Lady Gaga's path to healing involves kindness, both toward herself and others. The singer and actress spoke about trauma, perseverance, and her relationship with her fans in a masterful interview by Oprah Winfrey for Elle's December issue. "I recognized very early on that my impact was to help liberate people through kindness," Gaga said. "I mean, I think it's the most powerful thing in the world, particularly in the space of mental illness."
Gaga has spoken candidly about mental health and the effects of her post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being raped at 19. In her 2017 documentary, Five Foot Two, she also offered a glimpse into her fibromyalgia diagnosis and experience with chronic pain. "I once believed that there was no way back from my trauma. I really did. I was in physical, mental, and emotional pain," she said. Gaga went on to reveal that she used to self-harm as an attempt to "show people that I was in pain instead of telling them and asking for help." "I say that with a lot of humility and strength; I'm very grateful that I don't do it anymore, and I wish to not glamorize it," she added.
"I once believed that there was no way back from my trauma."
Now, Gaga copes with a combination of medication and dialectical behavioral therapy. "Medicine works, but you need medicine with the therapy for it to really work, because there's a part that you have to do yourself," she said. "This is how I survive. But you know what, Oprah? I kept going, and that kid out there or even that adult out there who's been through so much, I want them to know that they can keep going, and they can survive, and they can win their Oscar."
Though A Star Is Born did, indeed, earn Gaga her first Oscar, she described the experience of portraying Ally as a difficult one. "The character of Ally stayed with me for a long time. I had to relive a lot of my career doing that role," she said. "I have been traumatized in a variety of ways by my career over the years from many different things, but I survived and I've kept going. And when I looked at that Oscar, I saw pain."
As for her highly publicized Oscars performance of "Shallow" with Bradley Cooper, whom she described as a "beautiful father," Gaga said, "Quite frankly, I think the press is very silly. I mean, we made a love story. For me, as a performer and as an actress, of course we wanted people to believe that we were in love. And we wanted people to feel that love at the Oscars . . . And we worked hard on it, we worked for days. We mapped the whole thing out — it was orchestrated as a performance."
"Can you be kind and can you survive?"
Looking toward the future, Gaga is less concerned with "shock art" and having to outdo herself. "I used to just go, 'What am I going to do next to get people's attention?'" Her main focus now is on lifting up her fans and helping them feel seen. "I actually said this the other day on social media. I said, 'I didn't do this for fame, I did it for impact.' And that's the truth." She later added, "It's hard in a world the way that we are; we have a very, very grave history. We're in trouble, and we have been before. But I think life asks us amid these challenges, this hatred, this tragedy, this famine, this war, this cruelty: Can you be kind and can you survive?"