There’s no denying that Lady Gaga is an icon. Not only is she an accomplished musician, but this year she proved she’s a kickass actress as well by earning her first best actress Oscar nomination, for her role in A Star Is Born. Gaga’s name is now synonymous with greatness, but Mother Monster wasn’t born with the legendary title. So, how did Lady Gaga come up with her stage name? And what is her real name? Well, she spent the better part of two decades going by the name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, but let’s take a dive into how she earned her famous stage moniker.
Sure, “Lady Gaga” sounds cool and rolls easily off the tongue, but we got to wondering if there was any special meaning behind the name. Naturally, our curiosity led to some light internet researching — “Where did Lady Gaga get her stage name?” we typed into Google search — to see what kind of info we could come up with.
As it turns out, the truth behind the origin of Lady Gaga is actually pretty complicated — and there’s more than one version of the story of how the name came to be.
Way back in 2010, Gaga revealed in an interview with Flybe magazine (but kept on the record by IB Times) that music producer Rob Fusari, who also happened to be her boyfriend at the time, was the first to call her Gaga because her voice and style reminded him of the song “Radio GaGa” — which is pretty legendary in itself.
It’s hard to deny that Lady Gaga and Freddie Mercury have some serious parallels when it comes to stage presence and talent.
But while Gaga credits Fusari with coming up with the “GaGa” portion of her name, she claims she came up with the rest.
“He started to call me GaGa when I’d come into the studio,” Gaga reportedly said in an interview with Flybe. “When we were getting ready to really start performing, I decided that I’d been playing under my real name for so long I wanted a new way to reinvent myself. So I said, what about Lady GaGa, because Gaga is sort of crazy and Lady has such connotations. I went to a private school but now I was living in this trash glitter environment. So, for me, it was the perfect description of who I had become.”
Fusari, however, had a slightly different version of the story, and he sued Lady Gaga in 2010 for $30 million (partly because of the name debacle, but Fusari also claimed that Gaga had cut him out of a business deal). According to Fusari, he discovered her and is the only one responsible for coming up with her stage name.
“One day when Fusari addressed a cell phone text to Germanotta under the moniker ‘Radio Gaga’ his cell phone’s spell check converted ‘Radio’ to ‘Lady.’ Germanotta loved it, and ‘Lady Gaga’ was born,” the legal papers reportedly said, according to the New York Post.
Fusari later dropped the lawsuit.
There have also been other rumors and conspiracy theories that claim both Gaga and Fusari are full of it because Lady Gaga’s stage name was actually invented by executives in a marketing meeting.
So, we may never truly know where the name Lady Gaga came from, or who came up with it. But one thing we do know for sure: We can’t wait for her upcoming Las Vegas residency.
A version of this article was originally published in December 2011.