This is a brief look at Lady Gaga from the perspective of psychological personality theory and lifespan development theory. The article includes quotes from Lady Gaga.
In psychology, personality refers to the basic underpinnings of a person’s character. According to our text, it is, “the enduring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that are expressed by individuals in different circumstances” (Kowalski & Western, 2009, p. 418). I do not believe it is a coincidence that we also refer to famous people as ‘personalities’ as well. For instance, we will call a television star a ‘TV personality’. To make my discussion of personality and development easier to understand, I have decided to discuss the personality and development of a famous musician, Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga was born Stephanie Germanotta on March 20, 1986. She grew up attending the Convent of the Sacred Heart School in New York The New York Times Company, 2010). Today, Gaga is still a very spiritual woman who believes in God, and prays often. It would seem from this that her early upbringing has had quite an effect on her moral development (CNN, 2010). Both of her parents were involved in the arts. Her mother was in musical theatre, and her father played in a Springsteen cover band (The New York Times Company, 2010).This seems to point toward a hereditary gift for musical and theatrical intelligence, that is evident in Gaga’s work today.
It takes more than musical talent to become an influential artist I believe it also takes a strong work ethic. By 2010 sold more than 15 mil albums worldwide, and was listed in time as one if it’s 100 most influential people. Success was not just a stroke of luck for this young woman. Gaga started working at 15 as a waitress. She then did other odd jobs such as working as a go-go dancer to pay for flyers to promote her shows (CNN, 2010). This strong work ethic that characterizes Gaga’s emotional personality was developed via environmental influences. According to an interview with Gaga, “my parents instilled a very strong work ethic in me and my sisters. So as long as I worked hard at whatever it is that I wanted to do, they were OK with me doing it.” (CNN, 2010, para. 34).
Gaga’s social and family support systems also influenced her developmental growth and adjustment. Her parents were highly supportive of her desires to be an entertainer. They encouraged her to do what she loved, and to do her best at it. However, her social network shaped her into the woman who would label herself a “freak” and wish to be a role model for other “freaks”. Growing up in a Catholic school, Gaga had very few friends. She dressed differently and got along better with men than with women. She said that all of this combined to make her feel like a freak.
This lack of social support and her empathy with others with similar problems comes through in her music and performance. She believes that this is part of what has endeared her to her fans, daring them to be different, and to be ok with it (CNN, 2010). She has stated, “I joke in the show. at the beginning of the show, I say all the freaks are outside and I locked the doors. It's -- it's kind of the opposite of what you're saying, Larry. We believe that we aren't the freaks, that everyone else is the freaks” (CNN, 2010, para. 114). Gaga’s unique quirks can be explained using several personality theories. For this paper I have chosen the Five-Factor Model and Existential Theory.
The Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality breaks the personality down into five different factors, each of which conglomerates a plethora of specific traits. This theory also looks at one’s language to determine types, this is helpful when looking at someone who writes lyrics for a living (Kowalski & Western, 2009). For instance, Gaga’s lyrics and interviews would seem to rate her high on neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness and openness and low on agreeableness.
In contrast, Existential Theory is more fluid. According to our text, existentialism views humans as having no set nature. Each person basically creates their own personality. It also concerns itself with a few key issues; one of these is existential dread. Existential dread is the tendency for humans to run from their own mortality and meaninglessness (Kowalski & Western, 2009). This shows up quite a bit in Gaga’s music and interviews. For instance when asked about death being a theme of a lot of her performances, she replied, “It's something I -- well, I dream about it a lot. You know I -- I don't know. I suppose I could lie to you and not tell you the truth, but the truth is I do think about it” (CNN, 2010).
I believe this shows her tendency to come to grips with her own mortality by trying to make it into a meaningful form of art. Notice that each theory has valid points when it comes to her personality, and that they do not overlap. The FFM discusses the specific types of traits she has in her personality and in what quantities. The Existential Theory is more concerned about what drives her to have those traits.
Of the two theories, I believe the Existential Theory best explains Gaga’s personality. The key issues covered in this theory all seem to be questions that are near and dear to Gaga’s heart. When considering the issue of quest for meaning in life, Gaga’s political pursuits can be taken as an excellent example. Her video for the song Alejandro has a gay military theme. This was released just as the political debase was heating up for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law rules for gays in the military. She seems to address the hazards of viewing one’s self as an object instead of a creative source of will and action in videos such as the one for the song Bar Romance. In this video she is alternately portrayed as a monster, a dark queen, an animal and several other characters that were dehumanized (Vevo, LLC, 2010).
Lady Gaga is one of my favorite musicians. It has been fascinating to review her early life, and influences. It seems obvious that her personality and development came from a combination of inherited talents and learned behaviors. These have combined to not only make a very unique young woman, but a pop superstar that will likely end up being this generation’s Madonna or Elvis.
CNN. (2010). CNN Larry King Live Interview With Lady Gaga. Retrieved from http://archives.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1006/01/lkl.01.html
Kowalski, R., & Western, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
The New York Times Company. (2010). About.com. Retrieved from http://top40.about.com/od/l/p/ladygaga.htm
Vevo, LLC. (2010). Vevo. Retrieved from http://www.vevo.com/watch/lady-gaga/bad-romance/USUV70903493
LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 13: (NO ARCHIVES/EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Recording artist Lady Gaga performs during a stop of The Monster Ball Tour at the MGM Grand Garden Arena August 13, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The singer is touring in support of the album, "The Fame Monster." (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)