Lady Gaga is the latest star to digitally cover V Magazine with three different covers shot by Hedi Slimane. These new photos, a documentation of Gaga before playing the biggest show of her life, come 13 years after Slimane first met and shot the superstar for The Fame Monster’s album art in 2009.
Below, Gaga, Stephen Gan, and Nicola Formichetti reflect on the past while in awe of the present.
Lady Gaga on reuniting with Hedi Slimane:
“He’s watched me go through so many modes of life. Him being at the Chromatica Ball was an especially proud moment for me because I’m so much healthier now than I’ve ever been. So to be photographed by him and to be healthy, that felt like a real milestone for me as a person, and as an artist—an artist that always believed that if I was suffering, I was doing it right. You know, he’s photographing a different person now.”
Lady Gaga on Hedi Slimane photographing her backstage:
“For him to photograph me in my essence, in that moment where I allow the animal in me to start to wake up and I tell myself, ‘Okay, the animal can be awake for two hours and then has to go back to sleep,’ it’s tremendously meaningful to me.”
Lady Gaga remembers meeting Stephen Gan for the first time:
“We talked about fashion. We talked about art. We talked about New York. We talked about culture, I had met this person that was, to me, the godfather of fashion…and I still managed at the end of the dinner to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to the Lower East side to meet all my friends, who are artists.’ I think in some strange way, Stephen seeing that side of me is part of why we understand each other and have the relationship that we do. He knows how much I value the artistic community.”
Stephen Gan recalls meeting Lady Gaga for the first time:
“She was in some kind of biker outfit with holes in the fishnets, and she had a bag full of wigs under the table. Every time a new sushi roll was served, she’d put on a different wig. I thought she was some kind of Warholian character from the factory like I had read about in art school.”
Lady Gaga reflects on her first V Magazine shoot:
“I think back to that very first shoot, and you know, these were things that a girl like me…well, I never thought anyone was going to view me as someone that could model fashion in that way. But I think Stephen saw my extreme passion and vibrancy for life as art.”
Nicola Formichetti reflects on that same photoshoot:
“There was total freedom, she created a space for everybody to be themselves in a way. And all the way up until today, she surprised me, even though we are very much in sync. There’s nobody out there like her.”
Lady Gaga talks about the wig Frederic Aspiras created for the Chromatica Ball:
“Frederic Aspiras, who has been my hair designer since I was about 20-years-old…to see a cover with him applying my wig, I mean, he handmade the hairline for months. I watched him stitching it in the corner. I wore another wig for every single rehearsal, and I just didn’t say anything to him about the one he was making, but I knew it was going to be like poetry. I waited for the last second and then I said, ‘Can I try that one?’ And he goes, ‘Okay, fine.’” She lets out an appreciative laugh. “But what I’ll say is, when he saw the photographs, he just cried. He compared my eyes to some of the earlier photographs, and he said, ‘Look at your eyes here, and look at your eyes here, and look how different they are.’ He said, ‘Here, you look lost, but here you look passionate, you look free, you look happy, you look like you’re longing for life.’”
Lady Gaga on the Chromatica Ball:
“You know, I’m so grateful that I got to deliver Chromatica to the world in this way, because the biggest discovery and the biggest gift I could have given myself in becoming healthy is that when I’m on stage now, I’m not blasting the music and getting lost. I’m not in a nightclub wasted, getting lost in the record…Now I’m inside my dance routine. I’m inside my vocal technique. I’m inside the artistry of the fashion and the imagery. I’m clear about where the cameras are. I’m always thinking about the image that the audience is seeing. It’s a real performance. It’s a performance that honors the craft of my musicianship. When I’m playing piano, I can hear what I’m playing. I care about every note. And I can’t tell you how much suffering is not worth it if it means it’s going to compromise your talent.”
Lady Gaga reflects on the Chromatica Ball and healing:
“My last show for Chromatica is coming up, and to know that I’ve performed every show with clarity, with purity, and sober on stage. I mean, to know that I gave myself that and gave the audience that—it makes me feel like I’m honoring the privilege that it is to be an artist that’s watched by the world. And I want to give that to the fans too. I want them to know that it’s okay to heal. Healing doesn’t make you less talented. It doesn’t make you less of a badass. It doesn’t make you less committed to your art. It just means that you’re able to experience life with more clarity. I think sometimes as artists, we get caught up with the escape of it all, right? The fantasy of it all. And if we escape too much, we stop valuing things about life. There’s more to life than just escaping it.”
You know, this interview in a lot of ways came at a perfect time, what I’ve been wanting to do the last few days is just reflect on this whole time. I never thought I was going to be able to be on stage again, I feel like I’m on another level of gratitude that I know the importance of reflection. And I just want to soak up this moment and in this interview as a way of reflecting on this whole thing and reconnecting with a friend and saying, you know, not goodbye to this show but just welcoming a rebirth into a new chapter of my life, where I can be the artist that I always wanted to be. I can finally stop running away from myself and start running towards myself.”
This article originally appeared in V Magazine.