The documentary Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two, out today (Sept. 22) on Netflix, shows an utterly normal side of the 31-year-old performance artist and singer born Stefani Joanne Germanotta, known as much for her outrageous fashion statements as she is for her hit songs.
Besides the stuff that makes her “Gaga,” — the singing in the studio and prepping for her Super Bowl appearance — we see her visit her grandmother, write the moving tribute to her late aunt, Joanne (after whom she named her most recent album), at a baptism for her goddaughter, chatting with a sick friend, even getting into a fender bender with her producer Mark Ronson’s parked car. We see her without makeup and discover just how pretty she is before all the glam. We see her humor, her work ethic and her love for the people close to her.
What we also see is her pain.
While it’s not a major part of the documentary, which was directed by Chris Moukarbel (Banksy Does New York, Me @ The Zoo), it provides an understanding of why Lady Gaga recently cancelled her European tour. It is a stunning, highly personal revelation, as she lies down in agony and tears, trying to get some relief.
She recently revealed that she has fibromyalgia, which causes severe muscle and joint pain and fatigue throughout the whole body. During this month’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where Five Foot Two premiered, Gaga told the press that this is Moukarbel’s film and “he was so respectful of my space even when it was very private moments. I really didn’t know he was there.”
Moukarbel said he would’ve stopped filming or pulled the plug, if she had ever asked him to. “I think that it’s a difficult thing to let somebody into your life to radio out a picture of what it’s like to be you and I think that it happened slowly and organically.”
Five Foot Two is Gaga uncostumed — just like us, if we only had her talent. Just very very normal: family, friendships, work, illness, vulnerabilities, questions, insecurities, sadness, triumphs, love. All of it.
“Just to touch on that idea of vulnerability, the most important thing to me in this whole process is that this film or documentary didn’t come across like a big commercial for me,” Gaga said at the press conference. “Like everybody watching it and seeing how perfect I am, and seeing how perfect my career is, and how perfect every little thing that I do and touch is — because that is just simply no true.
“That would be not in line with everything that I am as an artist. I think the most important thing that you can be is authentic, and Chris is certainly authentic and the moments were all authentic. There is an element and a very strong piece of me that believes that pain is a microphone and my pain really does mean no good unless I transform it into something that is, so I hope that people watching it that do struggle with chronic pain know that they’re not alone,” she added.
“I hope that they see the message at the end of the film. I wanted that to be there, for people to be able to reach out about mental health, anxiety as well as chronic pain and mental illness, It’s freeing for me because — and I mean to say this because I want people that struggle with it to hear me — there is a degree of self deprecation and shame that comes along with feeling in pain a lot, and I want people that watch it — that think that there’s no way that I live that way because they see me dance and sing, that it couldn’t possibly be so — to know that I struggle with things like them, and that I work through it and that it can be done, and that we have to stick together, and that I don’t have to hide it because I’m afraid it is weak. It’s a part of me, and I’m grateful to Chris for caring, the compassion is overwhelming. That’s why it makes me emotional, it’s very touching.”
When one reporter asked what she hopes to do in the next year or five, Gaga did not miss a beat:
“I’m going to take a rest.”
For how long?
“I don’t know how long,” she said. “That doesn’t mean I won’t be creating, doesn’t mean I don’t have some things up my sleeve but I’m looking forward to reflecting and slowing down for a moment and healing because that’s important.”