Lady Gaga as High Priestess

Dr Bob Deutsch of Brain Sells, Boston, suggests that Lady Gaga’s alchemy is ageless and age-old, in his most recent column. “The ubiquitous Lady Gaga is the newest “It Girl” with mega hits, a creative directorship for Polaroid and endorsements for brands like Estee Lauder’s Viva Glam products. But through an anthropologist’s lens, 23 year-old Stefanie Germanotta represents something completely primal, a shamanistic high priestess.”

Lady Gaga Polaroid Creative Director


Beyond the torrent of press coverage and her 5.2 million Facebook fans, or “little monsters” as she lovingly calls them, lurks a fascinating back-story. It’s not just how Lady Gaga sings and dances to her own beat, like Mic and Astaire, who danced to the melody. Each shaman whether from New Guinea or the Amazon, has an atypical gait and tempo, a reflection of their other-worldliness.

To the Spirit World and Back, with Knowledge

And it’s not simply Lady Gaga’s theatrics, wild outfits, headdresses and masks, although she shares these with most Shaman who cover themselves with rare feathers and paint their faces with natural pigments. These attention-getting communication devices are necessary accoutrements of the shaman’s prototypal ventures out of the temporal and into the “spirit world” where the Shaman does battle with the dark forces of the cosmos -fighting “monsters.” As the Lady says, for this you must feel “fierce.” One must vanquish all doubt, blood-soaked and mythic.

Following the trials of battle, the shaman comes back to his people (having traveled beyond via trance or hallucinogenic) to give over lessons – practical, existential, and cosmological. In large measure the shaman’s expertise lies in how well these teachings are transmitted, such that the tribe experiences what the shaman has, as if they themselves had made the hero’s journey, a felt sense of “post-icipation.”

Then it is up to individuals of the tribe to rely on their newly expanded beings. Moses is a model: lead your people to the promised land, and then they enter and proceed without you.

The Benevolent Priestess

Lady Gaga is the archetype of the benevolent leader. This completely fearless-about-her-ambition Italian girl from Yonkers, has a dream and is outrageously outspoken, not only for herself but for her fans, particularly her young, female fans.

In her Barbara Walters interview, she voiced the sentiment, wanting to be a teacher, saying, “I want to liberate them from their fears so they can find their own place in the world.” In this way, she represents the essence of a brand.

Attaching to Brand Gaga

Human biology and cognition dictates that people will attach to people, and brands, that provide the stimulus to more fully realize their latent potential. Lady Gaga is like the Yellow Brick Road; through post-icipatng in her journey, each fan feels,” I can become myself.” There is no greater gift to be bestowed.

Lady Gaga’s seemingly-instantaneous rise to fame is largely due to her embodiment of a fearless leader, a hero who matches the zeitgeist of performance and pose, while appearing completely authentic. In some peculiar way, Lady Gaga is like other leaders, such as Ronald Reagan or even Pope John Paul, who spontaneously performed and inspired intense emotional attachments and loyalty.

Gaga is Primal

Why is Lady Gaga so watched on YouTube, Twittered about, commented on and searched by the millions? Because she is the real deal. She is primal, a shaman priestess whose performances propels you out of your mundane existence. She is artfully full of life that others may become so too. That’s the secret of stardom and that’s brand power at its greatest..

Marketer’s TakeAway

1. A marketing strategy, no matter how good in the abstract, won’t work if its essence is not authentic to the “product.”

2. Channel selection is critical, but channels only exist to carry compelling “messages.”

3. Modern technologies are great, but how they operate and what they (re)present must answer to what human nature and the nature of mind intrinsically responds to. Remember, the future has an ancient heart.

About Bob Deutsch

From contributing to Military Review magazine (“The Droning of Strategic Communications and Public Diplomacy; Sept/Oct. 2009) to portraying a college professor in a McDonald’s commercial, cognitive anthropologist Dr. Bob Deutsch (founder of consulting firm Brain Sells (www.Brain-Sells.com), Boston, MA), breaks the mold.

Bob has worked in the primeval forest and on Pennsylvania and Madison Avenues. His focus, since the mid-’70s, when he was living with pre-literate tribes and chimpanzees, has been understanding how leading ideas take hold in cultures. Since opening Brain Sells, in 1990, he has applied this understanding to how people attach to products, persons and performances. He is fond of saying, “Reasoned judgment about attributes is not the issue. The brain evolved to act, NOT to think.” Bran Sells’ retail clients include: TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Home Goods, Radio Shack, Sephora, Verizon stores, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, and Toyota.

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images North America

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  • Anon

    I really enjoyed this, especially because I am both a “little monster” and an anthropology student. That’s all, I just wanted to show my appreciation :)

  • Anon

    Trying to help a friend see through Lady Gaga, to the danger of loosing his soul to what’s actually behind her, – I found this very helpful. Thanks.
    …. Who can discern where art becomes life and where ritual form becomes ritual reality?
    …. Who can discern when they are being deluded into believing that they’re only playing a game when in truth they are being initiated into a realm they did not wish to succumb to?
    …. And who can discern when the simulated reality they are choosing to believe, is indulging them in lies more real than the lies they chose to ignore?
    …. Who would want to be wise and choose the high way of life, in a day when more than many are insisting on being fools and choosing to die?
    …. A genuine fool takes pride in deluding himself and others, and rejoices to take as many with him to their death.
    …. A fools boasts that he can see in the dark, but only the wise can see clearly in the night.
    …. When a fool stumbles, he declares that he is dancing.
    …. When a wise man stumbles, Wisdom sings that he is dancing – to a song which is not his own.

    Oh YES !

  • Adam (4twistedshadows from Gaga Daily)

    What a great amazing article! I thoroghly enjoyed it and it’s great to see such a positive impact Gaga is having on the world and on her beloved fans!

    Well done, however, she’s not from Yonkers.
    That’s only mistake that sticks out,
    but everything else is right on the money.
    Simply a fantastic read!

    • Jordan

      i love you for saying She’s not from Yonkers !

  • Nihilizo

    spot on, I’d say. definitely touch upon some interesting points.

    ps: I did my own little piece on lady gaga – http://humanasemeritus.com/2010/01/27/in-defense-of-the-illuminati-puppet-lady-gaga/