.

Lady Gaga experienced The Fame with her smash debut

Lady Gaga's 2008 debut album, "The Fame," was an instant success and made her a household name. In just over a year, she sold millions of records, topped the charts, and started winning a number of awards. Riding on the highs of smash hit singles "Just Dance," "Poker Face," "Love Game," and "Paparazzi," Gaga became the first artist in the 17-year history of the U.S. Billboard Pop Songs chart to have four No. 1 songs from a debut album. The project also earned Gaga her first big awards, including winning best international album at the 2010 BRIT Awards and the first pair of her eventual 13 total Grammy Awards (as of 2024).

The deluxe version of the album, "The Fame Monster," was released the following year and brought more success and even more iconic moments. From the infamous meat dress at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards to the record-breaking music video for the Grammy-winning viral single, "Bad Romance," Gaga was quickly catapulting to household name status.

The pop star also embarked on her first major global arena tour, The Monster Ball, that even landed her first HBO special in 2011. "Imagine if you could take the sets of an opera, which are very grand and very beautiful, and put them through a pop-electro lens," Gaga described of the set to Rolling Stone. Both "The Fame" and "The Fame Monster" have been juggernaut hits, selling a total of over 40 million copies worldwide.

Gaga taught us we were all Born This Way

In 2011, Gaga released her highly anticipated second studio album, "Born This Way," further cementing her status as a pop queen. The album's title track remains an empowering anthem for the LGBTQIA+ community and became the 1000th official No. 1 song in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "Musically, it is a mixture of very dark and heavy sledgehammering beats," she described the album to Fuse. "I really have become quite strong and very aggressive and fearless and brave and that is reflected in the music."

To go with the darker theme, Gaga's fashion during the era saw the starlet don more severe, goth-like makeup often with futuristic, metallic elements. Additional singles from the album included "Judas," "The Edge of Glory," "You & I," "Marry The Night," and "Bloody Mary," the latter of which charted more than a decade after the album's debut following a viral trend on TikTok.

"Born This Way" added three more Grammy Awards to her mantle, including album of the year. Gaga initially embarked on the Born This Way Ball world tour in 2012, but was later forced to cancel the final leg after undergoing surgery for a hip injury. But not all was lost — the era also saw the launch of the Born This Way Foundation, a non-profit organization co-founded by Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, that "empowers and inspires young people to build a kinder, braver world that supports their mental wellness."

Fashion became one of Gaga's focuses

Early in her career, Lady Gaga became known for her out-there sense of fashion. But behind the meat dress and beyond the barely-there series of sequins, Gaga made her sense of style part of her identity and artistry from the very beginning. "I love becoming art," she once told Vogue. "That's something I've said throughout my whole career."

Gaga has partnered with designers spanning from living legends to moguls in the making, with the likes of Thierry Mugler, Donatella Versace, and Brandon Maxwell collaborating with and dressing her. The latter went on to be the mastermind behind her 2019 Met Gala ensemble, which boasted four over-the-top looks that accented the year's theme of camp couture. But Gaga became friends with Donatella all the way back to her "The Edge of Glory" music video and Born this Way Ball, for which the fashion icon allowed Gaga access to the iconic Versace archives.

The singer first made a name for herself in bedazzled bra and panties sets, accented with vintage accessories and out-of-this-world swagger. This bombastic energy was honed to create the fashion maven that Gaga has become. "The fashion I've acquired over the years is so sacred to me — from costumes to couture, high fashion to punk wear I've collected from my secret international hot spots," she gushed to Harper's Bazaar. "These garments tell the stories of my life."

Gaga's Artpop could mean anything

After undergoing surgery to deal with her fibromyalgia and spending time out of the spotlight, Lady Gaga released her album, "Artpop," in November 2013. Anchored by the lead single "Applause," the album showcased a wider display of Gaga's artistic view.

She performed in a variety of venues, from the MTV Video Music Awards stage, to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where she launched the album with a two-day "artRAVE" in the style of a performance art exhibition. As for her style, Gaga continued to explore new sides of herself in both fashion and influence. Collaborators during the era included the performance artist Marina Abramović and visual artist Jeff Koons, who designed a giant sculpture of Gaga that was also captured on the album's cover art.

Despite the grandeur of the album, Gaga expressed that the era left her in a serious depressive state. "I really felt like I was dying — my light completely out," she told Harper's Bazaar. "Depression doesn't take away your talents — it just makes them harder to find. But I always find it." She took those talents on tour with the "artRAVE: The Artpop Ball" in 2014, which supported singles like "Venus," "Do What U Want," and "G.U.Y."

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett's collaboration and friendship

Although their first duet occurred in 2011 with a cover of "The Lady Is A Tramp," Lady Gaga and her longtime collaborator, the late Tony Bennett, released their first duet album together, "Cheek to Cheek," in 2014. The album spawned a PBS special and even won best traditional pop vocal album at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. "The first thing I said [when we met] was 'Let's do an album together,'" Bennett told Parade in 2014. "She's up there with Ella Fitzgerald, who was the greatest singer in the world."

While recording their music, the legendary jazz singer became emotional support for Gaga and a shoulder to cry on. "I was so sad. I couldn't sleep. I felt dead," she recalled. "And then I spent a lot of time with Tony. He wanted nothing but my friendship and my voice."

The pair, who toured together for a limited engagement in 2014, released their second collaborative album "Love for Sale" in 2021, garnering them another pair of Grammys. They performed a special "One Last Time" performance together at Radio City Music Hall, which marked Bennett's last public performance before he passed away in 2023. Gaga mourned her friend in a special tribute on Instagram, saying, in part, "I will miss my friend forever ... We transported ourselves to another era, modernized the music together, & gave it all new life as a singing duo. But it wasn't an act. Our relationship was very real."

Gaga the actress made a bloody debut

Singing and writing songs aren't the only talents Lady Gaga has to boast about. In 2013, she made her big-screen debut in a pair of Robert Rodriguez films. In 2013, she appeared as the vixen, La Cameleón, in "Machete Kills" alongside Danny Trejo. The next year, she joined Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Josh Brolin in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" in a bit role as Bertha the waitress.

Her first leading and television role came along in 2015 when she joined "American Horror Story: Hotel" as the conniving Countess alongside Hollywood heavyweights like Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates. Gaga even received a Golden Globe Award for her part. She returned to the AHS universe the next season with a small role in "American Horror Story: Roanoke."

​​"It's always been so important to me that if I were to ever make a move in television or as an actress that it would never feel like a move and nobody would ever go, 'Oh, here she is trying to become an actress and put out a clothing line and a record label' ... the thing that everyone expects," Gaga imparted to Variety in 2015. "I don't give a f*** about that. It is completely unfulfilling to me. It does nothing for my soul. What I did want was to be taken seriously as an actress."

Gaga and Joanne played the U.S.'s biggest stages

After slowing down for a bit, Lady Gaga returned to her musical (and familial) roots with her fifth studio album, "Joanne," in 2016. With singles including "Perfect Illusion," "Million Reasons," and the title track itself, the album was both a personal nod to her late aunt and a way for the artist to reconnect with her roots. "Returning to your family and where you came from, and your history ... this is what makes you strong," she explained to People. "'Joanne' is a progression for me. It was about going into the studio and forgetting that I was famous."

The next year, the superstar embarked on her sixth headlining tour to support the album, and she kicked things off at two of the biggest venues known to audiences. In February, she headlined the Super Bowl LI Halftime Show with a dizzying array of her hits past and present, and unlike many of her contemporaries, without any surprise guests. In April, she headlined Coachella, where she premiered a new single, "The Cure."

"I want to do the opposite of what everyone thinks I'm gonna do," she revealed in the 2017 Netflix documentary, "Gaga: Five Foot Two." The film chronicled the production process behind "Joanne" and her Super Bowl performance, along with her personal journey with both her health and her own self.

A Star Is Born (and an Oscar winner!)

Lady Gaga followed on the heels of one of her biggest years to date with another first: a starring role opposite Bradley Cooper in the 2018 big screen reimagining of "A Star Is Born." The film and its soundtrack — which Gaga created alongside "Joanne" collaborator Mark Ronson, among many others — were massive successes. The movie grossed over $436 million at the box office, and the soundtrack garnered numerous accolades, including the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for best original song, and a total of four Grammy Awards.

The success of the movie's lead single, "Shallow," nearly trumped all of those award wins, becoming the longest-charting best original song winner to stay on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for a total of 45 weeks. "It's been kind of shocking and amazing to watch people latch onto that song so much," she shared in an "Actors on Actors" interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda for Variety. "I feel for me, as an artist, [it's] maybe one of the most authentic things that I've written and I feel very like humbled and grateful about [it]."

She cemented her superstardom with Vegas residencies

Some mega pop stars make a name for themselves in Las Vegas with a headlining residency. But Lady Gaga is no mere pop star. The entertainer has opened not one, but two separate Vegas residency shows: Enigma, which prominently featured her top 40 repertoire, and Jazz & Piano, highlighting her love of the jazz genre with big band standards. Both performances opened at the Park Theater (now called the Dolby Live) at the Park MGM hotel. Enigma premiered at the end of 2018, while Jazz & Piano began in early 2019. "It's been my lifelong dream to be a Las Vegas girl, I'm so overjoyed!" the star shared in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter.

Gaga reportedly inked a $100 million deal, surpassing Britney Spears for the one of the highest-costing residencies during that period. The show's success has probably brought back in the majority of that investment, with Gaga herself earning $1 million per performance. The singer has continued to perform in Las Vegas, announcing an extension of her Jazz & Piano residency in the summer of 2024.

Gaga created her own beauty Haus

A natural step for many stars of the 2020's has been to establish their own make-up and perfume lines. But for a star like Lady Gaga, whose individual eras are marked by often infamous designs both in clothes and beauty, a make-up line seemed like a no-brainer decision. In 2019, Gaga launched Haus Laboratories, an offshoot of her Haus of Gaga, the creative endeavor that (literally) houses all of her behind-the-scenes ventures.

"My vision for Haus Labs centers around the future of clean make-up, supercharged products with innovative formulations and novel ingredients," she said in a statement on the brand's official website. The brand had a rocky start while being sold exclusively on Amazon, and various reports revealed an internal struggle with team members that led to a need for restructuring.

The brand was officially relaunched in 2022 with dozens of new and updated products, plus expanding its availability to beauty retailers like Sephora and through its own online store. "They told me it was impossible to innovate," Gaga told Allure about the brand. "But that's not true — you can, you just have to be relentless." Bonus: Gaga's not just the creator — she's also the client. She's known to wear Haus Lab products from primer to plumping gloss courtesy of both her own hand and that of her longtime makeup artist, Sarah Tanno, who also serves as the brand's Global Artistry Director.

Gaga took us to Chromatica

In 2020, Gaga released her sixth studio album, "Chromatica," which saw her return to the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. The record's second single, "Rain On Me" with Ariana Grande, became Gaga's fifth No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The duet also garnered the Grammy Award for best pop duo or group performance, as well as three awards at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards. At the same ceremony, Gaga was honored with the Tricon and artist of the year awards.

"I've been making music since I was a little girl, and even though I had really, really big dreams, I truly never could have imagined that someday I would be given an award like this that honored me for so many of my passions," Gaga gushed in her acceptance speech.

The artist brought her fans with her to the planet of Chromatica during her worldwide stadium tour in the summer of 2022 after being delayed several years due to the global pandemic. A concert film of the "Gaga Chromatica Ball" was set to release on Max in May 2024. And it wasn't just concert tours that Gaga utilized to promote her music — for this album, she even got her own Oreo cookie.

When Gaga met Gucci

On the heels of her last Academy Award era, Lady Gaga took on a new high profile role in 2021 that caught the attention of Hollywood (and a new "house"). In Ridley Scott's "House of Gucci," Gaga stepped into the heels of Patrizia Reggiani, widow of fashion heir Mauricio Gucci (played by Adam Driver), who was convicted of arranging her husband's murder.

Gaga got so into character on set that there were even reports of her "living" as her character for months at a time while filming. From hiring a psychiatric nurse during filming to having a symbolic farewell to her role once filming wrapped, "In order to find [my character's] truth, I have to turn the knobs in my brain, my heart and my body, and I have to find the similarities between us and live it," Gaga shared with Deadline.

"House of Gucci" earned Gaga a nod for best performance by an actress in a motion picture –- drama at the 2022 Golden Globes. Although she didn't win, she's maintained that the role has added to her perspective and practice on creating. "​​I've definitely lived life on the edge of art," she told Deadline. "I think that when you fully sacrifice yourself to art, there's a real transformation that can take place where you're able to touch painful things about yourself."

She's an unwavering ally for LGBTQIA+ individuals

Since the very beginning of her career, Lady Gaga has always supported the LGBTQ+ community and is widely considered a gay icon. Along with her empowering anthem, "Born This Way" — the day of its release was created into a holiday in West Hollywood in 2021 — she has used her voice numerous times to stand up for what she believes in.

In 2019, she made an appearance at the historic Stonewall Inn to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and connected with fans by delivering a heartfelt message. "True love — true, true love — is when you would take a bullet for someone, and you know that I would take a bullet for you any day of the week," she said in her speech (via the Independent). "This community has fought and continued to fight a war of acceptance, a war of tolerance, and the most relentless bravery. You are the definition of courage — do you know that?"

But despite her activism and unwavering support, Gaga (who identifies as bisexual) has clarified that she does not "speak for" the LGBTQIA+ community. "They do not need me to speak for them," she once said on a press tour (per Gay Times). "I am here to cheer on radical love and a radical joy that I had the privilege of witnessing since I was a very young girl. And without the LGBTQ+ community, I would not be who I am."

Gaga and Joker get the last laugh

In 2024, Lady Gaga entered a new realm of acting — this time as a supervillain. She stars as Harley Quinn opposite Joaquin Phoenix's Joker in Todd Phillip's "Joker: Folie à Deux." Fervor for the fearsome twosome was so high that the debut trailer, released in April 2024, reached a staggering 164 million YouTube views in 24 hours. The star herself has had mum to say so far and not divulged much about her role, but she has posted a few tidbits of her time in the role on her Instagram.

This role also brings Gaga's career into full circle, as the film will also be part musical, featuring a number of covers of classic songs on its soundtrack. "I'm very committed to the roles I take, whether they be musical or they be non-musical," Gaga shared with Pete Hammond for Deadline. "And I have a very romantic relationship with the characters I play."