We could give you a million reasons to celebrate Lady Gaga today, on her 32nd birthday. Maybe we’d start with her songwriting career, which took off before her work as a solo artist. We could go through the laundry list of awards she’s won in everything from music to acting, describe the artistry of her music videos, discuss her influence as a fashion icon, or explore her role as the creator of the modern pop star.
But equally impressive is her work as a philanthropist. Various projects throughout her career have helped to raise millions of dollars in charitable donations for causes including disaster relief and HIV/AIDS education. Closest to Gaga’s heart, though, is her own foundation, the Born This Way Foundation, which she founded in 2012. Its mission is to support the wellness of young people and empower them to create a kinder and braver world.
Gaga recently disclosed in an open letter that she has been diagnosed with PTSD. Although she is under the care of doctors and mental health professionals, she said that she also believes that “the most inexpensive and perhaps the best medicine in the world is words. Kind words…positive words…words that help people who feel ashamed of an invisible illness to overcome their shame and feel free.”
The Born This Way Foundation has lived out that hope by working to combat bullying, to empower young people, to provide mental and emotional health resources to youth in need of them, and to provide safe spaces for those who feel like outsiders. On several of her tours, the foundation sent along a “Born Brave Bus,” which acted as a youth drop-in center in an initiative against bullying and homophobia. The tours spawned the Born Brave Nation, dedicated to youth-led and community-based kindness initiatives, including projects to address poor body image and promote body positivity and efforts to curb online and offline bullying.
Another offshoot of Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation is Channel Kindness. Each year, it deploys a corps of 50 youth reporters in communities across the country to recognize and report on activities that promote human kindness, compassion, and bravery. The stories on Channel Kindness are inspirational and hopeful, showing us that there are people in our communities spreading love and understanding. Like One Love’s #Lovebetter Pop Up Shop in New York, which posed as a Valentine’s Day gift shop that was actually an interactive educational event displaying the warning signs of emotional abuse. Or 96 Bricks, a non-profit dedicated to spreading hope to the children in displaced or underdeveloped communities by sending them Legos as a tool for constructive play. Even a story of self-hatred as a result of bullying ends with the creation of the International Day of Self Love.
This past year, the Born This Way Foundation partnered with donorschoose.org to provide funding to almost 700 projects supporting mental health and wellness in schools across the country. The stories of these projects can be found here. Reading through the letters from these classrooms and schools shows the hope and encouragement that something as small as installing light filters or providing art materials can give to students.
On Gaga’s 32nd Birthday, we encourage you to celebrate by supporting her vision. Visit Channel Kindness. Share your story of bravery or compassion. Donate to the Born This Way Foundation. Or just be a source of kindness, love, and bravery to those around you. As Gaga sings in Hey Girl, we can make it easy if we lift each other.
Happy Birthday, Lady Gaga.