Gaga Queers Up MTV VMAs with Drag Performance Art

In what was most definitely her longest time spent on camera without a costume change, Gaga opened the 2011 VMAs with a four-minute monologue as Jo Calderone (last spotted in the You & I video) and stayed in character for the entire two hours —  even through the awkward-as-hell Britney Spears tribute and acceptance for Best Female Video for “Born This Way.”

“Hey. My name is Jo Calderone and I was an asshole. Gaga? Yeah her. Lady Gaga. She left me. She said it always starts out good and then the guys, meaning me, I’m one of the guys, we get crazy. I did. I got crazy, but she’s fucking crazy too, right? I mean, she’s fucking crazy. For example, she gets out of the bed, puts on the heels. She goes into the bathroom. I hear the water go on. She comes out of the bathroom, dripping wet. She still has the heels on. And what’s with the hair? At first it was sexy but now I’m just confused.

She said I’m just like the last one. I’m not like the last one… And I think it’s great, you know? I think it’s really fucking great that she’s such a star, a big beautiful star in the sky, but how am I supposed to shine? I mean, I think I’d be okay with it, you know, if I felt like she really was being herself with me. And maybe she is. I’m starting to think she is, ’cause when she gets on the stage, she holds nothing back — that spotlight, that big rounded spotlight follows her everywhere she goes. Sometimes I think it follows her home. I know it does. I got to get in there.

When she fucks, it’s like she covers her face ’cause she doesn’t want me to see, but she can’t stand to have one honest moment where nobody’s watching. I want her to be real, but she says, ‘Jo, I’m not real. I’m theater and you and I… This is just rehearsal. I got to get in there.”

Her performance of “You & I” pretty much rocked my world and reminded me of the days when she used to set pianos on fire. When she’s in the zone she is simply magnetic and you cannot take your eyes off her.

The celeb reactions to her performance were most entertaining:



Most candidly (and hilariously), she went on to the MTV press room, only answering reporters who directed questions to “Jo.” According to E!, even before getting his photo taken and taking some questions, she walked into the converted hotel ballroom and put his cigarette out on the carpet. Later, when a reporter referenced her (hella awkward) interaction with Britney earlier in the show by asking if “he” would hook up with her later, Jo responded:

Well, maybe if she wants to… she is f–king hot. Britney’s f–king hot. I don’t know. Gaga is my girl, but Britney’s fucking hot—she’s fucking Britney Spears! Didn’t you jerk off to Britney when you were a kid?”

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Jess is a pop culture junkie living in New York City. She enjoys endless debates about The L Word, Howard Stern, new techy gadgets, DVR, exploring the labyrinth of the Lesbian Internet, memoirs, working out, sushi, making lists, artsy things, anything Lady Gaga touches, traveling, puppies, and nyc in the fall. Find her on Twitter @jessxnyc or via email.

Jess has written 240 articles for us.


  1. Yet another reason to love GaGa. Seeing that I myself feel both male and female, and I love blurring gender lines, may I say that that performance was both inspiring and talented? Also, GaGa is sexy as both a man and a woman. Much love, GaGa!

  2. Well, OK, so that was an amazing performance, because I would never have known that was the same human that runs the Gaga persona most of the time in public, if I hadn’t been told.

    At the same time, yeah, this Jo persona is an asshole. Kinda repelled. Like, at a visceral level, wanted to smack him.

    The song was good! So there’s that!


    Not comfy with sexuality much? He’s like “SHE’S HOT BUT THIS IS NOT HER BEING HOT BUT SHE’S OMG HEAD ASPLODE”

    I like how the room is sorta awkward. It’s good to make people feel that way sometimes.

    Also Brian May. For gaga that’s gotta be awesome. It would be awesome for me too. As a musician I often have had dreams of my hero’s and heroines performing on stage with me one day. Awesome.

  4. oh my god. my love for her just grows so much. this is what i want from music. its weird and odd and fucking amazing. ugh.

  5. I have no words to express how much I adore this performance!! Oh Gaga, you never cease to amaze…

  6. I think Jo should show up a lot more often. So amazing.

    The faces in the audience (amused, confused, awkward) were awesome also.

  7. Pingback: Lady Gaga in drag at the 2011 VMAs | – Queer news, views and events for Portland

  8. Well, here’s the rundown: I don’t find Gaga attractive, I don’t find Jo awesome, I don’t like You and I, but the concept and performance as Jo Calderone is a fucking brilliant idea, and I love love love it. Way better alternative to a “Sasha Fierce” alter-ego.

      • Fuck. Hello, Brain, meet Fingers. Let’s work on this together.

        **I don’t find Jo attractive, but I do find him awesome.

        • I agree. She needs to refine her technique. The smoking wasn’t convincingly masculine for me and her gestures were too sculpted.

  9. I love this. I love that a hugely popular female performer showed up in drag. You don’t see female drag performers in mainstream media, you see the male drag queens, never drag kings. I love the fact that she stuck with it the entire night which is a change from usual Gaga. I love the stripped down performance of You and I. I love that all the articles that I’ve found refer to Jo as “he”. I love that no one is making a scandal over this. I love that this makes straight people question themselves but not Gaga. I love that Gaga just seriously challenged the mainstream idea of female sexuality. I love that no one is asking how she can like guys and also dress in drag. I love all of this.

    • And not only that she showed up in drag, but that, at the precise moment when Gaga-inspired fashion has reached ridiculousity (I mean, Katie Perry is wearing a freaking cube on her head, come on), she shows up in drag looking like an under-dressed, slightly sweaty and dirty dude.

      • Yeah, it definitely seemed like Katy was trying so hard to emulate her, which makes her seem even more pathetic.

    • Gaga’s whole life is basically a piecing together of music and entertainment over the past few decades. It’s actually kind of awesome, like some huge media studies dissertation, except, like, live.

      • I would agree with you if Gaga acknowledged that this is what she was doing, but from what I’ve seen, she doesn’t. The Gaga camp just finally admitted recently to purposefully copying some of Madonna’s old shtick but that’s it. Gaga busts out a mermaid in a wheelchair routine and claims she had no idea Bette Midler has done that exact same act for over 20 years now? Coincidence? C’mon, man. That’s just a LITTLE too niche for me to buy. And now this Annie Lennox throwback. There’s a fine line between rip-off and homage, and since Gaga seems to hell bent on being deemed unique and original, I’d have to say it looks more like the former. If Lady Gaga is a modern day tribute to previous artists throughout the decades, that’s awesome, but then she needs to acknowledge that and give credit to where credit is due. I would never actively be against Gaga because of all she’s done for the community, but, ya know, let’s call a spade a spade.

  10. Dave Grohl and Katy Perry’s reactions are kind of awesome. They both look stoked to be seeing this.

  11. I loved the speech. It seemed to make a lot of people there super uncomfortable but damn, that was a good performance.

  12. I love that she brought FTM drag into the mainstream at the VMAs. Jo Calderone is totally hot.

  13. I loved Gaga’s whole “Boys Don’t Cry Look”! And unlike the stream of blonde pop stars we’ve had since Madonna…SHE CAN SING!

  14. I feel like Beiber is thinking: “What’s going on? Who is this new guy? Are the lesbians making fun of me again?”

    • What I loved was Adele’s confused face when Jo falters after jumping off the piano. They pan away to the guitarist really quickly but Adele’s face speaks volumes.

    • LOL! Some of those pics are hilarious! What a great and fun looking school. My High School was small and private and devoid of anything really interesting. Totally jelly. Thanks for sharing! (Great cause too!)

    • Anti-feminist: yes. Perpetuating rape culture: no. I don’t even know how acting sleazy automatically glorifies rape culture.

      (Not saying this as response to you personally, but rather the article. Still, though, it raises an interesting question about why Gaga chose to go with that route for her drag character…)

  15. “i’m going to guess that jo didn’t ask snooki if he could grab her breasts. also, salivating over britney spears like a piece of meat on stage during the live show made her look rather uncomfortable. it’s totes ok for gaga’s alter ego jo to treat women this way because this is how women are supposed to be treated. our bodies are not our own.”

    I, unlike everyone around me, was not impressed or pleased to see Lady Gaga dressing in drag for the attention when I know so many people who struggle with their gender identities and fight every day to be taken seriously. Please, is there some way we can address culture at large and strip Gaga of her “gay icon” status and show that behind her crazy outfits and hair, there is just another white, cis-gendered, privileged pop star. Alternative forms of dress don’t give license to deem one a representative for communities that don’t need anyone else standing in their way.

    “I’m not a feminist – I, I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male culture, and beer, and bars and muscle cars…” -lady gaga

    This makes me truly ill. Not only does she lack a grasp of what feminism means, but she also reinforces strict, traditional gender roles (isn’t that what she thinks she’s tearing down by dressing in drag? Fail).

    Millions of people look up to this performer for her inspirational messages about self acceptance and self love. For all her “be yourself” tripe, this is an exceptionally disappointing message to send to young women.

  16. the strange thing is i think i’m just really pleased to see lady gaga in like, normal clothes, like pants and a t-shirt. like that’s her sitting on your couch.

  17. So, last night I was discussing her performance with 6 or 7 other (gay) girls and nearly all of them didn’t like it. They thought the “character” was annoying and some actually said it made them uncomfortable. Only 1 or 2 other girls enjoyed it as much as we did, which I found confusing and fascinating. They were also turned off by the fact that she “didn’t let Britney have her moment” with the lifetime achievement award. Thoughts?

    • Well, I think the idea of Jo is more interesting than the actual character himself. Like, he’s a slimy, creepy sleazebag who’s super inappropriate, but it’s Lady Gaga in drag (a form of theatre that is virtually unheard of outside the gay community). I dunno, I guess it depends on which aspect of Jo we’re examining.

  18. I usually politely ignore everything Lady Gaga does, and if she wants to do drag, that’s fine, but… Why does her male alter-ego look like he just spent the night in a dumpster? He makes me want to take a shower…

    /unpopular opinion

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