Lady Gaga cleaned up at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, accepting a Moonman for Best Collaboration, Song of the Year, Artist of the Year, and the first-ever TRICON award. She gave an impassioned acceptance speech for each award, and each time sporting a more elaborate face mask than the last time. I’ll always stan a mask-wearing celeb — but in the end, Gaga’s speeches left me feeling a lot cooler about the star than her impressive face-gear. While Gaga spoke from the heart about her passion for making music, one anecdote about her early days in the industry and her preference for ordering whiskey instead of food, while told with good intentions, veered into some very dicey advice.
Gaga was one of a few performers that couldn’t seem to stop winning awards at the VMAs, along with stars like Korean boy band BTS, Ariana Grande, and Taylor Swift. When she came out to give her speech for the Artist of the Year award, she looked back on her own journey as a young aspiring star and shared an anecdote about her early days in California trying to make it.
"Everyone always knew if they were hanging out with me that I was on a mission to spread joy through culture, through dance, through music." Congrats to @LadyGaga 💗 #GirlPower @SeeHer2020 #SeeHerHearHer #VMAs pic.twitter.com/RV6CI1n2MF
— MTV (@MTV) August 31, 2020
“When I first came to California, after I built this small following for myself in New York, I would be taken out to these fancy dinners with executives who wanted to sign me and I remember, I never ever ordered anything more than a whiskey neat or a large sake if we were in a Japanese spot,” Gaga recalled. “And I remember that they used to ask me, ‘hey LG, why aren’t you eating?’ And I said because I didn’t come for the California rolls.”
Gaga was making a point that she’s stayed driven throughout her whole career — but still, the image of a young Gaga sitting through multiple dinners sipping whiskey on an empty stomach wasn’t quite sitting right with me, and her closing line even less so: “Don’t eat the California rolls so they know you mean business.”
Now, it’s obviously not Gaga’s job to address every potential sensitivity in her audience when addressing a crowd this big. But as someone who has personally struggled with disordered eating, and has been inspired by Gaga’s openness about her own struggles with anorexia and bulimia, I was surprised to hear Gaga advise so flippantly that young stars not eat to be taken more seriously.
Knowing what Gaga has said on these issues in the past and what she stands for, I don’t think the Star Is Born actress was making a serious recommendation, nor do I think she’s typically insensitive to the many reasons young aspiring artists might be anxious about eating anyway. It seems her wins tonight had her feeling nostalgic, and this wasn’t the only time she referenced her early days dreaming of this kind of success.
How inspirational was @ladygaga's Tricon Award acceptance speech?! We are still in awe! #VMAs pic.twitter.com/XKoDxSJiEs
— MTV (@MTV) August 31, 2020
“I’ve been making music ever since I was a little girl, and even though I had really really big dreams, I truly never could have imagined that some day I would get an award like this,” Gaga said after receiving the TRICON award. “I also hope that people at home who have big dreams, I hope they see me here today and see me accepting this award…I want you to know that you can do this too.”
Gaga is a star who’s constantly revising, evolving, and rewriting herself in front of our eyes. I always love where she’s coming from — I just wish she’d offer some kind of follow-up advice, like telling aspiring stars to stock up on protein bars and eat them in the bathroom if they’re trying her “no California roll” trick on a dinner. But for now, she did leave us with some pretty killer advice on her last time leaving the stage.
“Wear a mask,” she advised the crowd. “It’s a sign of respect.”
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