SplashNews.com 1 / 50
Turning down Juilliard, quitting NYU's Tisch School for the Arts and being dropped by Island Def Jam did not hinder this modern disco diva's meteoric rise. Germanotta, whose stage name was inspired by a Queen song, played piano by 4, composed ballads by 13, honed her outrageous style by dancing in burlesque clubs and singing in dive bars by 19 and released The Fame by 20. Gaga became only the third artist in history to score three No. 1 hits off a debut album thanks to "Just Dance," "Poker Face" and "LoveGame." The Grammys and MTV VMAs started to roll in and her wild ensembles, often sans pants, and performance art-meets-concert style are unforgettable. Her name conjures visions of treacherous platform heels, meat dresses, giant hats, wacky wigs, bondage gear, jackets made of Kermit the Frog dolls, head spikes, giant eggs and stone-encrusted glasses. She continued her hot streak with The Fame Monster, which provided even more No.1s like "Bad Romance" and "Paparazzi," Born This Way, mentoring on American Idol, a Barneys pop-up and a fragrance. Knowing she owes everything to her fans, known as Little Monsters, she established the Born This Way Foundation in 2012 to promote individuality and combat hate and bullying. Her generous giving continued when she pledged $1 million to the American Red Cross in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The performer was most recently linked to Chicago Fire actor Taylor Kinney, who starred in her "You And I" video.