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Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986), better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American pop singer-songwriter. After performing in the rock music scene of New York City's Lower East Side in 2003 and later enrolling at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, she soon signed with Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records. During her early time at Interscope, she worked as a songwriter for fellow label artists and captured the attention of Akon, who recognized her vocal abilities, and signed her to his own label, Kon Live Distribution.
Gaga came to prominence following the release of her debut studio album The Fame (2008), which was a commercial success and achieved international popularity with the singles "Just Dance" and "Poker Face". The album reached number one on the record charts of six countries, accomplished positions within the top-ten worldwide, and topped the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart while simultaneously peaking at number two on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. Achieving similar worldwide success, The Fame Monster (2009), its follow-up, produced a further two global chart-topping singles "Bad Romance" and "Telephone" and allowed her to embark on a second global headlining concert tour, The Monster Ball Tour, just months after having finished her first, The Fame Ball Tour. Her second studio album, Born This Way, is scheduled for release on May 23, 2011 after the arrival of its eponymous lead single "Born This Way" which achieved the number-one spot in countries worldwide and was the fastest-selling single in iTunes history, selling one million copies in five days.
Inspired by glam rock artists like David Bowie, Elton John and Queen, as well as pop singers such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Amy Winehouse, Gaga is well-recognized for her outré sense of style in fashion, in performance and in her music videos. Her contributions to the music industry have garnered her numerous achievements including five Grammy Awards, amongst twelve nominations; two Guinness World Records; and the estimated sale of fifteen million albums and fifty-one million singles worldwide. Billboard named her both the Artist of the Year in 2010 and the top selling artist of 2010; ranking her as the 73rd Artist of the 2000s decade. Gaga has been included in Time magazine's annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world as well as Forbes' list of the 100 Most Powerful and Influential celebrities in the world. Forbes also placed her at number seven on their annual list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women. In March, 2011, Lady Gaga hit 9 million followers on Twitter making her the most followed person on the website.
Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in New York City on March 28, 1986, the eldest child of Italian American Joseph Germanotta, an internet entrepreneur, and Cynthia (née Bissett). She learned to play piano from the age of four, went on to write her first piano ballad at 13 and began performing at open mike nights by age 14. She is left handed. Gaga was raised a Roman Catholic. At the age of 11, Gaga attended Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private all-girls Roman Catholic school on Manhattan's Upper East Side, but has stressed that she does not come from a wealthy background, saying that her parents "both came from lower-class families, so we've worked for everything – my mother worked eight to eight out of the house, in telecommunications, and so did my father."
An avid actor in high school musicals, Gaga portrayed lead roles as Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. She described her academic life in high school as "very dedicated, very studious, very disciplined" but also "a bit insecure" as she told in an interview, "I used to get made fun of for being either too provocative or too eccentric, so I started to tone it down. I didn’t fit in, and I felt like a freak." Acquaintances dispute that she did not fit in at school. "She had a core group of friends; she was a good student. She liked boys a lot, but singing was No. 1," recalled a former high school classmate. Referring to her "expressive, free spirit", Gaga told Elle magazine "I'm left-handed!"
At age 17, Gaga gained early admission to the New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and lived in a NYU dorm on 11th Street. There she studied music and improved her songwriting skills by composing essays and analytical papers focusing on topics such as art, religion, social issues and politics. Gaga wrote an 80-page thesis on pop artists Spencer Tunick and Damien Hirst; research that prepared her for her future career focus in "music, art, sex and celebrity." Gaga felt that she was more creative than some of her classmates. "Once you learn how to think about art, you can teach yourself," she said. By the second semester of her sophomore year, she withdrew from the school to focus on her musical career. Her father agreed to pay her rent for a year, on the condition that she re-enroll for Tisch if she was unsuccessful. "I left my entire family, got the cheapest apartment I could find, and ate shit until somebody would listen," she said.
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