Today marks Stefani Germanotta, a.k.a. Lady Gaga‘s, 30th birthday. For many people, turning the big 3-0 kicks off a period of panic, self-doubt, the occasional quarter-life crisis, and just general lamentation at not achieving anything that you set out to do.
For Gaga’s part, there’s a good chance she’s going to be reflecting on 30 with a whole lot of self-congratulations instead.
But while the world now knows Gaga as a mature, introspective, almost-EGOT, she’s had a whole lot of transformations during her career.
After all, it’s almost hard to believe that the sensitive woman on last month’s Oscars stage is the same person who once wore a dress made of raw meat.
In honoring our beloved Gaga today, we decided to look back all the different personas she’s inhabited over the years—awesomely wacky fashions included, of course.
In keeping with tradition, let’s started at the beginning. We call this The Club Years. Or, shall we say, Da Club Years.
Gaga’s debut studio album was a movement in and of itself. With a few hit songs she became what was basically the American equivalent of Kylie Minogue.
If there’s a college student out there who didn’t spend every Saturday night of 2008 getting in the mood to party to the tune of “Just Dance” or “Poker Face” then they’re straight-up lying.
She was the disco queen, known for giant sunglasses, slinky onesies, blonde wigs, and owning the club beat genre.
Gaga also started to hint at the potential of her artistry, with blown-out performances that featured wild costumes and even wilder dance moves. In short, The Fame was an introduction to Classic Gaga.
Otherwise known as The Wig Period.
Nobody could rock fake hair like Lady Gaga in the late aughts.
But it wasn’t just about what was on her head—she began to be known for taking risks onstage as well, with stunts like singing from the creepiest bathtub of all time in the “Bad Romance” video to smearing her face in blood at the 2009 VMAs to strutting through a jail in her underwear for “Telephone.”
We should also mention that she was nominated for a slew of Grammys and won several, but the public was certainly paying a wee bit more attention to her wild stunts and the blood-smearing and such.
There isn’t a person in America who doesn’t have this image burned into their brains, but let’s just take a second to remember the fact that Lady Gaga once wore a dress made of meat to the 2010 VMAs. She did so as a protest against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and it was arguably the most memorable (if not the very first) step in her transformation to all-out activism. She followed that, er, showcase up with perhaps the most awesomely head-scratching Grammys arrival ever: The Egg.
Ohh, the egg. Gaga was on hand to open the show with her groundbreaking “Born This Way,” an anthem of sorts for anyone who’s ever felt they were different. And clearly the best way to honor that song is to literally birth yourself on the red carpet. She called it her “creative embryonic incubation,” which is the perfect way to describe sitting in an enclosed egg for 72 hours before letting yourself on the red carpet. Some scoffed at this moment, some were simply perplexed, but most of all we all realized that our creativity would literally never match Gaga’s.
The Jo Calderone Period.
Jo Calderone: We know him, we love him, we’re not entirely sure where he went. Lady Gaga took on this alter ego, Sasha Fierce-style, as part of her ongoing exploration with performance art. He was a man’s man, with slicked-back hair and never without a pack of cigs rolled into his sleeve (or so we think). The singer even appeared on the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan, which is way more than we can say for Sasha Fierce. It was around this time that fans realized they could truly never nail down Gaga, and that’s what made her so amazing.
The Quiet Years.
No one can stay hot forever, especially when their public persona involves as much energy and thought as Lady Gaga’s. We can’t say for certain what caused this relative Gaga drought without being in the mind of the artist herself, but she had a notable drop-off in appearances, music release and the like over the last few years.
Better Than Ever.
Enter the Lady Gaga of today. She’s still talented and artistic and all that she was before, but now she’s more of an activist and a role model than she ever was. It all started when she revealed in a December 2014 interview with Howard Stern that she was raped as a teenager. While it was an incredibly vulnerable time for the singer, she channeled it all into positivity, eventually penning a powerful essay on sexual assault and joining forces with the governor of New York to pass the “Enough is Enough” bill. This also led her to write “Til It Happens to You,” the song responsible for her Oscar nomination and that groundbreaking performance with other victims.
Her career came back with a vengeance in other ways, too. Three words: American Horror Story. Gaga was cast in the spring of 2015, and her role was such a runaway hit that she won a Golden Globe and is returning for the next season. Something tells us she’s well on her way to an EGOT.
Oh, and in even more positive news, there’s the fact that she’s getting married. While her career is clearly the most impressive part about Lady Gaga, getting to spend the rest of her life with Taylor Kinney isn’t half bad. She’s sporting a giantrock and planning what we can only imagine is going to be a knockout wedding that we can’t wait to hear about. All told, 30 is shaping up to be just fine.