When people talk about flamboyant or “out there” celebrities, Lady Gaga is often brought up. Known for her hit singles, memorable music videos, creative outfits, and public activism, she is a celebrity who knows how to stand out. (She’s even used as a case study in the branding chapter of my business strategy textbook.)
Gaga’s eagerness to be different is one of the major reasons for her fame. She also isn’t afraid to be down-to-earth and relatable. I admire her for both.
In December 2016, Gaga made a surprise visit to the Ali Forney Center in Harlem, which provides shelter to homeless LGBT teens. According to the center, 80% of the teenagers there were kicked out of their homes because of their sexuality, and the other 20% ran away because of neglect or abuse.
Gaga came to the center bearing toys and other gifts. While there, she spoke with many of the teens about their struggles and how they’ve dealt with them.
Because of Gaga’s status as a celebrity who’s been both praised and criticized for being different, many of the kids at the center really looked up to her. One of the young men at the center said to Gaga, “When family was … pushing me away because I’m gay, all I had is you and [your] ‘Born This Way’ album on repeat.”
During her visit, Gaga tried to teach the kids healthy and constructive ways for dealing with trauma and anxiety, such as by leading a meditation exercise. She even opened up about her own mental-health struggles for the first time publicly. (Gaga was a victim of sexual assault at age 19, and has since suffered from PTSD.)
According to Gaga, “These children are not just homeless or in need. Many of them are trauma survivors. They’ve been rejected in some type of way. My own trauma in my life has helped me to understand the trauma of others.”Gaga’s ability to manage her mental health in constructive ways, and to use it to relate to others who have also suffered, is something to be respected.
In the end, Gaga’s visit that day was highly memorable for the youths at the center as well as those watching on TV. According to one teen at the center, “Lady Gaga’s act of kindness today is a reminder that love still exists, and that there’s still some for me.”
Gaga’s trip to the Ali Forney Center exemplifies what I try to show in my blog posts. No matter how famous or talented or different people are, they’re still human. We all deal with things like grief, trauma, stress, and depression, so there’s no reason for anyone to feel like they’re facing these demons alone.
In the words of Lady Gaga, “I am no better than any of those kids. And I’m no worse than any of them. We are equal. We both walk our two feet on the same earth. And we’re in this together.”
No matter what you’re going through, remember: you’re not alone.