Lady Gaga has the word "lady" right there in her name, and now she's sharing, in her own words, what it means to be one.
The singer penned a heartfelt essay for the December/January issue of Harper's Bazaar in which she reflects on her family history and career, and how those things have shaped her concept of womanhood. She describes her mother and grandmothers as "without a doubt the most powerful female forces in my life," and the source of her "rebelliousness, if you want to call it that."
Gaga also tells the story of her aunt Joanne, who passed away of lupus at age 19. Although Gaga never met her, she's been a significant figure and source of inspiration in her life. "I called my album Joanne because Joanne's presence was always important to me," she writes. "The best way to describe my relationship with her is that it's like the relationship someone might have with an angel or a spirit guide or whatever you think of as a higher power."
She goes on explain that Joanne was "sexually assaulted and groped" in college, which may have worsened her illness. It's an important issue to Gaga, whose song "Til It Happens to You" exposed the harsh realities of college rape. It was also a major topic of discussion during the 2016 presidential election, as audio surfaced of Donald Trump bragging about groping women. (Gaga, a Hillary Clinton supporter, stood outside Trump Tower on the night of the election with a sign reading "Love Trumps Hate.")
"I thought about Joanne as I was watching the news during the election about the scandal surrounding the Access Hollywood tape," she writes in Bazaar. "Here we were, in 2016, and the fact that the sort of language that was being used to talk about women was everywhere — on TV, in politics — was eye-opening."
She says she was inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama's comments on the controversy. "She talked about how women are often afraid to say anything because we're worried that we will appear weak — that we'll be told we're being over-the-top, dramatic, emotional. But we're not. We're fighting for our lives."
For Gaga, that fighting spirit is a cornerstone of being a woman in today's world. "Being a lady today means being a fighter. It means being a survivor. It means letting yourself be vulnerable and acknowledging your shame or that you're sad or you're angry. It takes great strength to do that."
The singer, who turned 30 this year, also describes her powerful idea of what it means to be successful: "I want to be somebody who is fighting for what's true — not for more attention, more fame, more accolades."
Everyone knows Gaga is a lover of avant-garde style, so it's fitting that she closes her essay with a fashion-related metaphor: "You know, I never thought I'd say this, but isn't it time to take off the corsets? As someone who loves them, I think it's time to take them off."
Read Gaga's entire essay in Harper's Bazaar.