Someone recently asked Barbara Walters who she thought would/could “replace” Oprah as the queen of talk TV. Barbara put her own astute spin on her answer and said, “Lady Gaga.” She wasn’t referring to Lady Gaga as a talk show personality, but rather as a charismatic figure who speaks directly to her fans (her “little monsters”) with a message of empowerment and courage: “It is a different time but the same message: ‘I had to struggle, I couldn’t get there, look at me, I made it, and YOU CAN TOO.’ And both of these women, Lady Gaga at 25 and Oprah in her 50’s, both of them mean it.”
Oprah has always authentically aspired to motivate her viewers, listeners and readers to live their “best lives,” and Gaga does the same. Whether you like her (or even care about her) or not, Lady Gaga is a cultural phenomenon to pay attention to, if for no other reason than the extraordinary popularity she experiences. She is bizarre, real, savvy, and culturally attuned to the complex issue of 21st century identity. She has said: “I am the excuse to explore your identity. To be exactly who you are and to feel unafraid. To not judge yourself, to not hate yourself.”
If this message seems worn out or far removed for you, (e.g. if you had had enough of Oprah’s empowerment talk, or are thrown off by the image of Gaga wearing a raw steak on her head or clumping through an airport in 24″ Viktor & Rolf platforms), take a moment to reflect on how many negative thoughts you had about yourself since you woke up today: 3, 5, 10, 50? Not hating yourself is not about being a TV talk show mega-star, or a theatrical, otherworldly musician; it’s about waking up in the morning and being your own best friend. It’s about talking to yourself as you would to someone you loved. Or, at the very least, being someone who, as Anne Lamott writes, is militantly on your own side. We all need more practice at that.
This post is a story about the terror and the triumph of following your passion.