It’s hard to think of Lady Gaga as anyone else. She has transformed music in a very unique way and not only is she great at singing, but her shows are theatrical performances as well. We’ve seen her unusual sense of fashion over the years, and how could we forget her dress made of meat? But there was a time before the millions, before the fame, when she was just Stefani Germanotta.
One thing is for sure, she never used to wear so much makeup. But it’s all part of the persona that she has for her stage persona now. There was a time when Lady Gaga was just a waitress working at a West Village restaurant at the age of 19.
Photographer Malgorzata Saniewska knew the star back in the day and was the first one to give her a photo shoot. “This 19-year-old girl, she was really talented. She didn't talk about it a lot, (but) she did say that she studied music. I cannot even explain to you what she sounds like with just a piano, then or now," Saniewska said. "I offered her the photo shoot, and she said yes right away."
Check out these 20 pics of Lady Gaga’s evolution from her humble beginnings.
20 She’s The Most Down-To-Earth Woman
When Saniewska started working with Gaga, she didn’t know the teen very well.
At that point, Lady Gaga definitely wasn't a household name.
"We were colleagues, we didn't hang out really heavily, but she's the nicest girl ever. ... She's down-to-earth," Saniewska said. "At that time, she gave me a CD of her first single, and I listened to it and I was really impressed. And she's a beautiful girl. Based on her looks and her personality I thought (a photo shoot) would be great fun." The two hit it off and it was a lifelong friendship in the making.
19 Being An Actress Wasn’t Easy
We have seen a few singers grace the silver screen and sometimes it’s brilliant while other time it ends in disaster. Gaga’s first taste of the big screen seemed to go well even though she was new to the industry. That may have had something to do with her co-star Bradley Cooper. "What connected us immediately was when we first really met together," Gaga told E! News. "We had just an instant connection. I could just see it in his eyes. And when I heard him sing for the first time, I stopped dead in my tracks, playing the piano, and I looked over to him and I said, 'Bradley, you can sing!' Oh my gosh! It was wonderful."
18 She Was A Simple Girl
She was a simple girl who had a dream just like so many artists but for her, the dream came true.
Saniewska said that when she first saw Lady Gaga, she didn’t even recognize her as the girl she photographed years ago because she had become so accustomed to the star's dark hair.
"I actually ran into her in the East Village, and she came up to me. She was already Lady Gaga, and we spoke a little, and she leaned on me, and she said in my ear, 'Did you know that this was my first photo shoot?' I had no idea.”
17 She’s Always Been Famous
Following your dreams has a lot to do with believing in yourself until those dreams come true. Lady Gaga believed in herself right from the beginning and that’s probably why she was one of the ones to make it. "I have always been an artist," Gaga told the Telegraph in 2010. "And I've always been famous, you just didn't know it yet." It was her experienced being bullied that got her to where she is. "Bullying really stays with you your whole life," she told Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer. "And it really, really never goes away.”
16 She Felt A Sense Of Loneliness
Back in the day, Lady Gaga was waitressing when she was 19 and she felt very down about her life at the time.
Of course, she hasn't let fame go to her head, but the rough times started long before Gaga became a household name.
“I was very depressed when I was 19... I would go back to my apartment every day and I would just sit there. It was quiet and it was lonely. It was still. It was just my piano and myself. I had a television and I would leave it on all the time just to feel like somebody was hanging out with me.”
15 A Star Was Born
Lady Gaga originally was attending New York University at first, but she dropped out after the first year because she wanted to pursue music, and it was a good thing that she did. Giving up her formal education for on-the-job training as a superstar turned out to be the best decision ever. "I don't have the same priorities as other people, I just don't. I like doing this all the time. It's my passion. When I'm not doing a show, I'm writing a song, or I'm on the phone with Dada yapping about a hemline," she said about her passion for music.
14 A Youthful Presence
We are shocked that Gaga ever had to deal with bullying in her youth because she was clearly as cute as a button. She’s a lion though, and we see that presence when she hits the stage.
She’s not your average performer; in fact, she’s a whole lot more than that and she's not shy about telling people.
“I'm not one icon. I'm every icon. I'm an icon that is made out of all the colors on the palette at every time. I have no restrictions. No restrictions.” We couldn’t agree more and she has proven that in more than one arena.
13 Her Name Was Inspired By Queen
Not that Queen! You may not be aware of where the star formerly known as Stefani got the idea for her stage name, Lady Gaga. The song Radio Gaga by Queen was the song that inspired her own musical name choice. Not only does she love Queen, but she's a fan of Freddie Mercury as well. She called him one of the "biggest personalities in the whole of pop music." It’s a cool backstory for her name and the moniker has clearly become who Stefani is today. “I'm half living my life between reality and fantasy at all times.”
12 She’s Been Training Since 11
Lady Gaga is certainly someone special, as her fans know all too well. She knows her own worth and tries to be the kindest person she can be.
She also doesn’t expect to be treated like a goddess either.
“I am not some goddess that dropped down from the sky to sing pop music; I am not some extra-incredible human person that needs to be told how wonderful they are all day and kissed.” Many people would disagree with her, of course, but it's admirable that she's so humble. She seems as down to earth as a celebrity could possibly be.
11 She Needed To Change Herself
The idea to take on a persona didn’t just come out of nowhere; there was a time when pre-Gaga Stefani realized it was time to walk away from her old life. When it came to starting a career in music, she knew she had to break the mold and create something new. She left school and couldn’t wait to start the life she had always dreamed of. "I left my entire family, got the cheapest apartment I could find and [worked at it] until somebody would listen," she told New York Magazine of Lady Gaga's less-than-glam origins.
10 She Fiercely Fights For What She Wants
Gaga states that the reason she got as far as she did with her career is that she fought for it. Instead of waiting for an agent or promoter to get her jobs, she went out on her own.
She built her empire from the ground up, including her stage persona, and she continues to fight for it.
“I don't like Los Angeles. The people are awful and terribly shallow, and everybody wants to be famous, but nobody wants to play the game. I'm from New York. I will kill to get what I need.” That’s definitely an interesting take on a city that is built on famous careers.
9 She Wasn’t Easy To Dismiss
Stefani wasn’t sure how it was going to go when she released her first album under her persona of Lady Gaga. But she needn't have worried. "It'd be easy to dismiss a 22-year-old debut artist sporting a blonde Cher wig, hooded Catwoman suit and glowing staff she calls the 'disco stick' — but not if she delivers an album full of hits," Billboard wrote in their praising review. "The full-length The Fame proves she's more than one hit and a bag of stage tricks." It was clearly a hit, as it sold more than 4 million units.
8 Her Humble Start
Gaga has a great story when it comes to her humble past, how she started singing at age 11, and how she started off playing piano while working her way through one dive bar after another.
The star's early gigs lacked the pizzazz her current shows have, though.
“I began singing in dive bars and really small clubs. I dragged my piano down the stairs, and I went down the street with my keyboard, and I would go to every different dive bar that I could get to agree to let me play. I'd call and pretend I was Lady Gaga's manager.” Once you go big, it’s hard to go back.
7 She Was Glamorous Right From The Beginning
Part of the goal of Gaga's career is to inspire and liberate others to live their best lives as well. Like so many, she wants a world where there is love and acceptance. “Every bit of me is devoted to love and art. And I aspire to try to be a teacher to my young fans who feel just like I felt when I was younger. I just felt like a freak. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm trying to liberate them, I want to free them of their fears and make them feel that they can make their own space in the world.”
6 She Has Many Talents
Not only has she rocked out pop music, but Gaga has blown us away in other areas, too. She proved that she has serious pipes when she pulled out her version of The Sound of Music for an awards event.
She even released a jazz album with Tony Bennett, a legend in the industry.
Many people were surprised she was able to accomplish that, but not her family. "She won a jazz competition when she was about 14 or 15," her dad told the Telegraph. "That was her roots: She was trained in jazz. It's a great foundation for singing."
5 She’s Not Madonna
The two singers are both icons in their own way and the two have been compared on more than one occasion. Lady Gaga doesn’t think that she should be compared to Madonna, however. Instead, Gaga notes that she is just a different type of singer. “Madonna and I are very different. Just saying. We're very different. I wouldn't make that comparison at all, and I don't mean to disrespect Madonna: she's a nice lady, and she's had a fantastic, huge career - biggest pop star of all time.” Of course, Gaga has never claimed to be strictly a "pop" star.
4 She Speaks Her Truth
Lady Gaga has had a lot to say over the years about acceptance and the need for bullying to stop.
She loves her job, but she’s not looking to be a people pleaser or beg for acceptance either.
“I don't know if I'm selfless - I still want to make a great record. I want to make a hit record. I want to tour; that's not completely selfless. But the truth is I'm not interested in people coming to my show for me as much as I am for them coming to my show for themselves. That's always been how I am.”
3 She’s Become A Teacher Of Love
Lady Gaga's music has a lot to do with bringing people together and promoting love around the world. She does not judge, mainly because she has been judged herself. She was a victim of bullying growing up as well. “I've been actually really very pleased to see how much awareness was raised around bullying, and how deeply it affects everyone. You know you don't have to be the loser kid in high school to be bullied. Bullying and being picked on comes in so many different forms.” Which is part of the reason why Gaga is so passionate about her fans; she sees her younger and more vulnerable self in them.
2 Her Parents Are The Most Important Thing To Her
With all the fame and fortune Lady Gaga has received with her career, it’s nothing compared to knowing that her parents are proud of her. She has a sister whose opinion and support count for a lot, too.
And the star notes that’s part of why she works so hard: for her family.
“All the awards in the world, you can get into all the nightclubs, they'll send you the nicest clothes. Nothing better than walking into your dad's restaurant and seeing a smile on his face and knowing that your mom and dad and your sister are real proud of you.”
1 Before The Meat Dress
Not everything thinks that Lady Gaga is cool, but those are the people that don’t matter. There was a time before Lady Gaga's meat dress when she was seen as a nobody. And though she drew criticism with that ensemble, anyone that does anything important with their lives is going to find some haters. “Where I come from it was really unheard of to be at a party and someone says, 'What kind of music do you make?', and you say, 'Pop music.' You may as well have 'I'm not cool' stamped on your forehead.”
Sources: CNN, Mic, Diply