This article appeared originally on Vanity Fair Italy. It was entirely translated by Lady Gaga Now.
In this album there is a lot about you and your family, your Italian roots are entirely showing up.
I feel deeply Italian: my father’s family, Joseph Giuseppe Germanotta, arrived in NYC from Palermo through Ellis Island; his mother Angelina is from Santa Lucia Del Mela (province of Messina). My grandmother is from Venice instead. This album is a tribute to Joanne Stefani Germanotta, my father’s sister: she died at the age of 19 in America and this tragedy afflicted my family for generations.
Why did you decide to talk about this now?
It was not a choice, but a necessity. Me and my sister Natali feel the sorrow for the loss, but we were not able to understand it for years. Sometimes I ask myself if I really know my dad, because losing a member of your family changes you completely. I grew up seeing the feelings on my parents’ and relatives’ faces who, at every festivity were reuniting around a table just like good Italians, were missing her.
Your father used to talk about this loss openly?
No, my grandmother Angelina told me about it and my mother as well. When I asked her: “Mom, why is dad crying? Mom, why does dad drink so much? Mom, why is dad always so angry? Mom, why is dad missing the Mass today?,” she used to reply: “Dad has been going through a hard time since he lost his sister at a very young age. Pray for him because he feels this loss so deeply that you can’t understand”. Today my father comes to me to pray, he holds my hand, and he says to me that we have to talk to God and be grateful. Today my father doesn’t drink anymore, he stopped 2 years ago. I saw his progress to heal and I wanted this to be the aim of the album: I want to tell the entire world about this experience of loss and hurt lived by my family to help those who are in the same situation to make it through. To reach this goal I had to communicate more humanly: they couldn’t be lyrics by Lady Gaga, they had to be lyrics by Joanne, which is also my second name.
I read that your father is overprotective towards you and your sister. Do you think this has anything to do with his loss?
Definitely. He was constantly afraid that it could happen again, such a tragedy makes you feel lost. For years I thought that my dad was angry because of me; when we’re kids we can feel our parents emotions, but sometimes this is painful, because at that age you’re living the purest love and you should just think about being a kid. While you grow up you’re more aware and ready to say: “Dad, there is another way, let go of all the ghosts, I’m here and you can love me, your trauma is gone, you don’t have live it everyday”. This is Joanne’s theme: I learned to forgive and to feel compassion not only for my father but also for all those who were not able to make it through the loss. I’d like my message to give you the strength to go through every kind of obstacle. I mixed folk, pop and country, a genre which is very much appreciated in the United States, with the aim to reach to everybody”.
Two months ago you declared that you suffered from depression.
5 years ago I was under pressure because of work. In that period I separated from my manager Troy Carter. A long path to healing followed and I’m still not done with it, my body did not entirely heal from all the hard work and the stress of all those concerts. I feel condemned to live with this chronic pain but I don’t want compassion: there are a lot of people with the same problem, we are strong and fight everyday to do our best. Recently, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental illness which is very hard to explain in an interview. It can be caused by an image, some words or a story that reminds me of all the hard work I did in the past and those simply make me panic. I live the trauma as if today I am in the same position as 5 years ago but it’s not like that, today I’m here and I have a fantastic team that takes care of my body, of my mental illness, of my dignity as a woman who is free to decide when to use my body. Today I should be fine but this mental illness sometimes doesn’t let me live the reality, it scares you.
What was scaring you?
During the Born This Way Ball Tour I was very scared but I didn’t know why. I somehow discovered that it had something to do with my brain, but it took me 5 years and many psychiatrists to understand it. Today I’m here but I fight everyday. With Joanne I want people to know that I’m human, and no better than them, but also not less. People look up to me, this is why I decided to talk about my problems.
Do you think the sexual assault you experienced had something to do with your depression?
I suffer from depression since I was very young and the sexual assault I experienced at the age of 19 was certainly a trauma. But my complicated post-traumatic disorder è mainly due to the fact that my illness was ignored for years. During the Born This Way Ball Tour I explained to my management many times that I was sick; I asked for help to people from the music industry who were working for me, no one ever listened to me. No one ever understood how bad it was that I was sexually assaulted by a producer. I was not protected, and everything was going on as if nothing happened.
The show must go on.
Exactly, everybody wants to keep making money and pretend like nothing happened. If no one listens to you for such a long time, however, your body and your mind will stop at some point; and you don’t who you are anymore, you cannot express what you feel. Because it’s a mental illness and you’re literally paralyzed. And then I broke my hip during a concert: when I woke up after the surgery, my manager was not there and I felt even less loved. To my label I was just a money machine. Since that time something changed in my mind, it’s proved that some parts of my brain are connected to some parts of my body. In my mind, fear and panic have a strong and quick impact on me, so if someone takes from behind, even if it’s a normal thing to do, I panic and I overreact. It happens because I live everytime the same lack of cure and attention which I suffered from.
In the last 5 years you had a relationship with Taylor Kinney. Did he help you?
Yes, Taylor was always very loving and he still is. He is still a good friend and he keeps being my love. My family also helped a lot.
She stops. She’s crying.
And also all the people that work with me today. But it was important to get rid of the man that was controlling my life without worrying about me. I hope that by telling this story men and women of all ages will be inspired of getting rid of people like him. Understanding your pain, not being too afraid even though it hurts, embrace and fight it: this is what my songs to aim at.
Even your collegue Adele admitted she suffered from depression. Are you particularly sensitive people?
I am very close to Adele and to all the artists that suffered from this illness. A very deep sensitivity brings us all together because to be creative we analyze emotions with a particular attention. We need compassion and love. I hope that me, Adele and people like Selena Gomez, who talked about this problem, will be a new generation of artists which will never die because no one takes care of us. Many young artists work very hard and no one takes care of them psychologically: this needs to end.
It’s hard for others to understand this message. They see you as lucky, beautiful, rich and famous people.
Money won’t make you happy. I traveled all around the world and in the poorest places I saw the happiest people: real happiness can be found in love, friendship, in the human relationships, in sport. I feel happy when I give love to my fans, not when I show what I have. The most important thing, which we really need, is kindness.
Have you ever thought about leaving the music industry because of your illness?
I think about it everyday. Because I know that in any moment I can stop, go home and be happy; but then I’d become unhappy because I did not reach my aim: I have a strong relationship with God which reminds me why I’m here. The truth is that I feel more like a missionary, rather than a popstar.