A Star is Born...every minute
Excuse me for mixing metaphors above, but ever since watching the acclaimed film that brought together Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga I can’t stop pondering its messages about fame, artistry and authenticity.
I also can’t stop the chill-inducing song “Shallow” from playing over and over in my head. So I decided to give in to the earworm and dive into my own exploration of the film’s messages, particularly for artists.
The first aspect of creativity that it addresses is self-doubt. Gaga’s character Ally is working as a waitress – her incredible talents known only to her faithful friends and father. She shines on the stage at a drag bar but admits that she feels uncomfortable singing her own songs in public.
Gaga is perfectly believable as an artist plagued by self-doubt, doubled by the judgments of others who criticized her looks. In her own biopic Gaga: Five Foot Two, she talks about agents and directors urging her to be more sexy – in response to which she dressed outrageously in meat gowns. In that film she states, “I never felt comfortable enough to sing and just be this way, to just sing and wear my hair back. I never felt pretty enough or smart enough or a good enough musician.”
In psychological circles they call this imposter syndrome: a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Self-doubt can strike anyone in any industry, but creatives in particular are closely associated with images of internal conflict. How do we combat this? I say G.A.G.A.
G – Give yourself permission to be the expert. You have the highest authority on the subject of your own work. You know where it comes from, how it’s made, why it came into being. Assume a posture of expertise and fans will follow along.
A – Accept failure as a positive sign. If you fall, at least you are in motion! If you are pushing yourself and attempting new things, mistakes are inevitable. Embrace the chance to get up again and keep trying.
G – Goals become markers along your career path. Remind yourself daily about where you want to end up. Be sure to set the bar high so that the feeling of accomplishment is even sweeter.
A – Allow yourself to shine. Being humble is fine, but it won’t push you out onto that stage. Don’t feel guilty about admiring the hard work and persistence that makes you an artist.
This brings me to the second theme in A Star is Born that has me spinning – what is stardom? Is it bestowed on artists or earned?
Ally’s Dad (Andrew Dice Clay) has a monologue about Frank Sinatra, explaining that the crooner’s talent wasn’t necessarily in his voice but in his presence. When Old Blue Eyes stepped on the stage, he had that ineffable thing that everybody else wanted. Stardom is something that you can’t pin down, you just have to see it for yourself. Would you agree?
At the end of this film, I can’t help wonder if stars are born, or made, or just accidentally discovered. There are so many vehicles for expression in our current culture, so many voices and styles and tastes. Has the universe of fame expanded? Or has our definition of stardom dissolved into Likes and Shares on social media?
“Everyone has talent, but only some people have something to say” Jack tells Ally in the film. But actually, I like to think that everyone has something to say, but few have the ability to express it effectively, and even less are given the opportunity to be seen or heard. My solution for this? Don’t wait for a drunken encounter with a celebrity in a drag bar…pave your own path to stardom by taking chances, forging ahead and supporting others. You’re not an imposter, you’re the next big thing!
Bookmark this Youtube Video of Lady Gaga’s Oscar speech:
“This is hard work. I’ve worked hard for a long time. And it’s not about winning. But what it is about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. It’s not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or get beaten up. It’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going.”
So what did you think of the film and its messages to artists?
I’d love to hear your take in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.