On Ferns, Fear, and Her Singing Toothbrush
Lady Gaga (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) is about as famous as a human can be right now. She's so famous, when she looks in the mirror, her reflection makes her watch a commercial before she can see herself. With her fourth full-length album, Artpop, due out this spring, her suprasexed, avant-couture dance music has vaulted her into an iconic/Madonna level of fame. Gaga's got Grammys, international number-one singles, a perfume, and a genus of fern named after her, and she was named one of Time magazine's most influential people in the world. More importantly, though, there is the Lady Gaga Singing Toothbrush. For $14.95, the Lady Gaga Singing Toothbrush brings fashion to brushing with the first-of-its-kind black bristles and ergonomic design. Each toothbrush plays her arena pop electro-hits "Born This Way" and "Bad Romance" for two minutes, the dentist-recommended length of time to brush. Vocally, Gaga can sing contralto and move through 2.7 octaves, which sounds incredible through the toothbrush. I was connected six times to various people in various countries for this interview. Finally, there was a Gaga. She was in Tripoli. The connection sounded like fax machines were mating on the line.
Trippy. How's Seattle?
I just took DayQuil. I wanted to talk about your perfume, Fame. In the Fame print advertisement, you are depicted as stoic and masked, with men in thongs climbing on your Venus-posed body. The men look as if they are either working on or searching for something in your skin. The perfume bottle roughly resembles a grenade. The ingredients include crushed heart of tiger orchid, pulverized apricot, and a black veil of incense. What does crushed heart of tiger orchid smell like?
What do you think it smells like?
I think it smells like lemon and Komodo dragon dung that's been frozen, lit on fire, and thrown off a cliff.
The olfactory sense is a funny thing. There's apricot in there, so it's close to lemon. I used to have a picture of a Komodo dragon in my apartment. Do you wear perfume?
All the time.
Well, we here at Haus Laboratories have crafted a unique olfactory structure where ingredients interact without any hierarchy, giving birth to a push-pull technology. This perfume is an innovation in fluid technology. The dark accord was inspired by belladonna, the deadly nightshade possessed by haunted beauties from the 18th century.
That's some fancy shit.
[Laughs] I just read it off a box of it I had sitting here. I work with good people.
The eight-minute mini film directed by Steven Klein about it is amazing. It's sort of like one of the films of the Cremaster Cycle by Matthew Barney, except with a giant naked golden you and guys with no body hair in blindfolds and dick sacks. It's ominous. You fire a rifle out of your mouth, and there's lots of black evil liquid. My only problem is that the film is five minutes long and the credits are three minutes long.
That is long for the credits. Lots of people to credit. I'm glad you liked it. Steven is the best. We sync up well. We wanted to do something super creative and out there—with fashion stuff, you can be really dark and ambiguous. A Komodo dragon would have been nice.
Please talk about the genus of fern that was named after you. Singing toothbrushes and perfume are okay, but a genus of fern? That's when you know you've made it. Madonna doesn't have a fern.
It was an honor for sure. The botanists at Duke University were inspired by my album Born This Way. I never thought there'd be a plant named after me. I want my message to empower disenfranchised people—communities like LGBT, ethnic groups, and women. In 2012, I launched the Born This Way Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on youth empowerment and issues like self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying, mentoring, and career development. And with Viva Glam lip gloss, I've helped raise more than $200 million to fight HIV and AIDS. There's no place in the world now for racism, homophobia, and bigotry. That shit's a waste of fucking energy.
I couldn't agree with you more. What does it have to do with a genus of fern plants?
Let's see [laughs], the ferns produce tiny spherical spores that drift to the ground and germinate into heart-shaped plants called gametophytes. I guess I wore an Armani Privé dress to the 2010 Grammy Awards that kind of looked like the gametophyte. And the botanists listened to my music while working and investigating it. The majority of the new genus is reclassifications of existing species, but there are two entirely new to science: Gaga germanotta from Costa Rica and Gaga monstraparva, which references my fans, the Little Monsters. I love that something in nature is named Gaga.
Maybe they could engineer the gametophyte to have little speakers, and when it starts to grow, it could play one of your songs.
The copy writers for my perfume would be all over that. But now I'm thinking I need a tree named after me. Why stop at a fern? [Laughs] I'd like to reclassify the oak tree. Maybe after a couple more albums?
Where did music start for you as a kid?
My dad would play Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Billy Joel before and after dinner. We had an upright piano in the house and instead of toys, I would play with that.
Do you want to say anything about the religious groups that protested in Asia saying your tour was satanic and against religious values?
What a waste of energy. People should be able to believe whatever they want and do whatever they want, as long as they're not breaking any laws. We should be able to marry who we want and have sex with who we want—and if your religion says that's wrong, then your religion needs to look at itself in the mirror. I'm not satanic, sorry. Saying I'm satanic is foolish, absolutely foolish. I make music and art.
You wrote a song for Britney Spears that she turned down?
Yeah. I wrote one she accepted called "Quicksand" and another called "Telephone" that she recorded but didn't put out on an album. I was so excited she used "Quicksand." I celebrated. Yeah Britney Spears! I ordered drinks.
You're the godmother of Elton John's son, Zachary. How's Zachary?
He's great. I was [at my house on] Crete and made him a playroom overlooking the ocean. I put up special wallpaper for him and everything, and gave him a big boy bed.
What's your advice to people?
Don't have any fear. Don't be afraid to do what you want. I dropped out of college when I was 19 and waitressed and worked hard to make things happen. I was doing burlesque punk shows at clubs and people scoffed, but I didn't care who liked it and who didn't. It was about doing what I knew I had to do. Not some record label executive, or promoter, or boss who's only looking out for themself. Talent is subjective. You have to learn how to harness what you're good at. When you do that, you can create yourself.
Now on to your Lady Gaga Singing Toothbrush. Is $14.95 a little much for a toothbrush?
It does seem like a lot. I have nothing to do with that. I don't care about money. I don't mean that to sound aloof or whatever, but the only thing I really care about is doing music and doing it my way. I still live in my same apartment in New York. Yeah, it's a toothbrush and it costs a lot for a toothbrush, but some economist will tell you that's supply and demand. I don't think that way. I think about art and what I want to do creatively. I always say that when I look back on my life, it's not that I don't want to see things exactly as they happened, it's just that I prefer to remember them in an artistic way. The lie of it all is much more honest because I invented it.
You just sold me on the toothbrush.
When I'm writing music, I'm thinking more about the clothes I want to wear onstage. It's all about bringing the performance and art together—the fashion and the pop world of it all. For me, I want it all to have a real story that will bring back the superfan. I want the imagery to be so alluring and in your face and strong that fans will want to eat and taste and lick every part of us.
I'll check back in with you after I've used your toothbrush for a couple of weeks.
If you're cavity free, I'll get the botanists to name a tree after you.