Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (/ˈstɛfəniː dʒɜːrməˈnɒtə/ STEF-ə-nee jur-mə-NOT-ə; born March 28, 1986), known professionally as Lady Gaga, is an American singer, songwriter and actress. She performed initially in theater, appearing in high school plays, and studied at CAP21 through NYU's Tisch School of the Arts before dropping out to pursue a musical career. After leaving a rock band, participating in the Lower East Side's avant garde performance art circuit, and being dropped from a contract with Def Jam Recordings, Gaga worked as a songwriter for Sony/ATV Music Publishing. From there, Akon noticed her vocal abilities and helped her to sign a joint deal with Interscope Records and his own KonLive Distribution.
Her debut album The Fame (2008) was a critical and commercial success that produced international chart-topping singles such as "Just Dance" and "Poker Face". A follow-up EP, The Fame Monster (2009), was met with a similar reception and "Bad Romance", "Telephone", and "Alejandro" were released, becoming successful singles. Her second full-length album Born This Way was released in 2011, topping the charts in more than 20 countries, including the United States, where it sold over one million copies in its first week. The album produced the number-one single "Born This Way". Her third album Artpop, released in 2013, topped the US charts and included the successful single "Applause". In 2014, Gaga released a collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett titled Cheek to Cheek, which became her third consecutive number one in the United States. For her work in the television series American Horror Story: Hotel, Gaga won a Golden Globe Award in 2016. She became the first woman to have four US number one albums in the 2010s when her fifth studio album Joanne (2016) topped the nation's charts.
With global album and single sales of 27 million and 146 million respectively, as of January 2016, she is one of the best-selling musicians of all time. Her achievements include twelve Guinness World Records, three Brit Awards, and six Grammy Awards. She is also the first artist to win the Songwriters Hall of Fame's Contemporary Icon Award. Other accolades include a Fashion Icon lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (2011), regular appearances on Billboard's Artists of the Year lists and Forbes's power and earnings rankings. In 2013, Gaga finished second on Time's readers' poll of the most influential people of the past ten years, while in 2015, she was named Billboard's Woman of the Year. She is known for her philanthropic work and social activism, including LGBT rights and her own non-profit organization, the Born This Way Foundation, which focuses on promoting youth empowerment and combating bullying.