News :: National

Gaga Under Fire for Born This Way Foundation, SXSW Performance

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Mar 14, 2014
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Lady Gaga performs at Stubb’s in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest Music Festival.
Lady Gaga performs at Stubb’s in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest Music Festival.  (Source:AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Jay Janner)

Lady Gaga is facing some criticism this week for her Born This Way Foundation and for a provocative South by Southwest performance.

It was revealed this week that Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation reportedly only donated a small amount of money to individuals and organizations.

According to a report by Roger Freidman for Showbiz411, the foundation spent "more on lawyers, publicity and consultants than on charity." Freidman says the pop star’s foundation had $2.1 million in assets, with $2.6 million in donations. According to a federal tax report, the foundation apparently spent $300,000 on "strategic consulting (web, digital)," $50,000 on "social media," $406,552 on "legal," $150,000 on "philanthropic consulting," $58,768 on "publicity fees" and $808,661 on "other." The charity allegedly spent just $5,000 to outside organizations.

"It’s unclear that anyone was really helped by the Born this Way Foundation other than lawyers, consultants, publicists and travel agents," Friedman wrote. "I like Lady Gaga and her parents. But celebrities probably shouldn’t start charitable foundations."

The Born This Way Foundation’s mission statement says the charity aims "to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated. The Foundation is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world."

Gaga has responded to the report and denies the claims, the British newspaper the Guardian reports. She said that critics don’t understand the form and function of the charity.

"We do the work," Gaga wrote on her Little Monsters website. "We do not raise money and allocate the funds to other charities for them to do the work."

The "Applause" singer’s mother, who co-founded Born This Way in 2011, also responded to Freidman’s report in an editorial published by the Huffington Post.


Lady Gaga (left) and Millie Brown (right)  (Source:Jezebel)

"A clear understanding of the differences between a grant-making organization and one that carries out its work directly would have made this a non-story," Cynthia Germanotta wrote. "We are not a grant-maker that funds the work of other charities, and were never intended to be." She later added, "And we are having a profound impact in just a very short period of time."

The Guardian writes that one of Born This Way’s problems may be the language used in its mission statement. While most foundations use their money in the form of grants, Gaga’s charity focuses on its own projects, like its 2012 bus tour that visited 23 communities and earned "300 million media impressions," as well as 500,000 users of its official site, according to Germanotta.

"Born This Way Foundation’s work has focused heavily on providing information on empowerment through [this] website, raising awareness of the importance of being kind to others through public relations and social media," she wrote. "Every dollar spent across these categories, including the legal fees ... directly serves Born This Way Foundation’s core mission of empowering youth."

This isn’t the only controversy Gaga is up against this week.

During her South By Southwest Performance Thursday (sponsored by Doritos), Mother Monster invited her friend Millie Brown on stage during a performance of her "ARTPOP" track "Swine." Brown, a "vomit painter," drank a full bottle of neon green liquid then proceeded to force herself to throw up on Gaga while she played drums.

The performance quickly spread on the Internet, especially social media. Jezebel reported on Gaga’s set, criticizing the performance:

"This is apparently some kind of artistic collaboration with Millie Brown, a ’vomit painter.’ However, regardless of artistic intent, the stunt comes across as supremely insensitive and totally ill-advised - especially since Lady Gaga has publicly opened up about her struggle with bulimia and anorexia. Having a woman in a sexy costume purge on stage in the middle of a concert is a really gross thing to do: it comes across (to me, at least) as making light of - if not glorifying - eating disorders.

Lady Gaga, really: what the fuck are you doing?"


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