My Life As Lady Gaga: Birthday In The Bushes
Renée Nicole Gray has spent eight years performing worldwide as a top Lady Gaga Impersonator. The My Life As Lady Gaga series follows her adventures.
Tom snuck me out the back door of his house so his wife wouldn’t see me. It was bitter cold outside and I was skantilly clad in just my bra, bikini bottoms and fishnets. Together we found a large bush in the backyard area, that allowed me to see into his living room. We both agreed this was the best place for me to hide for the time being. “Ok, see you soon.” Tom said before rushing back inside the house.
I peeked through the bushes into Tom’s picture perfect living room. Inside, I could see his wife standing by the TV with a glass of wine in her hand. She looked so happy and youthful for a woman about to turn fifty. Photos of their very happy life together were scattered around on the walls and fireplace mantle. I had no idea what her reaction was going to be when she found out about me.
After shivering outside for about fifteen minutes in the cold, I finally saw Tom give me a signal to make a break for it from inside the sliding doors. The opening bars of Bad Romance started to play from a rented karaoke system, as I headed toward the living room and burst into an ongoing 50th birthday party.
“Ra ra rah ah-ah-ah!
Ro mah ro-mah-mah
Want your bad romance!”
Tom’s wife and all of her friends started screaming with excitement and suprise as I launched into a twenty minute performance of Lady Gaga songs. They danced, sang along and were having a blast. One lady danced around the room, while wine unknowingly spilled from her cup, onto my silver costume the whole way.
Out of all of the types of performances I had done, these house parties gave me the most anxiety. Busting into a 10x20 room to sing, when no one knows you are coming can be scary. Performing in a living room with no stage, bad sound and no lighting effects is far from good production value.
Lady Gaga once said the key to a great show is to “Play a dive bar like an arena, and play an an arena like a dive bar.” When applied to party entertainment, I guessed that would mean trying to play this living room like it was a giant Bar Mitzvah hall.
Having worked as an impersonator for about five years on this night, I was starting to feel especially burnt out. I was sick of having a face that looked like Lady Gaga’s, sick of singing Bad Romance and Poker Face, and sick of this being the ONLY skill I had that could make me a living wage. I often felt more like a court jester than the superstar I was portraying. Despite this, I dug my seven inch high heels into that fancy rich people carpet, and gave the best performance I could with what I had. I still felt like it wasn’t enough. I always carried this underlying worry that my clients would be disappointed and demand a refund. Luckily Tom and his group were anything but. After I was done singing, I took photos and selfies with everyone at the party. They were all so excited to post them online and text them to their kids. I even recorded a few video messages for some of the guest’s grandchildren before the night ended.
Just before I headed upstairs to change, Tom tipped me with a hundred dollar bill and said something that I never expected. “My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and is in remission. She’s had a really rough time and I haven’t seen her happy, have this much fun, or smile that big in awhile. You were really fabulous, Thank You.”
As I took off my platinum blonde wig in the spare bedroom, I felt incredibly moved that my little tribute act had actually meant something important to someone. Though I was feeling so burnt out on many aspects of being an impersonator, knowing that I had made Tom’s wife happy that night made freezing in the bushes, and my last five years playing Lady Gaga feel worth it.