Cover shot of Lady Gaga’s debut album The Fame / Pieter Henket / Wikimedia Commons
Let me start by addressing that headline. This article is not about how to become famous during a pandemic. That would be crass. We know that instinctively.
But why do we know that so instinctively? And why do our celebrities not share in these collective instincts? A global crisis like COVID-19 throws concepts like ‘celebrity’ into sharp relief. Its ridiculousness becomes instantly clear. To everyone, that is, besides a lot of celebrities.
A global pandemic, especially one where we are forced to stay in our homes (provided we are lucky enough to have a home) clarifies how stupid it is that some of us live in houses that look like stadiums and some of us live in squalor. In normal times, Justin Bieber, Hailey Bieber, and Kendall Jenner saying they don’t have to apologise for their wealth comes across as blundering at most. During a global pandemic, it’s a scandal. And at this point, it seems like I’m reaching back into ancient history to bring up the self-satisfied celebrity Imagine video. Unbelievably, that only happened a few weeks ago.
So why are these celebrities so oblivious? And what should they be doing instead?
Well, let’s look to Lady Gaga.
As a Stan, I say that often. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth saying.
Lady Gaga has always approached fame differently. She’s always been upfront about it. She was ambitious, brazen. She wanted to be a star. She named her debut album The Fame after all. The way I see it, Lady Gaga has thought about all this a hell of a lot more than (most of) her contemporaries.
Several months back, seemingly changing course, she tweeted “I didn’t do this for fame, I did it for impact.” Now, as she organises one of the most significant charitable events of the COVID-19 crisis, she is realising the statement.
In a move straight out of the Bob Geldof/Live Aid playbook, Gaga has corralled a veritable smorgasbord of talent, both emerging and legendary, for a virtual charity concert. One World: Together at Home will feature performances by Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Elton John, and Paul McCartney among others. It live streams here on the 19th of April. What the hell it’s going to look like is anyone’s guess.
More importantly, it’s a charity event but it’s not a fundraiser. Gaga has raised over $35 million for the event already. Rather than “asking poor people to donate to other poor people”, as some have put it, Gaga has approached corporations and business tycoons for relief. All the money raised will go to the World Health Organisation’s Solidarity Response Fund. She has currently received donations from over 65 corporations. “Put your wallets away,” she said, “and enjoy the concert you all deserve.”
I tell you, I could cry.
Lady Gaga’s fame has always felt meta. It’s as if she guided the media (and us) into obsessing over her career instead of her life. Despite going through several relationship breakups in the public eye, few could tell you any of her past lovers' names. And despite being one of the most famous women in the world, the average Joe likely doesn't know her real name.
Of course, all of this adulation should be taken with a healthy grain of salt. Stefani Germanotta is a rich, white millionaire after all. The thing is – she seems to realise that. I think that’s why she’s navigating her fame around this crisis so well. The woman has thought about the concept of celebrity a hell of a lot. She knows when to make it all about herself. More importantly, she knows when NOT to. This – overwhelmingly – is one of those times.
Some of her peers could stand to take notes.Support Villainesse