If there’s one thing Lady Gaga knows how to do, it’s make an entrance.
On a Thursday afternoon in August, social media feeds were swarmed with photos of the pop star arriving at the Venice Film Festival via water taxi. Poured into a black bustier dress by New York-based designer Jonathan Simkhai, the “A Star Is Born” leading lady draped herself on the boat’s ledge, legs dangling as she clutched a red flower. She oozed old-Hollywood glamour, her platinum hair pulled back into pristine victory rolls, with bold brows and bright pink lips to match.
This fantasy photo op was actually the start of a carefully curated style crusade. The iconoclastic musician who showed up to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in a dress made out of raw meat had just wordlessly announced the beginning of a new, refined era.
Lady Gaga, serious Oscars 2019 contender, had emerged.
“She used to do all the risky, fun, different things that you would never expect,” says image consultant Karen S. Raphael, who has styled the likes of Ariana Grande and Cindy Crawford. “I think she’s really outgrown that persona. Now she’s just like, ‘This is who I am . . . I’m a movie star.’ ”
By all measurements, the campaign-trail transformation has worked. Gaga landed a Best Actress nomination for her role in “A Star Is Born,” and another Oscar nod for co-writing “Shallow,” her stirring duet with Bradley Cooper. Decked in luxe gowns from Valentino, Givenchy and Alexander McQueen, she practically ensured an invite to Hollywood’s biggest bash.
The promotional tour revamp came courtesy of the Haus of Gaga, the singer’s team of visionary pros who channel the themes of her art through their work on her look. While previously relying on the talents of innovative stylists-turned-designers Nicola Formichetti and Brandon Maxwell, she’s now turned to their former assistants, Sandra Amador and Tom Eerebout, as her lead stylists. Sarah Tanno is on makeup, and Frederic Aspiras, hair.
The goal this awards season was to shift Gaga’s provocateur persona that fans adore and reinvent her as a standout star of the silver screen.
“We are just trying to bridge the worlds she is living in, the movie world and the pop world, and find the right look for each moment,” Amador told Women’s Wear Daily.
If the boat ride at the Venice Film Festival announced Gaga’s new sophisticated look, the premiere of “A Star Is Born” at the fest proved it wasn’t a one-time deal. She seemed to float down the red carpet in her lavish organza Valentino haute couture gown, embroidered with pink feathers shaped in upside-down merlons. The dress had debuted on the runway in Paris just weeks earlier, making it a major style score.
“Peacocking at its best,” says Raphael. “It’s just feathered heaven.”
Next came the Toronto International Film Festival, where a form-fitting Armani Privé frock showed off her curves alongside old-Hollywood details like a black veil that she converted into a bolero. She also sported a sequined envelope hat, which she kept on for her after-party outfit — a dramatic, ruffled Ralph & Russo gown.
Over the ensuing months, all appearances seemed modeled after Marilyn Monroe’s self-assured sexiness, although each came with a twist befitting Gaga’s stylish wiles.
There was the sophisticated tuxedo dress by Ralph Lauren, blinged out with 23,000 crystals, for the National Board of Review awards gala. For the Hollywood premiere, she chose caped Givenchy haute couture, and for the UK premiere, an Elizabethan number from Sarah Burton’s fall 2013 collection for Alexander McQueen. It was airy Calvin Klein by Appointment for the Critics’ Choice Awards, and a femme fatale Dior couture look for the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
“You can put any ideas on the table, because she wants to tell a story,” Eerebout told British Vogue. “There aren’t a lot of people that can pull off the things that she does.”
But a periwinkle Valentino haute couture gown with a massive train at the Golden Globes made perhaps the biggest splash of all the star’s stops. With a wink, the dress recalled one worn by Judy Garland in the 1954 version of “A Star Is Born,” although Gaga denied that being her intention. Classic, yet fashion-forward, paired with quirky matching blue hair — and $5 million worth of Tiffany & Co. diamonds — it solidified her as the style icon of the season.
“She gave the show that everyone wanted,” says Raphael.
So after the Oscars red carpet has been rolled up, will upscale Gaga be here to stay? Or will her next press cycle lead the chameleonic star to morph before our eyes once again?
Her Grammys look earlier this month may offer a clue. Back on her own turf, she opted for a shimmering Celine get-up that was pure pop glam, complete with slightly disheveled rock locks. Tanno, the makeup artist, posted on Instagram that she was going for a “lived in” look “inspired by rockstar culture” with black liner “smudged imperfectly.”
“Lady Gaga loves to keep us on our toes,” says Raphael. “Right now, she’s enjoying being a movie star. But once she comes with a new album, you never know what you’re going to get, which is what we love. She’s unpredictable.”
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