Going Gaga: ASU's Little Monsters
Journalism junior Robert Soares first heard Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” his junior year in high school. He was immediately hooked.
“I was a fan since before she even had an album,” he said. “By the third album, I became obsessed.”
Lady Gaga’s first album, “The Fame,” sold 15 million copies worldwide.
Soares will attend Lady Gaga’s concert at the US Airways Center on Wednesday. This is the third time she has performed in the Valley. Soares, who went to the first two concerts, plans to be in line by 7 a.m.
For the first concert, in 2008, Soares painted a bolt on his face much like the one Lady Gaga sported in the “Poker Face” video. For the second one, he decided to enlist his dad's help to paint his whole body to resemble Rick Genest, whose appearance in the “Born This Way” music became iconic.
“My dad is no makeup artist, but he did well,” Soares said.
Soares plans to wear a studded vest and a bow tie to Wednesday’s concert.
His room is filled with Lady Gaga memorabilia. The walls feature two huge posters, and his bookcase holds dozens of magazines and CDs. A picture frame Soares made himself shows him and his best friend, Sierra Sundseth, about to leave for Lady Gaga’s concert. Around them are the words, “He ate my heart out,” which are from Lady Gaga’s “Monster” song.
Soares said he can’t wait to be at the show and there is a special bond among the Little Monsters during the concerts.
A Little Monster, he said, means being brave and accepting.
“You don’t just share the same interest in music; you share the whole culture of it,” he said. “It is kind of a subculture of the pop culture.”
Soares has been a Little Monster from the start because he lives by Lady Gaga’s message of equality and staying true oneself, he said.
“I could have shown up today wearing a crazy outfit, but this is more me,” he said.
He wore black pants, a white shirt and a black bow tie with metal studs.
Soares said there is more than one thing he loves about Lady Gaga.
“At this stage of my obsession with her, it lies on her creative process and what she’s been doing to help other people,” he said.
In 2011, Lady Gaga started Born This Way Foundation at Harvard University. The nonprofit organization helps improve communities for young people. For her latest tour, Lady Gaga offers fans the ultimate tailgating experience: the Born Brave bus. The vehicle offers counseling and serves as a way to involve young people in civic engagement opportunities.
“Lady Gaga’s always very conscious of who her fans are and what they need,” he said. “That’s why she connects with them.”
The relationship Lady Gaga has with her Little Monsters is vital, Soares said.
“She has honored her fans,” he said. “With her album, 'Born This Way,' she really proved that in the music.”
Fashion is important to understand Lady Gaga as well, Soares said. Gaga’s art, couture included, has a message behind it.
“The meat dress was trying to bring attention to the fact that she … had soldiers with her,” he said. “Soldiers that were discharged because of the 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' policy.”
Her relationship with designer Alexander McQueen was emblematic of Lady Gaga’s message through fashion, Soares said.
“She kind of turned the spotlight on to him when it should have been on him already,” he said.
Rosemarie Dombrowski teaches an English course on Lady Gaga at ASU that discusses queer theory and literary influences of Lady Gaga, such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Sylvia Plath. Lady Gaga’s use of avant-garde and fashion are what sets her apart, she said. A self-described fashion aficionado, Dombrowski came up with the idea of the class.
“It was that relationship (between Lady Gaga and Alexander McQueen) that made me want to present her in a scholarly arena,” she said.
Lady Gaga’s application of couture to her music is amazing, Dombrowski said. It helped people realize fashion is not a superficial matter.
“I am a poet by nature, by trade (and) by degree,” she said. “Poetry is the great misunderstood literary art form and couture was the great misunderstood visual art form.”
Soares said Lady Gaga’s third album, “Born This Way,” showed fans that they had to stay true to themselves.
Soares, who has been openly gay since his junior year in high school, said “Born this Way” became a celebration of who he was.
“It was just validation for me, that she really did care about her fans,” he said.
The message in the song is intended for everyone, Soares said.
“I think it now has become a gay anthem, but it wasn’t necessarily intended that way,” he said. “It’s about staying true to yourself.”
“Born This Way” is the gay anthem that was long overdue, Dombrowski said.
It is representative not only of the gay male community, but the LGBT community at large, she said.
“It’s an overt anthem that society needed given the recent bullying,” she said.
Soares, who works for the magazine She Knows, is working on a story about Lady Gaga’s fans and her influence in their lives.
Lady Gaga’s own influence in his life has been helping him understand who he is, Soares said.
“Lady Gaga taught me not to focus on the flaws and accept who I am,” he said.
When he was a senior at Basha High School, Soares participated and won the title of Mister Basha in a male pageant.
“I knew I wanted to do different,” he said. “I sang 'Bad Romance' and 'Telephone.'”
He sang and performed the choreography from the music videos. That same year, Soares had been nominated for homecoming and prom king but lost both.
“I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “I was excited because it was my last thing to do at high school.”
The victory was momentous because it brought a wave of acceptance to his high school, Soares said.
“Without that song, maybe I wouldn’t have won,” he said. “In little ways, she’s always kind of there.”
Animal behavior and physiology junior Sierra Sundseth met Soares in her junior year of high school; they have been best friends ever since.
Sundseth was there to support Soares during the pageant and even uploaded a video of Soares’ performance to YouTube.
“It was incredible,” she said. “As soon as he came out, the entire audience was roaring. Even the teachers asked for an encore.”
Sundseth also went with Soares to Lady Gaga’s concert and loved it.
“She has helped (Robert) come out of his shell,” she said. “He has grown with her.”
Lady Gaga attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts before dropping out to concentrate on her career. She writes all her song lyrics herself.
The classical training she received gives her an advantage over other performers, Soares said.
“Yeah, she’s a pop artist and she sings catchy songs,” he said. “But the lyrics have meaning.”
Soares attended Lady Gaga’s second concert in Phoenix with his mom, Shelly.
His fascination with her has made his parents appreciate her music, he said.
“Parents always try to understand their kids and see what they’re into,” he said. “My mom loves Lady Gaga. She even made a T-shirt for the concert.”
Soares’ mother wore a T-shirt with the words “Little Momsters” on it to the concert. She designed it herself.
“I love that Lady Gaga reaches all ages,” Soares said.
Shelly said going to the concert with her son was an amazing experience.
“I still talk about it,” she said. “(It was) the best concert I’ve ever been to.”
Lady Gaga’s music has influenced Robert to speak his mind, Shelly said.
Shelly cried when Lady Gaga sang “Born This Way” at the concert.
“I just connect with that and with my child,” she said in tears. “He’s my son, and I love him, and I want him to know that he is accepted that way.”
Dombrowski attended the first concert as well. She said she was impressed.
“I thought she was phenomenal live,” she said. “She’s a wonderful dancer (and) her costumes changes were mind-boggling.”
It will be interesting to be with other Little Monsters, she said.
“Little monsters are people who love investigation outside the box,” she said. “That’s what’s really important and that’s what we all share.”
Soares might meet up with Dombrowski for the concert on Wednesday. They met while Soares was working on a journalism project for class and have now become close.
Soares is eager to hear Lady Gaga’s rendition of his favorite song, “Marry the Night,” off her “Born This Way” album.
“That song has a lot to do with … overcoming your obstacles and marrying your darkness,” he said. “I have done that.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.