Lady Gaga is opening up about her mental health after releasing her latest album during what she calls a dual pandemic characterized by the coronavirus and ongoing social injustices toward Black Americans. But what she refers to as her darker moments actually came before Chromatica was even created, after she completed the Joanne world tour.
“I used to wake up every day and remember I was Lady Gaga — and then I would get depressed,” she told Billboard. “I was peeling all the layers of the onion in therapy, so as you dig deeper, you get closer to the core, and the core of the onion stinks.”
The 34-year-old singer and actress explained that this was the impact of her celebrity and the notoriety that made it impossible to step outside without being recognized, something that she had long dreaded but hadn’t directly addressed. “It’s the one where you go, ‘I’m Lady Gaga, you don’t understand what it feels like, I want to dress how I want and be who I am without people noticing, why does everybody have to notice, I’m so sad, I don’t even know why anymore, why are you making me talk about it?’” she recalled of her resistance to getting help. While resisting, however, she turned to bad habits like chain-smoking and drinking that eventually took a toll on her.
“My existence in and of itself was a threat to me,” she said. “I thought about really dark shit every single day.”
Therapy was a huge part of how Gaga changed that mindset. But she also credits songwriting for a lot of her self-improvement since those dark days. She explained that while getting back into the studio, she focused on the small wins to build her confidence back up and to connect with her happier self. “I would cry and go, ‘There it is — hi! How’s it going? Why do you got to hide?’” she recalled. “If there’s one glimmer inside you, celebrate it. When you find another one, celebrate it. One more? Call a friend: ‘I did this today. I’m winning.’”
Gaga eventually released the album on May 29, days before the country erupted into protests and calls for justice in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. The artist explains that the timing allowed her to give her gift to the world right when people seemed to need it most.
“When I see people struggling like they are right now, my brain goes, ‘Put on your superhero suit. Let’s go,’” she said.
Still, she canceled all immediate press opportunities, dedicated her social media to bringing attention to causes for racial justice and took time to begin to educate herself. “When you’re born in this country, we all drink the poison that is white supremacy,” she said. “I am in the process of learning and unlearning things I’ve been taught my whole life.”
Along with acknowledging the long ways she has to go to fully incorporate social justice into her lifestyle, Gaga also explained that being sincere in her efforts is even more important to her as a musician who is constantly inspired by Black music.
“What do I think about [posting] a black square? I think everybody has a different feeling about a black square. Do I think there’s such a thing as performative activism? Yes. Do I think there’s been true activism that’s been very important and needed? Yes. Do I believe Black lives matter? Yes. Do I believe this is going to get louder? Yes. Do I believe it should? Yes,” she said.
From what she plans to learn from now until a time when the world resumes to a place without socially distancing, Gaga says she will create a show “tailor-made with kindness.” She even calls it a “privilege” to make music in 2020.
“What a year for a heart that bleeds,” she said. “Freedom for me is when I can go to the darkest part of my heart, visit things that are hard and then leave them behind. Give them to the world, and spin all the pain into a puddle of gold.”
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