Nov 2, 2021

Lady Gaga Covers British & Italian Vogue Issues


Lady Gaga Covers British & Italian Vogue Issues

Lady Gaga has been revealed as the new star face to cover the upcoming December issue of British and Italian Vogue magazine simultaneously, being the first person in history in making it. Photographed by Steven Meisel, Gaga talked deep dive with Giles Hattersley of her role of Patrizia Reggiani, the ex-wife of Maurizio Gucci and a socialite who was convicted of engaging the hitman who shot him dead as he entered his offices in Milan, rediscovering joy and how her role took her to the edge of darkness, her last studio album Chromatica and more. Read the full interview and check all the UHQ photos as well!

“It’s Not An Imitation, It’s A Becoming”: Lady Gaga On The “Delicious Madness” Of Inhabiting Lady Gucci

In a windowless studio in Chelsea, Manhattan, the pink marabou trim on an ankle boot is fluttering expectantly in the breeze from an electric fan. “She’s 10 minutes out,” says a handsome security person, popping his head around the door, as a phalanx of assistants move silently about a fabulous, temporary, shimmering grotto of couture.

Freshly delivered from the shows in Paris and Venice, there are rails of Valentino silks in electric amethyst and fuchsia, inky black Schiaparelli velvet bracketed by gleaming gold, serious Chanel brocade, polar-white Louis Vuitton knits, headpieces fashioned from metal, leather, and feathers, a hundred pairs of heels in every height, and table upon table of rainbow scarves, gloves, and jewels. I even spot some Elizabethan-style ruffs. We are here for Lady Gaga’s Vogue fitting, of course. “Let’s start her in something fabulous,” says Edward Enninful, British Vogue’s editor-in-chief, as if there were any other options.

Naturally, 10 minutes comes and goes, but eventually, at an indeterminate point in superstar time, the door finally opens and through it emerges a 5ft 2in figure dressed in a long black summer-knit dress and impossibly high black leather platforms. It is a curious experience to encounter a pop culture legend giving you her most quintessential vibe, and Gaga has not disappointed. Already photographs taken moments ago of her short walk from her car into the building in 9in heels are pinging around the world. “Let’s make magic!” she says by way of hello.

Lady Gaga by Steven Meisel for British Vogue

With countless fashion moments, 12 Grammys, an Oscar, and perhaps the most explosive rise to fame of the 21st century to her name, Stefani Germanotta has – for well over a decade now – been among the best-known people on the planet. And boy does she know how to play up to it. Having removed her sunglasses, she throws her tanned, tattooed arms around us in a series of warm hugs, then is on to the job in hand. “Whatever I wear,” she says to the assembled group, in that trademark up-all-night drawl, earnestness dusted with levity, “I will be serving painful Italian glamour from within.”

Of course. This month, the 35-year-old pop queen turned Oscar-nominated actor is set to appear in only her second-ever movie lead, in House of Gucci, director Ridley Scott’s 20-years-in-the-planning retelling of one of the late 20th century’s most notorious crime cases. To say expectations are high does not do things justice. Gaga – as anyone who has been on the internet in the past six months knows – will play Patrizia Reggiani, ex-wife of Maurizio Gucci and a socialite who, in 1998, was convicted of engaging the hitman who shot him dead as he entered his offices in Milan one morning in the spring of 1995.
The case featured so much money and original sin that it rocked Italy and the world, and sent shock waves through the fashion industry. Safe to say, the film’s trailer, which Gaga pulls up on her laptop to show us (it’s a few days before it’s released to the world, where it will go on to be viewed in excess of 10 million times), sets the tone. “Father, Son and House of Gucci,” intones Gaga as Reggiani, conker-colored hair teased to the max, cigarette in hand, as she gestures the sign of the crucifix across a dress of large pink polka dots. She watches herself on the little screen, enjoying the coos of wonder from the assembled team. “I look super-different,” she says, intrigued by her own image.

A few weeks later, I video-call her at home on the West Coast. Never one to miss an opportunity to work her own myth, she pops up on my screen mid-song. “You’ve caught me singing!” she says after she’s completed a couple more bars of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”. It’s hard not to love the commitment of a showgirl – especially one who is seated in her pretty pink office, complete with piano and glamour station, and a floor-to-ceiling wall of stilettos behind her. “Well, you know, I have to put something on the walls,” she says, drily.

She’s wearing “a dusty rose T-shirt” she shrugs, from where precisely she cannot be sure, with black leggings. “This is a necklace from my boyfriend, from a beautiful artisanal shop in San Francisco, as well as these earrings,” she says. Her mother, Cynthia, is coming for tea later, and she’s in a mellow mid-afternoon mood. She’s pulled two long strands of honey-brunette hair from her bun, and they’re hanging over her exquisitely made-up face, the whole experience adding up to a sort of heightened drama-student effect. The artist in repose, if you will.

It makes sense. “It is three years since I started working on it,” she launches in on House of Gucci, “and I will be fully honest and transparent: I lived as her [Reggiani] for a year and a half. And I spoke with an accent for nine months of that.” Off-camera, too? “Off-camera,” she confirms, solemnly. “I never broke. I stayed with her.”

“It was nearly impossible for me to speak in the accent as a blonde,” she continues. “I instantly had to dye my hair, and I started to live in a way whereby anything that I looked at, anything that I touched, I started to take notice of where and when I could see the money. I started to take photographs as well. I have no evidence that Patrizia was a photographer, but I thought as an exercise, and finding her interests in life, that I would become a photographer, so I took my point-and-shoot camera everywhere that I went. I noticed that Patrizia loved beautiful things. If something wasn’t beautiful, I deleted it.”

Gaga says that had life not gone the way of meat dresses and stadium tours, she might have liked to be a reporter, and it was an artist-cum-journalist’s approach that she took to piecing together Reggiani for herself. (Reggiani, it should be noted, is still very much alive, residing in Milan and perfectly capable of talking to the press herself. She is reportedly pleased such a marquee name is to play her, although – self-aggrandizement undimmed by having served 18 years of a 26-year prison sentence for having her ex-husband killed – told an Italian journalist earlier this summer, “I am quite annoyed by the fact that Lady Gaga is playing me in the new Ridley Scott film without even having the foresight and sensitivity to come and meet me.”)

So you haven’t even met her? I ask Gaga. “You know,” she replies, “I only felt that I could truly do this story justice if I approached it with the eye of a curious woman who was interested in possessing a journalistic spirit so that I could read between the lines of what was happening in the film’s scenes.” She seems keen to ensure she is being crystal clear. “Meaning that nobody was going to tell me who Patrizia Gucci was,” she says, flatly. “Not even Patrizia Gucci.”

Unusually this late in the game, the film itself remains blanketed in secrecy. When we meet, Ridley Scott has not even permitted Gaga to see a cut. She says she “trusts” him fully and out of “respect” doesn’t want to give away too much of its scope. Nevertheless, after some wheedling, I manage to ascertain that Gucci will likely pick up at the dawn of the 1970s, when Patrizia (who grew up poor in Vignola, Northern Italy, but whose fortunes changed thanks to a new stepfather’s money, made in the trucking industry), first met Maurizio Gucci on the Milanese party scene. Spurred on by her mother, Silvana Barbieri, Reggiani was on the make, and Maurizio had it all: fortune, looks, name. (“He fell madly in love with me,” Reggiani has said. “I was exciting and different.”)

No one doubts it was a wild romance. “She loved him too,” says Gaga. Although Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo – son of company founder Guccio Gucci – had plenty of misgivings about Reggiani’s rackety upbringing, the pair wed in 1972. (The bride wore Gucci, naturally, a high-necked, long-sleeved concoction that, from squinting at paparazzi shots from the new film’s set, seems to have been updated to something a little racier for Lady Gaga.)

During the 1970s and early ’80s, the young Guccis were it; gorgeous, charismatic newlyweds adrift on a sea of luxury. Two beautiful daughters, a famous yacht (the Creole), and a permanent spot on the guest list at Studio 54, this was a life lived at the knife-edge of glamour. On top of the penthouse in New York’s Olympic Tower, the villa in Acapulco, the chalet in Saint Moritz, and the farm in Connecticut, there was Patrizia’s £8,000 a month orchid habit, her friendship with Jackie Kennedy, her multimillion-pound jewelry collection, parties, palazzos and private number plates for the cars, emblazoned with the legend mauizia (in portmanteau terms at least, the couple was years ahead of Brangelina).

But, in 1983, the fantasy faltered. After the death of Rodolfo, Maurizio, his only child, took full control of his 50 percent stake in the company (the remainder was owned by Rodolfo’s brother Aldo), and the family wars began in earnest. Reggiani, now fancying herself more Gucci than Gucci, was at loggerheads with her husband as often as she was with the cousins, and as the decade wore on the marriage fell apart – he walked out on her in 1985. She did not take this well: when Maurizio would no longer take her calls, she would record tapes of herself furiously railing at him and courier them over to his apartment on the Corso Venezia.

Life was no rosier at work. This was the era of Gucci’s famed, flawed licensing model, whereby everything from golf clubs to tea towels was farmed out to third-party manufacturers in a cash grab. Maurizio was determined to regain control, to reinstate the peerless quality of leather goods that the family had built its original fortune on, and sought new investment. But amid the tussles with Aldo (who ended up in prison for tax fraud) and cousins, the luster of the once great house dimmed to a dangerous low.

Noted ambition aside, Maurizio’s plans were his undoing. He was unable to bring in enough cash to cover his lavish spending, and in 1993 he sold his entire share to Investcorp for $120 million – effectively ending more than 70 years of Gucci family ownership of their namesake brand. Patrizia, who had remained front and center throughout the dramas, as well as legally his wife, lit up with what she herself has termed “rage”. It did not help matters that, three years earlier, he had begun a relationship with one-time model and later interior designer Paola Franchi, a friend from childhood who had attended his wedding to Patrizia. As divorce finally loomed, her husband, name, wealth, and status – her very identity – were all slipping away. The situation was a tinderbox.

Gaga was riveted: “I became fascinated with the journey of this woman.” She spent more than a year poring over newspaper clippings and recordings of Reggiani, although, tellingly, she did not read Sara Gay Forden’s The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, the 2000 book on which the film is based. “I did not want anything that had an opinion that would color my thinking in any way.” Scott originally sent her the script shortly after A Star Is Born, her triumphant arrival as a Hollywood lead, was released, in 2018. Along with his wife and producing partner, Giannina Facio, he had taken a long safari with the project, been in and out as director himself, with Angelina Jolie, Penélope Cruz, and Margot Robbie variously attached to play Reggiani along the way. But the stars aligned for Gaga: “What if I didn’t play some edgy, sexy, chancy, risky bitch?” she recalls thinking. “Some punky Italian gold digger?”

When Gucci’s producers settled on a somewhat retro-seeming plan to have the cast deliver their dialogue in English with thick Italian accents, Gaga knew nailing Reggiani’s voice would be key. She worked tirelessly at it. “I started with a specific dialect from Vignola, then I started to work in the higher class way of speaking that would have been more appropriate in places like Milan and Florence,” she explains. “In the movie, you’ll hear that my accent is a little different depending on who I’m speaking to.” The trailer has raised a few eyebrows in Italy, the worry being this may be another bunch of American actors talking a-like-a-this. Gaga, one of her nation’s best-known Italian-American citizens, is sensitive to the subject. “It was the experience of a lifetime making this film because every minute of every day I thought of my ancestors in Italy, and what they had to do so that I could have a better life. I just wanted to make them proud, which is why I made the decision to make the performance about a real woman and not about the idea of a bad woman.”

Lady Gaga wears a tulle by Tomo Koizumi, a headpiece by Alexander McQueen, & gloves by Paula Rowan

So she entered the mind of a murderer. The Guccis finally divorced in 1994, and as Maurizio made plans to wed Franchi, which would see Reggiani’s alimony halved to what she called “a bowl of lentils” ($860,000 a year), her taped rants became increasingly unhinged and threatening. In one, later played in court, she railed at him, “The inferno for you is yet to come.” Soon she sought the counsel of her best friend Pina Auriemma, a Neapolitan clairvoyant, who in turn hired hitman Benedetto Ceraulo, a pizzeria owner with money troubles. At 8.30 on a clear morning in late March 1995, Ceraulo carried out Reggiani’s instruction to murder the father of her children. He was 46. Reggiani was sentenced three years later and released on parole in 2016. Her daughters, Alessandra and Allegra Gucci, originally supported their mother, believing her behavior was due to a benign brain tumor she’d had removed. But after many years, they reportedly no longer speak.

I mean, it’s a lot to take on, isn’t it, Gaga, I say. All this glitz, all this sadness. Were you not nervous about getting involved? As ever, she had to find the mission within. A purpose. “I wish not to glorify somebody that would commit murder,” she says. “But I do wish to pay respect to women throughout history who became experts at survival, and to the unfortunate consequences of hurt. I hope that women will watch this and remind themselves to think twice about the fact that hurt people hurt people. And it’s dangerous. What happens to somebody,” she asks, “when they’re pushed over the edge?”

It sounds like the shoot had the potential to answer that last question. Principal photography began in February this year in Rome, with the Gucci men played by a cast that includes Adam Driver as Maurizio, Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo, Al Pacino as uncle Aldo and Jared Leto as cousin Paolo. With Italy beset by lockdowns, and with paparazzi everywhere, Gaga, in thrall to the Susan Batson technique (her acting teacher, who was on set, was herself taught by Lee Strasberg), says she had gone so deep with the part she began to lose touch with reality. “I had some psychological difficulty at one point towards the end of filming,” she explains, taking care with her words. “I was either in my hotel room, living and speaking as Reggiani, or I was on set, living and speaking as her. I remember I went out into Italy one day with a hat on to take a walk. I hadn’t taken a walk in about two months and I panicked.” She could no longer compute the real world. “I thought I was on a movie set.”

“Delicious madness,” is how Salma Hayek – who plays Pina Auriemma – describes Gaga’s work process to me. “It’s very glamorous,” she says of the movie, “very glitzy, and very few times I have seen that level of passion with an actor,” she says, impressed. “She really committed.” Was it at all tricky to work with? “It was not a nightmare!” she tuts, laughing. “It was a fascinating thing. She was magical. A genius.”

Gaga is more self-effacing. “We were in between takes and Salma was like, ‘Oh, this f**king method actor is over here. You know, she’s not talking to me right now.’ Because I was doing sense memory work next to her, and she was making fun of me while I was sitting there doing it. And I didn’t even laugh. When the scene was over, I flipped at her and I said, ‘You’re ridiculous!’ and I started laughing and I kissed her. It was a wonderful set, but I’m very serious when I work.”

She’s really chuckling at the memory. Not to be a buzzkill, I say, but surely it must be hard on your family to lose you like this for so long? To watch their daughter, sister, girlfriend morph info a murderous Milanese socialite for months on end? She nods slowly. “There was some silence and some disconnect for a while,” she tells me.

She says she dropped the accent straight after filming wrapped, but other parts lingered. “You end up sounding and looking like them, yes, but it’s not an imitation, it’s becoming. I remember when we started filming, I knew I had become – and I knew that the greater challenge was going to be unbecoming.” She feels the weight of it keenly. “That’s my own journey as an artist that I still reckon with, Giles. And I ask myself, ‘Is this healthy, the way that you do this?’” She shrugs; resigned, self-aware, perhaps a little proud. “I just don’t know any other way.”

She settles into a reflective mood. “Well, I’m 35 now,” she says, laughing. “You’re like, ‘Lady Gaga is 35! I feel old!’” Never too old for a fabulous press tour. For sheer Hollywood pizzazz, her A Star Is Born appearances were probably the best red carpet run of the past few years (all that periwinkle silk faille), and she’s ready to go again. “I love seeing everyone,” she says. “I appreciate so much how the public has adored me for almost two decades now. Whether I’m singing, acting, or walking a red carpet, I love making the public smile.”

Certainly, she has retained her heady combination of sincerity and camp: “Although age is just a number, what I feel mostly is a lot of love for the artistic community, and the artistic collective,” she says, telling me I must deliver this message from her “to the world”. In January, she sang at Joe Biden’s inauguration. “That has to be one of the proudest days of my whole life. Like many people in America, I felt a deep fear when Trump was president, and ushering 45 out and 46 in is something I’ll be able to tell my children all about.” She smiles. “Singing in a Schiaparelli bulletproof dress. I don’t know if people know this about me, but if I weren’t who I am today, I would have been a combat journalist. That was one of my dreams. When I was at the Capitol, the day before the inauguration, I remember walking around and looking for evidence of the insurrection.”

Happiness, so often a stranger to her, has returned. “There was a long time when I didn’t think that I could heal from becoming famous at such a young age, and what it did to my brain,” she says. “But I feel ready to declare myself whole. We will never all be fully whole,” she self-corrects, “but it’s certainly enough. I have a lot of gratitude for joy.” Is this new? “It’s been pretty recent, yes. I would say over the past two years.” Gaga – a quintessential New Yorker – now lives mostly in Hollywood, with her boyfriend Michael Polansky, a Harvard-educated executive director of the philanthropic Parker Foundation, where his work focuses on science, public health, and the arts. She dotes on her dogs and says they’re doing fine now after they were dognapped and their walker shot (non-fatally) in a shocking series of events earlier this year. “Yes, they are OK,” she says, understandably still rattled. “Thank God.”

Lady Gaga's outfit by Schiaparelli, tights by Falke, gloves by Wing & Weft, rings by Boucheron and Buccellati, cuffs by Azima Musayeva, and a collar from Angels Fancy Dress.

The pop star and film star schedule remains intense. On top of Gucci, in the past year, she has performed jazz classics with Tony Bennett at Radio City Music Hall and released Love for Sale, their second album of Cole Porter duets, to terrific reviews. She oversees her Born This Way Foundation, with its mission to support the mental wellbeing of young people and empower them to build a kinder world, and is absolutely smitten with Haus Laboratories, her vegan make-up line, with its pretty palettes and its much loved liquid eyeliner, that pulls in more than £100 million a year.

Then, of course, there was Chromatica, her barnstorming electro-fabulous 2020 album. A follow-up of remixes arrived earlier this year – Dawn of Chromatica – and a post-pandemic tour is on the cards. Naturally, as Chromatica’s prime demographic, I begin gushing about how much it meant to me in lockdown, and she attempts a smile before saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever been in more pain in my life than I was making that record. It’s very hard for me to listen to. It’s very hard for me to sing those songs, but it’s not because they’re not amazing wonderful songs. It’s because they came from a very, very black hole in my heart.”

What place were you in when you were recording it? “I didn’t want to be me anymore,” she says, simply. “I didn’t have the ability to understand what I was capable of any longer as a person. I didn’t feel that I was worth just about anything. But I made it anyway. I said this to a friend the other day – whenever I go through hard times now, I always say with a laugh, ‘Yeah, this is hard. But it’s a lot harder when you want to kill yourself every day.’ So I pledge to always be somebody that speaks about mental health, speaks about kindness, compassion, and validation. I believe wholeheartedly that the universe made this a part of my story so that I could be prepared to talk about it with the world.”

For a moment, the performance of fame drops. “I know it’s not the world,” she says. “The whole world doesn’t know what I do, and that’s not the point. It’s whoever’s listening. Whoever’s listening: I love you, and if you’re in pain, I promise you it will get better.”

Her mind, though, soon returns to Gucci-world. “This was something else that I was interested in: who killed Maurizio, meaning who did she hire?” she says, still fascinated. “It’s my belief that actually, she didn’t tell the truth about this.” Gaga would watch interviews on YouTube and say to herself, “‘You’re lying.’ In one interview, she said it was some ‘beagle boys’, meaning, I think, that it was one of the mafia. I wondered for a moment if it was the Camorra that had done it, which is the sort of mafia in Naples. So I made some, again secret, decisions about what I decided to believe while I was filming.”

Do you imagine that there will come a time – once the film is out, once you’re beyond the intensity of all this – where you might wish to meet Reggiani, I ask? At the very least, won’t curiosity get the better of you?


There follows a significant pause. “I’m not entirely sure. I think it requires a certain emotional quotient to be an actor,” she says, trying to explain her reticence. It also took her deep into a darkness she is ready to shake off. “The way I felt playing this character by the end, I realized that when you kill someone else, you really kill yourself.”

She goes quiet and seems for a moment to be lost in it all again. Slowly she blinks a few times, bringing herself back to Gaga’s reality, away from Patrizia’s. “Who I care the most for in this process are her children,” she says, carefully, “and I extend to them love and compassion that I’m sure this movie coming out is tremendously difficult or painful for them, potentially. And I wish nothing but peace for their hearts.” Her eyes are again full of worry. Then hope. “I did my very best to play the truth.”

House of Gucci is in cinemas from 26 November. The December 2021 issue of British Vogue is on newsstands on Friday 5 November.