When it comes to combining the senses in the aid of a creative pursuit, sound and scent are not the most common companions. The moment it concerns global superstar Lady Gaga, however, all bets are off.
Never content to stay in her lane, despite initially being known for her string of dance-pop hits, the 34-year-old has since favoured a wildly inventive approach across numerous endeavours, fusing fashion and performance art, makeup, music and acting.
Which is why when Pierpaolo Piccioli, artistic director at Italian fashion house Valentino, landed on the idea of a scent designed to draw parallels between the wearer’s unique voice and opinions and the perfume they wear, Gaga was an obvious choice to represent the new release. Named Voce Viva – Latin for ‘with the living voice’ – the scent and its forthright spokesperson are dedicated to leaving a lasting impression.
Lady Gaga’s outspoken approach is a common thread in a career that took off with the release of her smash album The Fame back in 2008, has spanned many more hits since, and more recently saw her become the first female to win a Grammy, an Oscar, a Bafta and a Golden Globe all in the same year for her turn in the remake of cinematic love story, A Star Is Born. Consistently redefining expectations of what it means to be a singer, an actor, an artist, a celebrity, a business-owner and a woman, she’s also remained committed to amplifying the voices of other individuals not regularly afforded a platform.
So Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta to Italian-American parents in New York City, has easily fallen in step with Valentino’sintention for not only its new scent, but the house’s reaffirmed dedication under Pierpaolo Piccioli to heroing individuality and diversity.
Alongside its quietly fabulous glamour, naturally. Piccioli worked with perfumers Honorine Blanc and Amandine Clerc Marie to design Voce Viva, a sweet citrus and white floral scent dominated by radiant orange blossom and gardenia, with slightly tart elements and a softer sandalwood and oakmoss dry-down. The perfume is intended to inspire wearers to ‘radiate with the energy and fulfillment of confidence’, and in turn, speak up assuredly.
Although she uses it often now, Gaga says it’s taken time to hold her voice without wavering. “I believe you discover your voice when you discover yourself. Looking for our own voices, to me, is an endless lifetime pursuit.
“We learn who we want to be,” she adds, “while we also unlearn things we realise we no longer believe. Our voice comes and goes. I would say cultivate your voice exactly as you please. Know it can be strong, and know it belongs to you.”
Gaga says she believes most voices have the ability to positively impact, but all voices are impactful. “This includes hateful voices, which is why hateful speech is so negatively powerful – why we need to fill the negative space with kind speech.”
The multi-hyphenate performer, who released her latest album Chromatica in May 2020 in the midst of global Covid-19 lockdowns, has been honest about her own mental health challenges, and speaks regularly of the need to be compassionate and share hope and positivity.
“My song ‘911’ on Chromatica has to be one of the most personal songs I’ve ever written. It’s a dance-pop song but the words are poetry of my deeply personal reality, as someone who struggles with mental health. This song is a battle cry and a celebration of my radical acceptance that this is who I am.
“With Chromatica, I want everyone to know that even if life is painful sometimes, you can still dance through it,” she explains.“You can dance through it because you’re being brave, by fighting the pain and living life. That fight is something that should always be celebrated.”
While her success is undeniable, the achievements tangible in the awards lining her shelves, she’s quick to admit holding onto confidence in the wake of each win is easier said than done. But she keeps showing up regardless. “I work on building it [confidence] all the time. I focus on skills I have, and work from there. I feel like it’s building a house that’s never finished. I also remind myself that skills can be simple,” she says.
“Whenever someone told me I wasn’t good enough, either in my career or personal life, I never let it break me. I promised myself that every time I heard ‘no’, it would motivate me to work harder. The most daring thing I did was believe in myself.”
When the self-belief is flagging, she draws inspiration from her family, namely her mother, both grandmothers and her sister. “In fact, my whole family,” she says. “The hard-working spirit, the ‘I’ll never give up’ attitude, the style and grace while doing so…that’s my family’s voice. That’s me.”
That drive to succeed has meant Gaga has diversified her career further by developing a business in an area she’s an expert in. Makeup line Haus Laboratories launched in September 2019 with three key items in a number of colours and continues to grow rapidly with periodic launches.
The line is informed by products the star, who has never shied from a dramatic beauty look, has personally relied on throughout her career. Think the ultimate liquid liner, glitzy, reflective liquid eyeshadow and budge-proof lipliners in the perfect nude shade for every skin tone.
“For me, using makeup and perfume to transform how I feel at any moment is valuable,” she explains. “Even though I believe that working on ourselves from the inside is the most crucial thing we can do, I also cherish the power of visual transformation to affect how we feel inside.”
Transformation remains firmly on the agenda for the star, as she returns to acting in 2021. Covid-dependant, she will next appear in Gucci, a Ridley Scott-helmed true-crime drama based on the 1995 murder of Maurizio Gucci, the one time head of the Gucci fashion house.
Maurizio was famously gunned down by a hitman hired by his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani, set to be played by Gaga alongside an ensemble cast that also includes Al Pacino, Robert de Niro, Adam Driver and Jared Leto.