How did the Grammy-nominated singer go from brunette Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta to preconception defying, flashy dressing, platinum blonde superstar Lady Gaga?
Germanotta was born in Yonkers, New York, where she attended a private Catholic girls school, wrote her first piano ballad at age 13, and then won early entrance into New York's prestigious Tisch school for the performing arts.
But Germanotta needed to strike out on her own to become Lady Gaga. She ditched school and threw herself into New York's Lower East Side music scene as a naive, convent-educated teenager.
"I went against all I was brought up to be; I moved out of home, wouldn't take any help from my parents [her internet entrepreneur dad and his business partner wife], and supported myself with waitressing jobs and stripping," she said. "I discovered a real personal freedom through it."
It wasn't long before Germanotta's talent for writing hook-laden melodies came to the attention of major record labels. Just 20, she wrote hits for the Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears and New Kids On The Block.
But it was while working with producer Rob Fusari that she got her attention-grabbing stage name. After noting that her singing voice sounded like her hero, Queen's Freddie Mercury, Fusari named her Lady Gaga for the Queen hit "Radio Ga Ga."
While her provocative burlesque pop act Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue was a hit in Manhattan's downtown nightclubs, mainstream showbusiness was nonplussed. When she showed up for auditions with labels and musicals, the usual reaction was utter bewilderment.
"A lot of record labels thought I was too theatrical," she said. "Then, when I auditioned for stage musicals, the producers said I was too pop."
Finally, it was rapper Akon who recognised her singing ability and got her a major deal.
And the rest is Gaga history.