Students, shaking with excitement, filed into the first few rows of Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre for the launch of Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation. They wore black t-shirts with the "Born to be Brave" logo across the front. After everyone settled down, the doors closed and the lights dimmed.
Oprah Winfrey entered the stage to booming cheers and applause. Oprah, in the voice that she usually reserves to give away free gifts or introduce monumental celebrities, yelled “Harvaaaard!” The audience went insane. Oprah enthusiastically explained how joyful she was to attend the launch of the Born This Way Foundation. Winfrey expressed her desire to understand why bullying, violence, and hatred against young people continue in our society. She proclaimed that she “believes that every human being who comes to the planet comes with the inherent and divine right to be himself and herself ... every human being.” She wants everyone “to fulfill the highest expression of ourselves as human beings.”
She explained that in her 25 years of interviewing, every single person she has talked to leaned in at the end of their interview and asked: “Was I alright? Is that okay?” What she learned from this inquiry is that “There is a common denominator in the human experience that we all share,” which is that we all want to be validated, we all want to know that what we do and say matters.
Oprah then introduced Lady Gaga, and she ran onto the stage in her high heels to embrace Winfrey in a long hug. She cried and exclaimed, “We got Oprah!” Gaga was in her usual edgy fashion, in a long black dress, dangerously high black, shiny heels, and huge pinned up blonde hair wrapped in sparkly black mesh. While speaking, Gaga often paused for emotional emphasis, and broke her voice. Gaga proposed: How hard is it to change the world? She said that she believed it was not that hard.
She admitted that the day of the launch “might be one of the best days of [my] life.” She said she began her involvement in this foundation because of a dialogue between herself and her fans after her album, Born this Way.
Gaga explained the three pillars of her organization: SSO, or safety, skills, and opportunity. She said she was not there to give answers, instead she wants to cause a transformational change in culture over a period of time. Gaga asserted that her organization was not about anti-bullying, but about youth empowerment. Despite this claim, almost the entirety of the launch addressed bullying.
After her brief interview with Oprah, a panel was introduced, consisting of Professor Charles Ogletree, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Deepak Chopra, Alyssa Rodemeyer, Dr. Susan Swearer, and David Burtka. Gaga hugged every panelist as they went onstage, but gave Alyssa Rodemeyer, the late Jamey Rodemeyer’s sister, a long, emotional hug. The rest of the launch was executed like a Q&A where the panelists asked Gaga questions and she answered. Professor Ogletree functioned somewhat like the host. Gaga said that she wanted to focus not only on the victims of bullying, but also on the bullies. She wants to perform a series of “psychological autops(ies) on bullies and victims” so that people can understand what breeds anger and hatred. She wants to change culture, and she believes that “little acts of kindness, these are the things that are going to change culture.”
Lady Gaga recognizes that it is hard to be brave, and that she has very few answers, but is very passionate about this cause. Gaga proclaims, “Let’s support youth to be ambassadors in each school to monitor and be a litmus test for love, kindness, and acceptance ... I would like for everyone to see themselves as global leaders. I suppose that is what I mean when I say you are all born superstars.” She wants to create a climate in school where “young people know that they have the power to be brave, to be the one to say there is a problem here.”
At the end of the launch, Lady Gaga and her mother made a closing statement. They want everyone to check the website and become empowered youth in their own communities. Emotionally, Lady Gaga blurted “This is like the biggest dream come true for my mother and I.”
While much of this launch was broadcasted, fans made cruel and mean comments on the live stream about celebrities that rival Gaga’s fame. I am unsure whether Gaga's message was received by the little monsters, I guess only time will tell.
Photo Credit: Natalie Silver