Lady Gaga's Mom on Bullying and Standing Up for Yourself
Before Lady Gaga became the goddess that she is, the pop star was Stefani Germanotta, an artsy theater-loving teen who—like many artsy theater-loving teens—was relentlessly bullied. She successfully overcame the haters, thanks in part to her kickass mom, Cynthia Germanotta, who always taught her daughters to be true to themselves no matter what. This lifelong mantra helped birth Born This Way, the name of a song, album, and foundation all masterminded by Lady Gaga.
Although the singer no longer has to deal with mean girls—at least not the high school sort—the cause is still close to her heart. With the help of her mother, Gaga's on a mission to improve the lives of teens. Yesterday, she launched her latest project, in partnership with Intel and Vox Media, called #HackHarrassment. We talked to Cynthia (who's every bit as glamorous and inspiring as her daughter) about what inspired this empowering new initiative, and how you can get involved.
How have you witnessed bullying firsthand?
It's very very personal to us in our family. My daughter—and she has talked openly about this—experienced a lot of struggles growing up as a kid. She was often humiliated and taunted and isolated. It was something very difficult for her to go through, and something hard for me to watch as a parent. That led to the birth of our foundation, because we heard so many similar stories from young people around the world who had endured experiences similar to hers. She openly talked about these experiences at her concerts, and that helped her and it helped the young people who were listening.
How did you encourage your daughters to do their own thing, despite the haters?
Our encouragement was to take the high road, and never waver. Stay true to yourself. Be a beacon for what is right and appreciate other people's differences rather than judge people for that. Both of my girls did take the high road in that respect, and they hopefully became an example to other people. It's still hurtful. It's sometimes easier said than done, but they did it and they took risks in doing it. You sacrifice a lot in doing something like that, but in the end, the high road and goodness perseveres.
Can you talk a little bit about the meaningful things you've seen or heard since starting this initiative, or the foundation in general?
We come at empowerment from a preventative position. We try to equip young people with the right tools they need to thrive—building a generation that's kinder and braver rather than waiting until it's too late. We focus very heavily on things like socio-emotional learning and mental health and also digital media. It's about using the internet wisely and safely.
The most important thing that teens have taken away is that they are valued and they are appreciated for their differences.
Join Cynthia and Lady Gaga by pledging to end online harassment here.