Making history once is great. But Gaga is more than great — she’s Gaga! And so, today, she made history once more, becoming (as far as I can tell) the first singer to be nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. (Queen Latifah was nominated in 2002 for her performance in Chicago, but in the Best Supporting Actress category.)
And while her nomination isn’t all that surprising (A Star is Born got three more nods, including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Ensemble Cast, making it the most nominated film of the ceremony), it is worth celebrating. Because while the Oscars and the Golden Globes get most of the media attention, the SAGs are, in some ways, a more prestigious recognition of talent. It’s an award bestowed by the acting community to acknowledge a peer at the height of his or her craft. The Golden Globes, on the other hand, are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a body of critics and photographers who cover the entertainment industry for organizations based outside the United States. As for the Oscars, that’s decided by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which includes representatives from every aspect of the industry, not just acting. A SAG nomination is a proclamation to the world that actors consider Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, in her first-ever starring role in a feature film, to be one of them.
This nomination is all the more significant given Gaga’s recent comments during The Hollywood Reporter’s annual actresses roundtable in November. “I wanted to be an actress before I wanted to be a singer or musician,” she told fellow performers Nicole Kidman, Kathryn Hahn, Regina King, Glenn Close and Rachel Weisz, adding that she studied acting at the Lee Strasburg Institute.
“I have created characters for myself,” the “Born This Way” singer said. “Because I did not make it as an actress. So, I made characters that I could be — so that I could be one. They were always in some way related to the woman that I wanted to sing to, and a part of me.”
This year has also been a good one for musical movies. Rami Malek was nominated for his portrayal of Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, which in turn was nominated for Best Ensemble Cast, and Blunt has been praised for her performance in the as- yet-unreleased Mary Poppins Returns. But, as proven by such predecessors as Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, the lead in A Star Is Born requires more than a good singing voice. It requires emotional depth and vulnerability, the ability to make the audience believe that this internationally recognized star can be a nobody, and rise before our eyes as an entirely new performer.
It’s a tremendous feat of acting. And that’s why despite the many, many gifted performances by women this year, Gaga is making sure we let the old ways die, and witness the birth of a new, talented and SAG-endorsed Hollywood star.