Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Clare Lioon: Lessons Learned From Lady Gaga
by Cyrus Webb
When I put out the call to talk with fans and admirers of Lady Gaga for the music issue of Conversations Magazine it surprised me how diverse the pool of responses were. I literally had people from all walks of life write in sharing their own experience with the music and the madness of the talented performer. One of the most memorable emails, however, came from Clare Lioon.
The 25 year of is not just a fan of the music created by Lady Gaga, she has learned quite a bit from the woman as well. Claire shares with us how she got to know of Lady Gaga, what is it about her music that attracts people from all walks of life and some of the ways she has been able to incorporate some of the messages of Gaga in her own life.
What was your initial attraction to Lady Gaga as an artist?
I initially felt attracted to Lady Gaga simply for her music. I am a product of the pop era age while growing up and spent my teenage years obsessing over the popular boy bands and girl groups/stars of the time, so I cannot help but to have a true love for pure pop music. I suppose it’s in my blood. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate many other types of music and have favorite artists from other genres, but pop has always been my ongoing favorite – a guilty pleasure, if you will. In the past few years, I felt as if the music industry was missing a true pop artist, and I longed for a new one to emerge. My other favorite pop singer, Justin Timberlake, had been missing from the pop scene for years having taken a new foray into acting. Other pop singers were fun to listen to for me (ie. Britney Spears and the like) but none of them really did much for me other than provide fun songs that kept me singing and dancing throughout the years.
It’s hard to accurately depict in words, to be honest, what my initial draw was to Lady Gaga. A friend of mine had mentioned her, and I had seen photos of her posted to the popular celebrity blog, “Perez Hilton.” But, I did not feel like she was anything special. However, my initial opinion was not based on her music. I had merely judged her by the comments made through a friend and some pictures of her online. Not long after finally taking the time to actually sit down and listen to a few of her songs was I hooked. However, it wasn’t her hits “Just Dance” or “Poker Face” that really reeled me in – it was the slowed-down, piano ballad versions of those same songs. I stumbled upon some videos of Gaga belting out some stripped-down tunes on the piano in her now infamous “Cherrytree Sessions” (Glee’s Lea Michele and Idina Menzel even performed a Cherrytree Session of “Poker Face” during an episode). I believe that was the day I truly came to LOVE Lady Gaga as a musician. I YouTubed countless videos and watched as many performances as I could – In one evening, I was sold.
Not long after that, I bought tickets to my first of many Gaga concerts. It was a small venue that only held maybe 3,000 people – but it sold out, and quickly. Tickets were only $20 and standing room only. Her energetic performance and true grit confirmed what I already knew to be true – Lady Gaga is a brilliant and talented musician who is only just getting started.
Despite the controversy she sometimes stirs up do you think that is making her a more relevant artist/advocate for issues?
I began to love Lady Gaga for her addictive pop music songs and for her amazing, multi-faceted singing voice. However, it is the controversy she stirs and the issues she stands for that made me adore her as a person and a public figure. Not only do I feel that her bizarre outfits, strange antics, and strong beliefs make her a more relevant artist, but I feel that they prove why she is an artist who is clearly here to stay. Some people believe that Lady Gaga’s strange wardrobe and performance choices mean that she’s merely a flash in the pan, she tries too hard, she’s going to fall into irrelevancy faster than most artists when her tricks run up. To those naysayers I say – you’re wrong. Lady Gaga is a true performance artist. She lives and breathes her art, and she’s not going anywhere. She is not afraid to take chances and make bold moves with her fashion and in her performances. Gaga grew up loving the theater. A dramatic performer at heart, she carries this trait into her artistry. I myself grew up loving the theater as well. I absolutely loved “The Phantom of the Opera” and have many fond memories of trips to the theater to see the musical along with many other shows. Gaga brings that same kind of theatricality to her performances and to her everyday life. She lives the performance. I have never seen an artist like her in my life who truly never stops “performing.”
Many of the issues she stands for, she does so with such passion. She speaks for the LGBT community, for homeless youth, for AIDS awareness, for those who are bullied, for equal rights for all. I appreciate that she is such an outspoken, strong leader of these causes. I think it is so important for our generation to see stars who CAN and DO make a difference, rather than squander their money on drugs and DUIs. Lady Gaga is a real human rights leader of our time – I truly believe that. She uses her celebrity for good.
You've seen her in concert many times. Describe if you can the connection you feel in that venue moreso than listening to her music on the radio or watching on tv.
I have seen her in concert six times. I’ve been in the front few rows of the show for five out of those six times – and been in the actual FRONT row for a total of three times. The connection I feel with her in a concert setting is immeasurable, insurmountable, indescribable. I still get chills when I think about the opening interlude of her last tour, “The Monster Ball.” Being in the concert setting for me is like being home – I feel so welcome there. Not only do I feel a connection with her personally, but also with the thousands of like-minded fans. I have met so many amazing people at Lady Gaga concerts that I feel fully comfortable going to them by myself: I have been to two shows alone and met the best of friends. “Little Monsters” are so welcoming and accepting. I have made friends of all ages – some young, some much older. I’ve even met and befriended the professor who teaches "Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame” at University of South Carolina during my Gaga concert excursions. The concert setting is so amazing when you are surrounded by so many new (and old) friends who are just as excited as you are. When Gaga talks to a Little Monster friend, you cannot help but be excited and giddy for that fan as if it had actually happened to you.
I have been fortunate enough to share two special moments with Lady Gaga while in concert. I am a big fan of costumes, so I jumped at the opportunity to dress like Gaga for the concerts I attended. I spend months crafting the perfect Gaga outfits and enjoy the challenge of replicating some of her most famous looks. Because I wear such intricate and detailed costumes, Gaga has taken notice of me twice when I was in the front row and has directly talked to me about my costumes in front of the entire arena. After the concert, I cannot tell you how many fans wanted to take a picture with me because “Gaga talked to me.” I felt like a mini celebrity myself – it was a lot of fun. However, the connection I felt when she directly looked at me, acknowledged me, and talked to me was really amazing. Out of all these fans, you want to talk to me? You took notice of me? I was flattered.
But even without talking to me, I still feel a connection to her when she’s on the stage. During my first front-row concert, I didn’t dress up as crazy as the next two, and although she made eye contact with me several times, she did not call me out to speak to me. However, she did speak to two of my newly found Little Monster friends! I still remember those moments vividly, and although she was not speaking to me, I felt as if she was because I was so happy and excited for my friends. Lady Gaga’s stage presence and personal connection emulates to each fan in the crowd. Even when she speaks to other fans, you feel as if she’s speaking to you. And she does address the entire crowd. She speaks of being picked on when she was a kid, and how she grew up and overcame it all to become a superstar. You, too, can become a superstar if you believe what Lady Gaga preaches to her concert fans. And I do believe it.
I had the opportunity to meet Gaga once outside of her show in Atlanta. However, it was a freezing cold December evening, and plenty of other fans had gathered for the chance to get a glimpse of the star. She quickly met and signed autographs and took just a few photos with fans (me being one of the very lucky few). We barely got to speak, but I do remember telling her how much she meant to me as an artist and a person. We snapped a quick photo before she was whisked inside to perform. Although it was a fleeting moment, it is a photo and memory I will cherish forever. It is not every day that you get to meet your all-time favorite star. Meeting Gaga has made me feel a connection to her so much more when she performs. I feel like I am watching my friend up there, not an intimidating celebrity.
How has Lady Gaga inspired you as an individual going after your dreams?
Lady Gaga inspires me every day. Her story of hard work proves to me that anything you dream IS possible. Gaga grew up as a sheltered Catholic school girl, much like myself. She blossomed into an amazing, inspirational performer and person. Her success story is proof that anyone can work hard to reach a dream. I have pictures of her hanging up in my work space to remind me to keep pushing, to keep working harder. Gaga had to overcome so many obstacles to become the superstar she is today. She personifies one of my favorite quotes: “Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.” Lady Gaga followed her dream to become a performer. She didn’t let failures stop her along the way (she was dropped from her first label Def Jam and faced a lot of industry pushback) but she kept going. My career in social media can be very challenging, but very rewarding. On top of that, I am also finishing up my MBA in online classes at night. When the days seem long and hard, I remember to keep pushing. Gaga has inspired me to feel that way. Although I am very happy in a committed relationship, I feel that this quote from Lady Gaga explains my feelings best: “Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you're wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn't love you anymore.”
My relationship is important, but much like Lady Gaga, I am a strong, independent female always. I will never be the type of girl to let another person take care of me. I will always provide for myself and want to be an equal partner in a relationship. Lady Gaga has a fierce, “no-BS” attitude and is extremely outspoken, sometimes crude. However, I LOVE that she is so honest and open. She is a strong, fearless woman who doesn’t let anyone control her or stop her. No one can hold her back. She inspires me to be strong, to stand up for what I believe in, to be outspoken, to be true to myself, and to always put myself and my future first.