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Lady Gaga Was Being a ‘Performance Artist’ as Jo Calderone at the 2011 VMAs

Kevin Winter, Getty Images

People are still buzzing about Lady Gaga‘s “stunt” at the 2011 MTV VMAs, where she stayed in character all night (on stage, in the crowd, when presenting Britney Spears with an award) as Jo Calderone, her chain-smoking, prosthetic-wearing, greased-hair male alter ego from the ‘You & I’ video. Some critics thought she took the shtick too far. Others loved it. MTV News spoke to Gaga’s creative director Laurieann Gibson beforehand, who was able to provide some insight about why Gaga refused to break character at the event.

“The idea of her being a performance artist — and it’s starting the performance on the red carpet and the idea that the performance never ends for her — is the first time I’ve experienced this with an artist,” Gibson explained. “I love it. That’s something that is specific to her, and the whole night was the performance, and it was important that Jo was a part of the whole night.”

Since Gaga was Jo Calderone from the carpet to the close of the show and even the VMA press room, Gibson chalked it up to the star’s brilliance when it comes to her art. “I hope that the monsters and the music industry [connect to] the idea that as long as you execute to the highest level of your ability, that you make a statement, that you push your creative ability to the max, and it doesn’t mean one thing or another,” she said.

While many of us where hoping to see Gaga in at least one head-turning, eyebrow-raising, over-the-top ensemble, her turn as Jo Calderone was impossible to look away from. Viewers were left to wonder what she would do next. Besides, there are plenty of events in her future where she can wear three-foot high platform heels.

Gibson wrapped up her assessment of Gaga’s handling of the spotlight, of fame and of fully embracing her art, saying, “It could mean standing under one spotlight. It could mean tons of camels and belly-dancing girls. I don’t know one is not necessarily better than the other. But it is about who’s the artist; it belongs to the artist, so in that one moment you have to take it and give all you can. And so I hope people take the fearlessness away [and] the creative notion that we constantly push boundaries, that we’re not followers.”

Gaga — we mean Jo Calderone — captured our attention all night long.

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