Throughout my 23 years in journalism, I have had the fortune of meeting some of the world’s most famous, influential people.
None of them come close to being as memorable as Lady Gaga. Yes, not even Donatella Versace, who haughtily told a reporter she did not understand the posed question, although the Italian designer herself spoke in heavily-accented English that was barely decipherable.
My encounter with Lady Gaga – real name Stefani Germanotta – took place in April 2010.
It was at the height of her fame. Gaga’s debut album The Fame, launched in 2008, had two No.1 singles Just Dance and Poker Face and later earned six Grammy Award nominations.
In 2009, Gaga released her second album The Fame Monster, with global chart-topping hits Alejandro and Telephone (which featured a collaboration with Beyonce).
It was thanks to M.A.C that yours truly was flown to Tokyo, where Gaga – then 24 – was to talk about her role as the beauty brand’s Viva Glam spokesperson.
I was the editor of the now defunct Clove pullout and the only Malaysian media present. Being a die-hard Gaga fan, I was naturally excited to meet the woman who had just been named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.
The night before our interview, I was stressing out about what to wear. Do I wear Coke cans on my head as a tribute to her Telephone music video?
In the end, I decided on an all-black ensemble. After all, how does one top the pop star who infamously wore a meat dress to an awards ceremony?
On the fateful day, the Asian media assembled in the hotel lobby. Fifteen minutes past our appointed time, a harried-looking PR rushed to the lobby and announced: “Lady Gaga wants to have her lunch.”
And with that, we waited for Gaga to finish her sushi. We were also reminded to adhere to our list of pre-approved questions, as Gaga was earlier irked by a journalist who strayed from the script.
As none of us wanted to risk a Bad Romance with Gaga – especially after flying thousands of miles to meet her – we nodded, and patiently waited for our turn with the American pop phenom.
One and a half hours later, we were ushered in groups of fours to Gaga’s suite.
We stood in silence outside her door, which was guarded by a muscular, scowling bodyguard. Next to him was a room service trolley on which a plate of (suspiciously) untouched food sat, and this made my stomach growl as I had missed lunch.
“This must be how American Idol contestants feel like before their auditions with Simon Cowell,” I joked, to break the tension … to no avail. Worst of all, I have a weak bladder and really needed to use the bathroom.
After a bit more waiting, we were finally granted entry into Gaga’s domain.
In my cover feature (The world gone gaga, June 10, 2010), I described my encounter as such:
“I am the first to enter the room, and when Gaga orbits into my viewpoint, I actually let out a gasp. In person, she looks exactly the same as the eccentric persona showcased onstage and in music videos.
She is small-sized but undeniably, larger than life. For our interview, Gaga is wearing an outfit and accessories created by Japanese designers. Her whole body is encased in a white, sequinned lace catsuit by Somarta while a nude-coloured veil by Yoshiko covers her entire face.
Instead of normal footwear, she is wearing perilous eight-inch black leather booties. When we ask her about the shoes, she lifts up her right foot, almost comically, to find out the designer’s name. (It is Noritaka Tatehana.)
Gaga’s bleached hair has been teased into a beehive do, and artfully plastered with black and white bobby pins.
On the floor next to her is a Hermes Birkin bag, on which is scrawled the Japanese words ‘I love my little monsters’. (Gaga affectionately calls her loyal fans ‘Little Monsters’.)”
After greeting us, Gaga gingerly balanced herself on a cream sofa. She told us, almost immediately, how much she loves Japan.
‘’It’s wonderful and I always leave Japan feeling so happy. My Japanese fans really understand me … the way I dress every day and the way my live shows are. What I do is normal for them, they just love what I do,’’ she said.
‘’In America now, I am very fortunate to have a lot of Gaga converts – the ‘Little Monsters’ – but in the beginning, people were asking, ‘Why is she so eccentric? Why does she dress like this?’ But in Japan, there was no questioning, no judgment.’’
To our (pleasant) surprise that day, Gaga was articulate and knowledgable.
She spoke at length about the initiative with M.A.C to create awareness about challenges that women face in their fight against HIV/AIDS. Gaga had helped to design the Viva Glam lipstick that bore her signature; every cent from the sale of the lipstick went towards helping women, men and children affected by HIV and AIDS.
After our interview, Gaga again rose up – shakily – to shake our hands. As I was the last to leave the room, I grabbed hold of her hands and mouthed the words: “I love you!”
Alas, no photos or autographs were allowed during our session.
That evening, Gaga mesmerised her Japanese fans at an event space called Tabloid. And yes, there was more waiting involved.
It took almost two hours before Gaga finally took to the stage. But the wait was worth it.
Her three-song set was inspired by her stay in Japan, featuring a Japanese-like wedding procession as well as cascading cherry blossoms.
Leaving the venue that cold, windy night, I couldn’t help but reflect on my time with Gaga.
And as I went to bed, her words came back to me. “People ask, ‘What do you wear when you sleep?’ I wear my glamour when I sleep. It’s part of my life.’’ So very Gaga, indeed.