I did not understand Lady Gaga at all until I saw her HBO concert special. Onstage she talked – a lot. And I could see that growing up, she felt like a freak. That gender and sexuality were big issues for her. And that she lived, dreamed, ate and breathed the wish for stardom.
Now she is a star – we pay her to be a freak for money – because she encourages the rest of us to let our own “freak flag fly.”
Watching her onstage I thought the following: Lady Gaga is “freaking” brilliant. She can sing. Dance. Play piano. Change costumes in five seconds. Has no shame or inhibitions. Remembers her entire stage show. Can run through the whole routine breathlessly.
Plus Lady Gaga knows how to capture the audience, engage them, bring them in. The concert was in New York and I think she yelled “New York” just about every five seconds. She gave a shout-out to Liza Minnelli and Marisa Tomei in the audience, and to the Tisch School at NYU (the performing arts school). This was not an anonymous endeavor – Lady Gaga completely bonded with her “little monsters” at her very own “monster ball.”
Another example: Look at Woody Allen. You either love his films or you hate them. But they have a definite style – a signature brand. All of it comes from his personal demons. The storylines, the themes, repeat again and again. And he has managed to reinvent that wheel for decades.
Or how about Kim Kardashian? What is it that makes her reveal so very much to the world? Why does she not only show her physical self but also the very inside of her emotions, to the point where she goes through courtship, marriage and divorce on TV? Whether you like her or believe in her or not, or whether her brand will work in the end, she is clearly driven by a personal demon. And it will not let her go.
Take Charlie Sheen. His personal demon propelled his career and the incredible success of the sitcom Two and a Half Men. Nobody could make up a character like that, because the character of Charlie is Charlie. And as self-destructive as he is – as much as the personal demon has won, at times – the brand remains an objective contribution to the world of Hollywood entertainment.
When you seek to build a personal brand there is no reason to look outside yourself. Whatever it is that drives you now, that is what you need to use. Because nobody has lived through your life and experiences.
Think of it this way: Considering all the uniqueness that you've gained from your personal pain, why work so hard to think of a good personal brand? Use it instead to propel yourself forward. Do something constructive with everything you've lived through. It's something nobody else can match.
Just don’t go too far – keep a bit of distance – control the demons and don’t let them eat you alive.
Have a good day everyone, and good luck!