(Photo: Eileen Blass, USA TODAY)
NEW YORK - With her wigs and outlandish ensembles, Lady Gaga is the titan of theatricality.
But peel away the layers, she says, and you see the real her, the painstakingly focused and meticulous musician and songwriter who spent two years crafting her new album, Artpop, out Monday. Every note, every word on the release comes from her heart, she says.
"There's a lot of pressure for me to deliver," she says. "I'm not manufactured. I take it very seriously. I have to live and die by my own work."
If something doesn't pan out, says Gaga (real name: Stefani Germanotta, 27), she takes full responsibility and doesn't allow anyone to dictate what she says or sings. Saying she's put off by sycophants, Gaga surrounds herself with people who tell her the truth.
"I'm at the age where you see blond hair and (breasts) and a (butt) and hear me singing about sex or fighting for gay rights, people start to roll their eyes. But no matter what happens, I'm prepared to go down with the ship," she says.
In fact, the more people push her, the more she rebels in the opposite direction.
"I don't really like to let anyone drive what it is that I'm supposed to say. I know it's always driven by money or fear or vanity or ego. When I'm creating I don't think about any of those things. You either like it or you don't," she says.
In person, Gaga is more diminutive than expected, given her larger-than-life costumes. She's polite, eloquent and very much in control of every aspect of her life, deciding what she wears to every public outing and how she conducts interviews and photo shoots. Surprisingly, she doesn't take herself too seriously, rolling her eyes and making a face when given a compliment on her all-white ensemble. As for why she's wearing rather sedate tan pumps? "Well, you know, after you break your hip ..." she explains, referring to her injury and subsequent surgery that sidelined her for several months this year. "Heels are not a good idea all the time."
Gaga says she lives a regular life with her 32-year-old boyfriend, actor Taylor Kinney. She splits her time between Manhattan and the Windy City, where he shoots Chicago Fire.
"I live in a very modest apartment. I live a very creative lifestyle," she says.
That lifestyle might not be what you'd expect. On a typical night, "(we) drink and smoke and write music and call Jeff Koons and (performance artist) Marina (Abramovic)," Gaga says. "That's what I do. I sit at home and geek out over art and science. I work all the time. I love working."
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