How Lady Gaga pushed the boundaries in Hollywood

Lady Gaga, better known as Mother Monster to her legions of devoted fans (AKA, Little Monsters), was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in New York City on March 28, 1986. Following the release of her debut album, The Fame, which dropped August 19, 2008, it quickly became clear that Gaga — with her catchy songs, undeniable talent, and outlandish fashion sense — was going to be a huge star. 

It's been nearly a decade since The Fame, and Gaga has since released five more records, successfully crossed genres, transitioned into acting, won a Golden Globe, been nominated for an Oscar and has even been involved in some of the biggest advancements in the tech and perfume industries.

One thing is for certain: Gaga is no ordinary pop star. The passionate performer who stands just five-foot-one pushes boundaries every single day, like it's her job. Here are 15 history-making moments that prove it.

Writing a hit in under ten minutes

It was 2008 when a 22-year-old Gaga broke out onto the pop scene with her smash hit debut single, "Just Dance." But despite its massive success, Gaga didn't spend months writing lyrics, nor did she need an entire team to help her write the tune, as many of today's biggest pop stars do. 

As she admitted to Star Tribune, she "was very hungover. I wrote the song in about 10 minutes with [producer] RedOne. And it was my first time being in a Hollywood studio. Very pristine, big huge room with giant speakers." 

"I'd like to think I've got a good intuition about culture and what people should listen to," Gaga went on to say, when asked about the massive popularity of her dance-worthy music. "I guess you could say my record is quite timely with the recession; it offers some escapism. It's fun. It's famous. But it's tangible."

Rocking a meat dress at the VMAs

Gaga's fashion choices have always gotten plenty of attention, as the star has never been one to shy away from outlandish, over-the-top looks. But no one was expecting her to show up to an awards ceremony wearing raw meat. Which is exactly what she did when she arrived to the 2010 MTV VMAs in a dress, shoes, and purse covered in red meat. 

But it wasn't just a cry for attention. Speaking with Ellen DeGeneres, Gaga revealed that the meat dress had a political message and was meant to be a protest of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a military policy that imposed strict limitations on LGBTQ soldiers, at the time.

"It's certainly no disrespect to anyone that's vegan or vegetarian," Gaga told DeGeneres. "As you know, I'm the most judgment-free human being on the Earth. It has many interpretations, but for me this evening it's [saying], 'If we don't stand up for what we believe in, if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones.'"

Even so, PETA was not impressed, releasing a statement that read, "Someone should whisper in her ear that there are more people who are upset by butchery than who are impressed by it — and that means a lot of young people will not be buying her records if she keeps this stuff up."

Reaching one billion views on YouTube

It was a tight race to see who would become the first artist in the world ever to hit one billion views on YouTube, as Gaga went head-to-head with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber. In the end, she inched ahead and took the title in October 2010. 

"We reached 1 Billion views on youtube little monsters!" Mother Monster tweeted, thanking her fans for helping her reach the impressive milestone by devotedly watching (and re-watching!) her music videos. "If we stick together we can do anything. I dub u kings and queens of youtube! Unite!"

Becoming Polaroid's creative director

In January 2011, the tech-obsessed musician proved yet again that she's so much more than the average pop star. After being named creative director at Polaroid a year earlier, the fruits of her labor were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in the form two new products. 

In addition to a digital camera designed to look like an old-school Polaroid cam (but with a high-tech LCD screen), Gaga, Polaroid, and design company Ammunition LLC (the masterminds behind Beats by Dr. Dre headphones) developed impressive "camera sunglasses with two embedded 1.5″ LCD displays" that can "act as a wearable camera, and can snap pictures, be pre-loaded with slideshows and video, and are meant to enable real-time photo sharing." Yes, way before Snapchat sunglasses were ever a thing.

"That really came from Gaga — from her video for 'Poker Face,' with the glasses that say 'pop culture.' She wanted to build that into a product," explained Ammunition's creative director, Robert Brunner. He went on to reveal how closely the pop star was involved in the entire process. "She takes it very personally — she really feels this stuff is a representation of her. She has ideas coming from her ethos and perspective."

Challenging religion

Like Madonna stirred tensions with her 1989 music video for "Like a Prayer," Gaga has definitely ruffled feathers by incorporating religious themes into her work. She's upset religious groups — like The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights — which claimed that she was "trying to rip off Christian idolatry to shore up her talentless, mundane and boring performances."

Raised as a Roman Catholic, Gaga, who attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart school, set tongues wagging when she released her video for "Judas" in 2011. In it, she wears a tiny bra covered with crosses, points a gun at Judas' head and portrays Jesus as a hunky man dressed in a leather jacket. 

Not surprisingly, many religious groups found the video offensive. But Gaga, then 25, told E! News, "I don't view the video as a religious statement. I view it as social statement. I view it as a cultural statement."

And that wasn't the only time she pushed religious boundaries. She also dressed up as a nun alongside famed fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, who dressed up as a priest and spanked the pop princess, for a documentary the duo released in 2011 titled Gaga by Gaultier.

Performing in drag

As the "first bonafide superstar to give a shout out to trans people in a pop song," Gaga has been known to push gender norms and, in 2011, she showed up at the MTV Video Music Awards in full drag, having completely transformed into her male alter ego, Jo Calderone. But rather than just walking the red carpet in a power suit, or dressing up as Calderone for a brief portion of the show, Gaga remained in character all night long. From the moment she arrived right through all her hosting duties to her off-camera time in the audience.   

Creative director for Gaga, Laurieann Gibson, told MTV News, "The idea of her being a performance artist — and it's starting the performance on the red carpet, and the idea that the performance never ends for her — is the first time I've experienced this with an artist. I love it. That's something that is specific to her, and the whole night was the performance, and it was important that Jo was a part of the whole night." What was the message she was trying to send? According to Gibson, it was all about "fearlessness…[and] that we constantly push boundaries, that we're not followers."

Launching her branded social network

Since the beginning of her career, Gaga has always made it a point to connect with her fans — or, Little Monsters — on a truly personal level. After years of using Twitter, Instagram, and various other social media networks, the pop star decided she needed to create her own. 

In 2012, she unveiled her Little Monsters social network (which had 180,000 members upon its launch), which allowed fans to come together and interact with one another like never before, using components from Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit, Facebook, and Ticketmaster.

"You can go on somebody's Facebook profile and see they like Gaga, but you don't know to what degree," Matt Michelsen, CEO of Backplane, the startup that helped launch the community, told Rolling Stone. "Little Monsters shows how many concerts they've attended and their overall level of participation around a common interest." 

Perhaps the most groundbreaking component, however, was "Backplane's proprietary instant translation feature," which finally allowed members from around the world to talk to one another in real time, multilingual chat rooms that automatically translate all messages into your mother tongue.

Shaking up the perfume industry

Gaga seemed to be going down a surprisingly commercial path when she unveiled her very own fragrance at a glitzy event in New York in September 2012, but fans should have known she wouldn't simply slap her name on a bottle the way countless celebs had done before her. No, if Gaga was going to release a perfume, she was going to do it her own unique way, shaking up the fragrance industry in the process. Enter her signature parfum, Fame: the world's first black perfume that sprays on clear. 

When Gaga first met the team at Coty — the famed perfume company tasked with developing Fame — and announced her vision, Yael Tuil, the vice president of global marketing, admitted she was skeptical, saying, "I started to sweat on my forehead. I said, 'My God! That's impossible! How can we do that?'"

Tuil explained that given all the innovation required, Gaga was actually "behind the most important innovation in the fragrance industry in the last 20 years. She is really pushing boundaries."

Speaking with Vogue, Gaga admitted, "I didn't really want to do it at first. I wanted to create a fragrance that somebody who makes fragrances says, 'Well, how did they do that?' And of course, once it smelled so good everyone said, 'Can't we just make it clear so we don't have to explain to people that it won't get on your clothes?' And I said, No."

Innovating the album app

When Gaga released her third studio album, ARTPOP, in 2013, she didn't just drop a new record, she developed an app to go along with it that would turn ARTPOP into the ultimate interactive experience.

Dubbed "the most high-profile music app since Bjork's 'Biophilia' back in 2011" by The Guardian, the app was described as being a "musical and visual engineering system that combines music, art, fashion, and technology with a new interactive worldwide community — 'the auras'." 

The innovative app was removed from the app store in 2015, but when it was live, it was comprised of four sections, which The Guardian reviewed in detail: ARTPOP ("a virtual turntable" that allowed users to play the album), ArtHaus (an area in which users could interact and make and share GIFs), Trakstar (which came with a 141-day countdown upon launch and was designed to host live DJ gigs), and GagaTV.

Collaborating with contemporary artists

When it came to creating the album artwork for ARTPOP, Gaga tapped one of the biggest contemporary artists in the world, Jeff Koons.

"We received a telephone call…from Brandon [Maxwell], a very close friend of Gaga's, her stylist that she works with. And [he] said that there was interest that I would work on the album," Koons told MTV, revealing how the collaboration began. For the cover, Koons "wanted to have Gaga there as a sculpture, as a three-dimensional type of form and with the gazing ball, because the gazing ball really does become kind of the symbol for everything…it affirms you, it affirms your existence." He also turned the imagery into a giant sculpture. 

A few years earlier, in 2013, Gaga made news with another artist collaboration when she joined forces with Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic, taking part in her famed Abramovic Method — "a public participatory event joining people in a communal experience to connect with oneself and with each other" — and filming the entire thing. The performance included chants, walking blindfolded, and hugging an enormous crystal, while naked.

Crossing genres

If there's one thing that's become clear over the years it's that Gaga is a chameleon. After three successful pop records, Gaga surprised even her biggest fans when she ventured into the world of jazz and released Cheek to Cheek in 2014, an album of duets recorded with Tony Bennett.

It was 2011 when Bennett saw Gaga performing a jazz tune, "Orange Colored Sky," at the Robin Hood Foundation charity gala. When the pair met backstage later that night, the legendary musician asked, "'Do you want to do a jazz album together?' And I said, 'Yes, of course I do!'" Gaga told PEOPLE. A successful tour followed, along with a tattoo. "I asked Tony to draw me a trumpet, and he sketched me Miles Davis's trumpet. Then I had it tattooed with his last name, Benedetto, underneath," she told the magazine. 

Then Gaga reinvented herself yet again. In 2016, she released Joanne, a far cry from her pop debut, and jazz interlude. The country influence was undeniable and as the singer told Fuse, the inspiration came from her childhood. "When I was little, my father used to play 'I've Got Friends in Low Places' really loud in the basement, and I'd catch him down there dancing by himself, screaming real loud. I thought it was cool…I myself am not a country musician," she said. "I'm just a musician period. I love all different kinds of music and this is just what I wrote." 

A technological tribute

Gaga teamed up with the folks at Intel, "brainstorming ways in which she could use technology to express herself in a way that had never been done before" at the 2016 Grammy Awards, according to Vanity Fair. As Intel's director of technology, Paul Tapp, revealed, he and Gaga, along with an entire team of engineers, began collaborating in September 2015, but when David Bowie passed away on January 10, 2016, Gaga flipped everything on its head, making it clear that she planned to use her time on stage to deliver the ultimate tribute to one of her biggest inspirations. 

In an effort to pay homage to as many of Bowie's most iconic moments and looks as possible, the team at Intel "introduced 'living canvas' technology to her, which allows her to basically have what we call digital skin — which has been used in tech art installations, but never before for a live performance," as Tapp told the magazine. 

After creating an intricate 3D scan of the pop star's face, the Intel team was able to recreate Bowie's most iconic makeup looks using CGI. These were then projected onto Gaga's face using real-time tracking that ensured the images perfectly matched her natural expressions.

That wasn't the only tech innovation the landmark performance featured. As Vanity Fair reported, "Gaga's ring allowed her to have real-time control of the stage, an L.E.D. wall, and the environment around her including a three-dimensional hologram of Bowie himself."

Advocating on the Oscar stage

An outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and women's rights, Gaga took her advocacy to new heights when she brought it to the Oscar stage in a moving performance that left many, including the songstress, in tears. Joined by dozens of sexual abuse survivors, Gaga performed "Til It Happens to You" at the 2016 Academy Awards.   

The song, which was written for The Hunting Ground, a documentary about the ongoing sexual assault cases taking place on college campuses across the U.S., snagged a Best Original Song nomination and its live performance was one of the most powerful and memorable moments of the evening, earning the pop star a standing ovation.  

Making history at the Super Bowl

Although many who watched Gaga's 2017 Super Bowl Halftime Show claimed to be disappointed by her lack of outright political protest (just weeks before, the singer hung off a sanitation truck in front of Trump Tower in NYC, holding a sign that read "Love trumps hate"), the controversial singer did deliver plenty of subtle jabs at President Trump, according to Salon magazine, including her choice to sing Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" spoke volumes as the song was used in women's marches across the country following the inauguration. 

She also spearheaded another major landmark moment, which was a real milestone for the LGBTQ community. Of all the songs Gaga included in her medley, "Born This Way" — her anthem about acceptance and inclusion and self-love — got the most air time. As Salon noted, this made "Gaga the first person to ever say the words 'lesbian,' 'gay,' 'bi,' or 'transgender' at the Super Bowl."

Becoming an actor

Unlike celebrities who attempt to transition from music to acting (or vice versa) in an effort to prove they can do it all, and fail, Gaga has been surprisingly successful, moving into the world of film. In 2016, she took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a limited series or TV movie for playing The Countess in American Horror Story: Hotel. "I feel like Cher in that John Patrick Shanley movie Moonstruck," Gaga declared as she accepted her award. "This is one of the greatest moments of my life." 

In addition to her award-winning stint on the small screen, Gaga has also slayed the big screen with cameos in Machete Kills, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and Men in Black 3. Come 2017, Gaga began working on her biggest movie role to date: a starring role in the Bradley Cooper-directed remake of A Star is Born.

"I always wanted to be an actress on the big screen," Gaga wrote on Instagram alongside a shot of her and Cooper on set. "The story of A Star is Born is so special and I'm so grateful to Bradley for making my dream come true. Can't wait for you to meet Ally."  

A bright future ahead

In May 2017, Gaga joined in on the emoji trend with the launch of her very own Gagamojis. Then she unveiled an exclusive collaboration with retail giant Urban Outfitters. And, in June 2017, she wrapped up filming on A Star Is Born and unleashed a custom Starbucks line in support of her Born This Way foundation. 

With her Joanne world tour kicking off in August 2017, it's clear that Gaga isn't showing any signs of slowing down. And if her past is any indication, her future projects will continue to be big, bold, and boundary-crushing.