No one would ever accuse Lady Gaga of being predictable. Since bursting onto the scene over 10 years ago, Stefani Germanotta has reinvented her image more times than we can count. She's a singer. She's a Golden Globe winner. She sports raw meat on the red carpet. She's a Mother Monster who counts bleach-blonde bows and soda cans as hair accessories. She's a 32-year-old who, by design, is in a constant and rapid state of change — and her latest make-under for her cover story in The New York Times Magazine is no exception.
For the cover, shot by the iconic Marilyn Minter, Gaga appears bare-faced behind a glass pane, her freckles (including a few faux ones added by makeup artist Sarah Tanno) on full display. The stripped-back look is not unlike other recent make-unders by major pop stars, including Ariana Grande and Christina Aguilera, who both ditched their over-the-top stage personas to usher in a new era of vulnerability. And while Gaga might not be dropping an album that proves she's on a whole new wave (that was Joanne), she is showing herself in a way we've never seen her before: as an actress likely on her way to an Academy Award nomination.
Gaga isn't reinforcing the idea that going makeup free somehow equates to authenticity or that we're finally seeing her true self, though. For her, this is just another part of what makes Gaga, well, Gaga. “I do keep transforming into a new shell of me,” she told writer Rachel Syme. “So sure, there is an acting component to what I do... but the word ‘acting,’ it’s hard for me to talk about in that way, because ‘acting’ to me almost implies faking it.”
The cover makeup, or lack thereof, likely alludes to Gaga's latest role as Ally in A Star Is Born. While filming, Gaga was notoriously instructed by director and co-star Bradley Cooper to never wear makeup on camera, starting the day he took a makeup wipe to her face during the screen test. Many found the move forceful and in bad taste, but for Gaga — a staunch advocate for challenging beauty standards — it was actually welcome (if uncharted) territory. "It put me right in the place I needed to be, because when my character talks about how ugly she feels — that was real,” Gaga recalled to the Los Angeles Times. “I’m so insecure. I like to preach, but I don’t always practice what I preach."
It's a refreshing new side to witness, sure — but it's certainly not her final act. When asked what's next, Gaga told Syme, "Oh...I’m just shape-shifting again.” Here's hoping Jo Calderone makes a comeback.