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When I first heard “Just Dance” on the radio, I automatically categorized Lady Gaga as another auto-tuned, pop princess who only curated hit songs for the radio. However, as I listened to a wider repertoire of her music, I realized how far off my preconceived notions were. Lady Gaga’s music—though filled with ambiguous meanings and cultural references—represents a journey through her life. On February 9, 2013, I had the privilege of attending the Born This Way Ball (her concert) at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. After that exhilarating evening, not only was I continuously moved by Lady Gaga’s music, I was moved by Lady Gaga herself. If I could only describe the concert in one word, it would be “liberating.”

Let me recap that magical evening for you:

Since my friends and I lined up for wristbands the morning of the concert, we gained access to the Monster Pit—which as the name implies—is a black pit right in front of the stage, reserved for dedicated Little Monsters. (We fans refer to Gaga as Mother Monster!) There were people there who opted for provocative fashion statements, which included six inch heels, capes, and wild hair in a multitude of colours. On the opposite end of the spectrum, others were dressed in t-shirts and jeans. The diversity of how the Little Monsters dressed epitomized Gaga’s prominent message: Born This Way. For some, the concert provided a creative outlet to dress in drag or something sexy that society would deem unacceptable. For others, dressing casually made them feel most comfortable, so they came wearing jeans.

Lady Gaga’s concert was not solely a performance; it was her story embedded in her songs, theatrics, dances, and aesthetics. The set transformed the stage into an exquisite looking castle, filled with towers, gates, and charcoal bricks. Gaga came out in glamorous outfits, ranging from a pink origami dress to a studded leather jacket—and of course, her signature meat dress ensemble. She sang with dignity in her voice, danced until sweat dripped down her face, and managed to instill motivation into us between songs.

Gaga also changed me through sharing her story. She shared the hardships she faced during the inception of her music career: how she dropped out of university to pursue music, the financial struggles she faced while living in New York City, and the balance of making music while working long hours as a waitress. Her song “Marry The Night” is about her first record label dropping her only a couple months after signing her. Gaga’s path to success seemed insecure at times, but she knew who she was as an artist and fought until someone would understand her creative compositions.

I highly respect her work ethic, especially how she did not succumb to conformity. Her story does not inspire me to become a singer (My voice is only worthy in the shower); her story inspires me to fight for my passions. I have many decisions yet to make, and Lady Gaga’s concert reminded me to make those decisions free from influence, with my head held high in confidence.