Cynthia Germanotta Pens Emotional Essay About Raising Lady Gaga and Growing Up Different
Nicknamed “Mother Monster,” Gaga is something of a matriarch for her fans and those who feel different or weird in mainstream society. After all, at her concerts, Gaga’s voice rings out “Baby, you were born this way” to the cheers and cries of fans. And Gaga’s made it no secret that when she was growing up, she felt like a “freak.”
For example, she once told Barbara Walters, “I aspire to try to be a teacher to my young fans … who feel just like I felt when I was younger. … I felt like a freak. I guess, what I’m trying to say is, I want to liberate them, I want to free them of their fears and make them feel … that they can create their own space in the world.”
Now Gaga is unquestionably one of the biggest and most talented names in music, and she’ll forever be ingrained in the history of pop culture as a fascinating, beautiful, and unparalleled icon. So how did Stefani Germanotta become Lady Gaga? Her mother responds in this new essay for The Daily Beast (April 15, 2015).
Her essay begins:
As a mom, it’s difficult to watch your child struggle. Whether the obstacles your child faces are physical, academic, or social, you want to do everything you can to help. But too often as a parent, you feel like you don’t have the tools you need to guide your child through the difficult experiences we all encounter growing up. This is particularly acute when the problems your son or daughter grapples with are emotional.
When my daughter Stefani—who most people know as Lady Gaga—was a child, she had to learn painful lessons about the dangers of cruelty and the importance of kindness. She was creative and unequivocally her own person, but her peers didn’t always appreciate the things that made her unique—and different. As a result, they would sometimes taunt, humiliate, or exclude her. It was hurtful for her to experience and heartbreaking for me to watch.
She continues to discuss the ways in which emotional abuse of Gaga’s peers affected her later in life, ultimately to inspire so many young people through her power of music and influence:
But this mean-spirited treatment did more than sting in the moment—it shook Stefani’s confidence. The persistent, thoughtless cruelty of her peers caused Stefani to question her identity and self-worth. That self-doubt, in turn, led to anxiety, depression, and destructive behavior. What in isolation may have been viewed as casually dispensed insults or “harmless pranks” accumulated over time, causing a ripple effect that ate away at her emotional well-being.
As difficult as those times were, however, they have enabled my daughter to bond with the millions of young people she has interacted with and impacted through her music. So many of these “Little Monsters” have endured similar situations and experienced similar feelings—from depression and loneliness to humiliation and frustration. We heard from young people around the country, and around the world, who felt like their voices weren’t being heard and their feelings weren’t being respected.
Today, Germanotta is the President of the Born This Way Foundation, which strives to empower youths and inspire bravery. Their mission explains the “Born This Way Foundation is committed to supporting the wellness of young people and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world. We achieve this by shining a light on real people, quality research, and authentic partnerships.”
Germanotta continues to say in her essay about the foundation:
As with my daughter, too many of these young people were facing turmoil—at school, at home, or in their neighborhoods—that was impacting their emotional health and overall well-being. Again and again, we heard stories of depression, anxiety, and isolation hampering their ability to thrive personally and academically. Most worrying of all were the stories that included self-harm and suicide attempts.
That’s why my daughter and I founded Born This Way Foundation. Grounded in the belief that the world can—and must—be a kinder and braver place, our organization is working to inspire young people to lead the best life possible and empower them with the tools they need to get there.
We have reached out to young people—in their communities, on the road, and online. Over just a few years, Born This Way Foundation has directly connected with hundreds of thousands of young people around the country. Through the Born Brave Bus Tour and other initiatives, we have provided youth with a safe space to tell their stories and, through partnerships with more than 50 like-minded organizations, with access to resources and services in their communities when talking is not enough.
Now, “the Born This Way Foundation has partnered with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to launch the Emotion Revolution.” Together, their goal is to build “awareness of the central role emotions play in young people’s learning, decision-making, relationships, and achievement, the initiative is beginning with an unprecedented online survey of high school-age youth nationwide.”
Watch Gaga speak about the Emotional Revolution below:
My daughter and I will join Yale President Peter Salovey, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and hundreds of young people from around the country at this convening. The summit will serve as a platform to unveil the findings of the study as well as offer youth the opportunity to share their ideas for creating improved learning environments with key educators, academics, and policymakers.
It may sound cliché, but as an increasingly robust body of research is demonstrating, emotions play a critical role in overall well-being. From physical health to academic and professional success, how someone feels has a tremendous impact on many key aspects of his or her life. Similarly, research is also showing us that providing young people with access to adequate resources and support can make an immense difference in shaping these outcomes.
…Combining Born This Way Foundation’s deep connections with young people with Yale University’s world-class researchers, this study will serve as a small but important step towards listening to youth and understanding what they need. It will help create schools and communities where youth feel safe, inspired, and empowered. It will help start an Emotion Revolution.