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Lady Starlight (Tina K/Tina Korhonen)
Lady Starlight (Tina K/Tina Korhonen)

music

Meet the artist who had a hand in creating Lady Gaga Add to ...

Contrary to what she says in her hit song, Lady Gaga wasn’t born that way, not completely. The Poker Face pop star had help, in the form of Lady Starlight, a fellow New Yorker who befriended and mentored the younger Gaga. Lady Starlight, a glam-metal and hard-rock DJ born as Colleen Martin, talks about big stages, small stages and her freaky, fame-gaming friend.

When someone wild like Lady Gaga comes on the scene, we question where she came from. Can we say that you had a hand in her creation?

Yes. I exposed her to an attitude, and a confidence.

Rather than a sound or a specific style?

It wasn’t the artistic stuff. It was being the friend that she needed, and it was simply being who I am. I don’t believe in societal restrictions. It wasn’t a choice – conformity simply never occurred to me. Excuse the pun, but I was just born that way.

Nice. But what about Gaga? Was she born that way?

She definitely was. But she didn’t have people around her that were like her. She wasn’t getting the encouragement to do the things she wanted to do. So she felt restricted.

When it comes to performers crafting personas and reinventing themselves periodically, is it harder to do now? With Bowie or Madonna, they had time. But are things moving too fast now?

What people can do and what the expectations of the industry are – those are two different things. It’s shocking to people that Gaga is touring on an album that is two years old. To the music industry, that’s something outrageous to do. But to my mind, it’s the way it should be.

Justin Bieber released six albums before his 19th birthday, and Rihanna has released seven since 2005. They don’t have time to reinvent, right?

Not to speak disparagingly of Justin Bieber or Rihanna, but they’re not so hands-on with their image or their sound. They don’t write the music. They have people doing things for them. Whereas Gaga is more like a Bowie. Gaga is a real musician, and a real artist. Her thing is the creative process – she’s involved in everything. She’s pop, but, in a way, she’s more like a rock-and-roll act.

Her first album was The Fame, in 2008. Did the two of you think about the celebrity and the fame when you were dreaming together, before Gaga broke big?

Yes. That was all we envisioned. That was the goal. Why do it, if you don’t want to go all the way? We wouldn’t accept anything less than world domination.

Okay, mission accomplished for Lady Gaga. But what about world domination for Lady Starlight?

Well, now I’m working on mine, and she’s helping me and investing in my show. I spoke to her on the phone earlier today. She was scolding me for not thinking big enough.

The roles are reversed now.

In professional ways, yes. She knows. She’s been there. I’m trying to break into the industry now, as a solo artist. She’s been instrumental.

On Friday, after you perform at the Gaga concert at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, you’re heading to the Drake Hotel for your own show. How does it feel to go from such a big room to such a small one?

It’s hard to fill a large venue with what you’re doing. When you’re in a smaller venue, though, you’ll fill it all, with you. It’s more fun, being closer to the audience. To be honest, I prefer the small stage.

Lady Starlight opens Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball concerts Feb. 8 and 9 at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre and Feb. 11 at Montreal’s Bell Centre. On Feb. 8, Lady Starlight will be DJing at Toronto’s Drake Hotel.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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