Music Life

“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga taught me to love myself and others

The iconic album Born This Way by Lady Gaga is regarded as one of her best bodies of work by fans and critics alike, nine years after its release. The album still resonates with listeners because it boldly experimented with the confines of pop music and dared listeners to take chances while living unapologetically. The album’s blend of genres illustrates the multifaceted identities of its intended audience, expertly blending pop, glam rock, heavy metal, country, and techno all into one coherent body of art. Born This Way particularly speaks to marginalized people and challenges the constraints placed on those who don’t fit in an oppressive, white supremacist, patriarchal society.  

Born This Way was released at the start of a new decade, in an ever-changing social and political climate. It feels like there is symbolism in the album being released at the beginning of the 2010’s with me having also just begun my teenage years. My body’s changing, my mind is evolving and the world around me is pushing for more equality, representation, and freedom. 

I was 13-years-old when the album came out, starting my awkward teenage years and just finishing seventh grade. Like most people coming into adolescence, I was an extremely insecure, self-conscious, and anxious individual. Learning how to love myself was proving difficult in a world that made it hard for young black girls to do so. There were times I felt becoming truly confident was hopeless. However, the power of art prevailed because in May of 2011, Lady Gaga released her second studio album titled Born This Way. The album is an anthem of self-love and acceptance that I desperately needed at the time. It greatly helped me learn to unapologetically love every facet of myself, even the parts I didn’t yet understand. 

The album takes a note from its own book and experimented with its marketing, song releases, and visuals. Around the time of its release, aspects of Born This Way were misunderstood by music critics, including but not limited to the album cover which displays Lady Gaga as the head of a motorcycle. Critics mocked the imagery, ignoring Gaga’s illustration and commentary of being made into a machine by oppressive industry standards.

Controversy also surrounded the second song on the album and one of the album’s awaited singles titled, “Born This Way” (named after the album). Among other criticisms, the song stirred controversy at the time for its reference of trans individuals on a mainstream song from a mainstream artist. Consequently, critics attempted to project their internalized prejudice onto a body of work that existed freely and challenged others to do the same, contradicting the entire purpose of the album. 

Admittedly, at 13 I wasn’t entirely knowledgeable about gender identity or expression. However, that didn’t stop me from resonating with the message of the song. When I listen to Born This Way, even now, I feel free from marginalization; for 4 minutes and 20 seconds, I simply feel unfiltered, uninterrupted fun. I especially remember the announcement for the song. Lady Gaga stood on the stage at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, dressed in her now legendary meat gown, belting “I’m beautiful in my way ‘cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way.” Unbeknownst to 12-year-old me at the time, this moment would change my life forever. 

In a 2016 article for Dazed, Jake Hall analyzed Born This Way’s impact years after its release. Regarding what the album meant for Lady Gaga as an artist while also being a pivotal pop-culture moment he states, “[Born This Way] was the moment that [Gaga] stopped being branded an artificial pop behemoth and started to become the searingly honest, sometimes over-emotional human being that we now know well.” From 2000 to 2009, pop music was very traditional in the sense that female pop artists had to conform to society’s hyper-feminine, heteronormative expectations of women. At the start of the 2010s, Lady Gaga deliberately sought to not just challenge those oppressive norms but obliterate them.

At the 2011 VMAs, Lady Gaga performed another album single from Born This Way titled, “Yoü and I.” During her performance, she played the role of Jo Calderone, acting as the male love interest in her own song, which further defied the expectations of what was expected from women in pop. These subtle normalizations of gender identity and expression as well as uplifting messages of finding perfection in uniqueness and marginalized identity helped me begin to slowly understand the world outside of myself.

At 13, I didn’t have it all figured out right away. I was still struggling with finding my confidence, but Born This Way laid the foundation for me to become the outspoken, open-minded, risk-taker I now am at 22-years-old. There’s a reason this album still resonates with fans almost a decade later. An album that encourages others to confidently become the best, most honest version of themselves without permission will never get old.

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LGBTQIA+ History Historical Badasses Gender Inequality

Remembering unsung hero of Pride Sylvia Rivera: a transgender rights activist queen

On this Spirit Day, I would like to remember a hero of the LGBTQ+ community who fought for our rights back when being an activist meant to physically have to fight the oppressing hegemony.

Sylvia Rivera was a radical queer Latinx and trans-woman who dedicated her life to activism. Sylvia was born in the Bronx to a Puerto Rican father and Venezuelan mother. In her early childhood, Sylvia lived with her grandmother who was very disapproving of young Sylvia’s, then called Ray, effeminate ways. Sylvia was always very confident in herself, even at a young age when she began experimenting with makeup as a young boy she was proud of who she was. 

When Sylvia started getting bullied at school and kids around her neighborhood started calling her “pato,” or faggot, her grandmother kicked her out. Sylvia left the only place she could call home at the age of ten and headed to the 42nd Street Christopher Street docks in Manhattan where a lot of homeless people in the gay community took refuge. This was both the start of Sylvia’s introduction to drugs, alcohol, prostitution, systematic abuse and, as a result, her rise to becoming martyrs for the trans community.

One of Rivera’s most notable contributions, amongst many radical demonstrations for legal reform, was her rebellion at the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. Imagine enjoying a night out with your friends in one of the very few spaces you felt safe in. Imagine there being community and solidarity in the midst of a good time only to once, again as was routine, have the scarcity of the space raided by police who have come to do what they always do — harass and arrest you for being you. The Stonewall Bar in the East Village of NYC was that space for marginalized groups of queer trans people of color.

 The Stonewall Uprising changed what had been thought to be possible before. Thereafter there was a collective effervescence in the community to stand up for themselves. In an interview with Seymour Pine, the responding Deputy Inspector, admitted the night of the Stonewall Uprising was everything but submissive. Pine recalls, “For some reason, things were different this night. As we were bringing the prisoners out, they were resisting.

The police were held hostage inside of the bar for almost 45 minutes, in which time “nearly two thousand people” had congregated outside of the bar yelling, “Police brutality! Let’s get ‘em! We’re not going to take this anymore!” The doors to the bar were pushed down and Molotov cocktails started flying across the bar. Sylvia was one of the first trans queens who threw one of the first bottles at the Stonewall Uprising. She recounts, “I said to myself in Spanish… oh my God, the revolution is finally here! And I just like started screaming “Freedom! We’re free at last!”

As a Latinx trans woman living in the 60’s, Sylvia Rivera experienced a lot of discrimination and made it her life’s mission to advocate for those being left behind by mainstream gay rights activism — poor queer people of color and transgendered people. Together with Marsha P. Johnson, one of Rivera’s lifelong friends and a self-identified queen herself, Rivera founded the Street Trans Action Revolutionaries (STAR)a revolutionary organization that started with a political analysis centering gender self-determination and homeless trans people of color, most of whom did sex work. Sylvia knew first hand what it felt like to be a victim of systematic poverty, racism, and homophobia and didn’t want other’s feeling alone the way she did growing up. 

Sylvia Rivera is well known to many people in Latinx feminist and queer spaces. However, to others like me for whom identifying as queer is a recent thing, I didn’t know there was so someone in history with so much courage with whom I’d share so identities — Latinx, born to immigrant parents, from the Bronx, we both grew up exploring the streets of New York City, and who has an open view of gender expression.

As a child of immigrant parents often times it’s hard to find heroes from your same background in the United States with whom to resonate with. For me, Sylvia Rivera’s courage makes me more comfortable being Latinx and queer. It’s important that we all remember those who came before us and who fought for change. It is in part thanks to Sylvia if I am free to be who I am today.

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The Tempest Radio Mixes Audio + Visual

INSPIRATION MIX: Music to keep you going

I’ve always had those moments in which I just didn’t know what to do in order to feel inspired. Reading quotes, watching motivational videos, and asking a friend for a pep talk don’t always work. But one thing which never fails to recharge my motivational battery is listening to certain songs. Music has this power to uplift even the lowest spirits. If you ever find yourself feeling a lack of energy when it comes towards pursuing your goals, grab your headphones and press play:

1. I Was Here || Beyonce

The go-to song for when you feel like you don’t make a difference in the world. It gets me every time. “The hearts I have touched, will be the proof that I leave, that I made a difference, and this world will see, I was here.” Beyonce will blow you away in her performance.

2. The Climb || Miley Cyrus

Top Cools

This one’s a classic! No matter what I’m going through, when I listen to The Climb, I feel like all the struggles are worth it. Because it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Cheesy? Perhaps. But I’ve learned that all those cliches and corny quotes are true 98% of the time.

3. The Greatest || Sia

The 405

It may get stuck in your head for a while afterwards, but honestly, it’s worth it because it’ll remind you how great you are. It’s hard to stay unmotivated while listening to it.

4. Try Everything || Shakira


This one is so catchy and has amazing messages in the lyrics. It’ll make you want to try everything to fulfill your dreams. The fact that it’s the featured song in Disney’s Zootopia makes it 100 times better.

5. How Far I’ll Go || Alessia Cara


This song is so empowering, especially for when you’re going through a period of uncertainty about your future. When I was applying for grad school and was having self-doubts, I kept this song on replay. Somehow, singing along to it day after day made me realize that I have so much potential to tap into, and that the only thing getting in the way of my dreams was me.

6. Born This Way || Lady Gaga

For a more upbeat song to keep you going, this one’s awesome. Helps you embrace your imperfections and keep your eye on the prize.

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