As a Lady Gaga impersonator, I have had countless bookings for kids parties. I’m always surprised when a parent calls to tell me that their five year old is the biggest Lady Gaga fan ever and knows all the words to every song, because Gaga’s music contains some very adult lyrics and her concerts are far from family friendly. At these gigs, my job is to show up make these kids actually believe Lady Gaga came to their party. The stakes are high, and the pressure is on like i’m a mall Santa. I have to be extremely careful to maintain my Lady Gaga facade, to the point that I leave my wig on when entering and exiting. Ruining this illusion in even the slightest way will crush the kids dreams, ruin a birthday, create possible future PTSD, need for years of therapy and maybe a future meth head. If I fuck up, years from now all the child will remember is that one time their parents spent alot of money to lie to them that their favorite artist had come to see them, and then were horribly crushed by finding out that she was fake.
At these parties, I typically sing a few songs and then walk around to take photos with all of the kids and their parents. The richer the parents, the more elaborate the party. Sometimes i’m joined by stilt walkers, roller skating light up fairies, hypnotists, face painters, and walk around cater waiters serving fancy cotton candy Hors D’oeuvres on a silver platters. Sometimes the birthday child even has their own personal photographer trailing them for the entire event, live streaming the “highlight reel” to a huge screen. Most of the time the kids are pretty cute. They’ll hug me and tell me about their favorite song and when they saw my concert. We chat about boys, school and fashion. They walk up to me wide eyed, holding markers so that I can sign their phone cases, arms, napkins and sometimes clothes as they stroke my long blonde wig with wonderment.
The first time I experienced this level of rich kids party, I was floored. This was a world I never knew existed. As a child of a single parent, many of my Birthday parties had taken place in my living room, with a birthday cake bought with food stamps. Now here I was probably getting paid more than my own mother had made in an entire year for an hour long booking. Every time I left these parties with a wad of cash, I felt damn lucky that I somehow looked enough like a pop star to be pulling this off.
As the years have passed, most of these parties have become a blur. But one little boy still stands out in my memory, like Blu-Ray in a sea of VHS faces. After performing my set at a sixth birthday, I did my usual walk around the room, posing for photos and selfies with the guests and kids. As I made my way around the event space, I noticed I had a shadow. A little boy who was about six. He was following my every move while looking up at me adoringly. At one point he held up the train of my dress to help me navigate between tables. When I turned around to thank him, he said “I’ve got this Lady Gaga. This dress is FIERCE & FABULOUS.”
Once we made our way out of the crowd I knelt down to his eye level so we could chat. I asked him his name, and he told me it was Parker. Parker told me that he knew my favorite designer was Alexander McQueen and that McQueen was his favorite too. He told me that he knew all the words to Bad Romance but liked Born This Way better. He told me he had dressed as “The Fame” Gaga for Halloween last year, and then asked me why I had two middle names. (Lady Gaga’s real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta). Parker was an encyclopedia Britannica of Lady Gaga and fashion knowledge. This kid spoke with the intelligence of an adult. It truly felt like I was speaking to an adult gay man in a six year old’s body.
We kept talking and Parker asked if he could check out my jewelry. I let him try on a couple of my rings and let him keep his favorite. “I am NEVER TAKING THIS OFF!” he exclaimed, as he admired his sparkly new bobble. After a few minutes Parker’s Dad came over to take some photos of us together. He gave me a knowing wink and said “as you’ve probably heard, Parker is a hug fan of yours.” After our photo session, I told Parker it had been very nice to meet him. He hugged me, looked up with a giant smile and said “Wait Lady Gaga, can you sing my favorite song with me before you leave?” “Of course I can!” I said. “Which song is it?” “BORN. THIS. WAY.!” Parker exclaimed, while striking a pose between each word. I knelt back down to his eye level and started to sing with him.
“You’re beautiful in your way cuz God makes no mistakes, you’re on the right track, baby you were born this way. Don’t hide yourself in regret, just love yourself and your set. You’re on the right track, Parker, you were born this way.” As I finished, he jumped up and down excitedly while applauding. I left that party with the biggest smile on my face. Parker’s excitement and joy was contagious. If everyone in the world who still believes being gay is a choice met someone like this kid, there is no way they wouldn’t change their mind. He truly was Born That Way. To this day whenever I sing that song, I think of Parker.