In a lot of ways, Lady Gaga’s new Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, is your standard pop star documentary, in the vein of Madonna’s Truth or Dare or Katy Perry’s Part of Me. It follows her around as she’s writing and recording songs and music videos for her album Joanne, and preparing for concert appearances (including her performance at Super Bowl XLI). There are glimpses of her family life, and Lady Gaga, or in this case, regular old Stefani Germanotta, attends a baptism as the godmother to one of her bandmates’ babies. You meet her parents and grandparents. All standard celebrity documentary material.
What sets Gaga: Five Foot Two apart is Lady Gaga’s willingness to put her struggle with chronic pain, specifically her fibromyalgia, front and center in her story. In fact, the whole doc is shot through with pain and trauma, and the struggle to maintain not just her sanity but continue to function at a high level. The film opens with Gaga getting out of bed and getting a treatment for her hip pain. So right away we know that pain is going to be front and center.
About 38 minutes into the film, after a moving scene in which Gaga plays a song for her father and grandmother, we see her in a full blown fibro flare, which at the time of the filming was undiagnosed. We see Lady Gaga, lying on the couch under a towel, crying, describing “the entire right side of my body in a spasm.” It’s powerful, and something that every person with fibromyalgia has gone through. She even acknowledges, to her credit, I think, how her privilege as a massively famous and wealthy entertainer allows her access to constant and excellent healthcare. “I think of other people that have, maybe something like this, but that are struggling to figure out what it is, and don’t have the money to have someone help them,” she says. “And I don’t know what I’d do without all these people to help me. What the hell would I do?”
It’s a good question and one that many, if not most, people with fibromyalgia ask themselves on a daily basis. We know how hard it is to get a doctor to take it seriously, how stigmatized chronic pain is. And most people don’t have millions of dollars and nurses as part of their entourage. But it’s still pretty amazing to see her go from that to performing a lights-out rendition of “Bad Romance” for Tony Bennett’s birthday just hours later.
Next, we get a montage of her working, squeezing past paparazzi, recording radio station greetings, surprising fans. In a way it’s inspiring, to see someone go from being in so much pain to being non-stop “on” for an adoring, voracious public. Again, this is all standard celebrity pop star stuff: Gaga dealing with a public breakup, worrying about whether her long-time fans will like her new look, will the record be any good?
But it’s the fibro stuff that sticks with you. We see her visiting her doctor, listing her symptoms and medications. This is one of those “Stars, they’re just like us” moments that celebrities try to pull off, and not always successfully. But Lady Gaga manages to do it. She gets a trigger point injection and we get to see it, all the while she’s stressing out because the new album is leaking all over the internet.
“Awareness” is one of those weird terms that gets thrown around a lot for diseases like fibromyalgia, and I’m not always sure it’s enough for people to just be “aware” that something exists. But Lady Gaga’s decision to show herself in so much pain, and to let us into her doctor’s office with her, seems to be doing more than just raising awareness. It really can chip away at the stigma of these chronic conditions. Nobody could ever, watching Lady Gaga go through her preparations for performing at the Super Bowl, and call her “lazy,” which is a common slur thrown at people with chronic pain conditions. I suppose there are some who might look at this and say, “Well, if Lady Gaga can do it, why can’t you get of out of bed?”
But completely misses the point. As Gaga herself points out, she has a lot of money to pay for world-class medical care, money that not everybody has. But there’s also a vulnerability that she shows that a lot of celebrities of her stature wouldn’t, and that’s a big deal.
Definitely watch the movie, especially if you’re a fan. But even if you’re not, it’s still an important film, for showing fibromyalgia in such an intimate setting.
21 thoughts on “Lady Gaga’s Netflix Documentary puts Fibromyalgia Front and Center”
Fibromyalgia is horrible as I have had it for years. The pain is so bad at times I just want to stay in bed and not even move. The meds help done but no one understands what I talk about they look at me like I’m crazy ! The pain is real and you just want to give up at times I have to keep goingso I do.
I am right there with you, fellow warrior. I have been in a constant flair for more than 2 weeks and have to work on top of it all. We are in this together
Hi there I’ve had this since I was young, it’s been so bad lately that I haven’t even been able to work for 8 weeks, people look at you and don’t think there is anything wrong but they don’t feel the constant pain…
Hi! I’m a 46 year old female that has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia for 3 years now. I never even heard of it before until I had a surgery for Carpal Tunnel and had the worst healing process afterwards. I couldn’t describe the pain I was having and I honestly felt like I was dying slowly. I don’t work anymore because of it and my quality of life has gone down the tubes. I wished that people would understand it more and why they call it the “invisible disease”, because people don’t understand it and they look at you like “you look fine” but if it were talked about more and making it known out there what we go through, maybe people would understand the chronic suffering in pain we have when we have flare ups. Maybe they should have an actual medication that is for Fibromyalgia instead of being a guinea pig! I take Lyrica which doesn’t do much for me but helps in other ways and it’s crazy how much it is if you don’t know about the coupon and how Insurance doesn’t pay for it, or there’s no generic for it to. I’ve tried others like Gabapentin and they don’t work or your so exhausted from the meds that your a zombie for the day. I even tried it at night but woke up in the morning so tired and in a brain fog that it would be hard to function at work. I used to sell cars at a busy dealership and you need to be awake, and have the energy, and able to focus on your job, because your dealing with people, and there kids, and driving them around so they could enjoy the ride before they get in the drivers seat. You run around like crazy and it’s from start to finish with shaking there hands and thanking them for allowing me to help them with a safe vehicle for there family. when I’m in pain I don’t even want to talk, nor even think about selling a vehicle to try and make a living bc if you don’t sell cars you don’t get a paycheck! I wish that Fibromyalgia were talked about more so people would understand what it does and how it make you feel. The one thing I would say is, that I wished I heard of Fibromyalgia and I wished that the Dr. I truly trusted in knew more about it and not have been so “scalpel happy” and had wanted me to have some therapy before he had cut me open. He thought I were lying about the horrible pain and made me feel like I was trying to get more pain meds when I told him that I knew there were something seriously wrong and when he through his hands up at me and told me there’s nothing else he could do and said to go and see 3 specialist, 1 rheumatologist 2 Neurologist 3 Oncologist yes a cancer dr.! When I had went to the Oncologist from Penn. he had said that if your Dr. knew more about Fibromyalgia then he wouldn’t of cut you so quickly and would of known NOT TO HAVE DONE THE SURGERIES!! Bc with someone with Fibro should never get cut open unless it’s life threatening! Your cutting into nerves and upset them to where you have over active nerve pain. Maybe if there were an “actual diagnosis “ them maybe today I wouldn’t be suffering. My husband left me because he said to me exact words I don’t want to have to take care of you anymore and told me to figure it out! And hasn’t been back since. Like I said earlier that I don’t work anymore bc of my disease that’s beyond my control and I’m on a fixed income. I don’t know how I’m going to make ends meet but I will find away because I can’t let Fibro win with this too. Hopefully one day there will be a cure.
My heart goes out to you. Be strong. You have to find a kinder doctor. My doctor is so supportive and open to trying new meds. I have confidence in her, and that’s a relief in itself.
I’m sorry your husband left. Some people just can’t cope when life isn’t perfect. Look after yourself, find good people to be with.
It’s awful gives you depression and chronic pain funny feelings etc
Thank you, Lady Gaga for sharing your story & generously promoting awareness of Fibromyalgia via your celebrity! In a world where your fans are hungry for anything related to you I understand this took courage to open yourself up to comments & become so vulnerable by sharing your personal struggles. I had to give up my beloved career as an RN working in the NICU after an injury & the subsequent development of Fibro. To this day, I mourn the career I loved & was so proud of!
At 66 y/o, I can’t get enough of your music! I play the soundtrack of “A Star is Born” at least once a day & never tire of listening to it! It inspires me to keep fighting for understanding of Fibromyalgia, what those afflicted must endure & encourages me to strive for some semblance of an ordinary life! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Yes, I have also had it when I was young but just fiagnosed and learning more about how these occurred symptoms are not in my head. Very sad we do get the “She is faking it or carzy stair look or well I have pain too” I don’t like feeling that I have to keep keep explaining to others why I miss out on stuff knowing they don’t believe! The syptoms are so real. Don’t like having to push theough the pain to suffer up to 2 weeks later just for 2 days of feeling okay and at a young age of being in my late thirties. I wish I can get Disability to except me! I just can’t keep going like this especially w 3 little ones.
I’m laying here miserable rn .I have barely been able to walk, have had hives,nausea, insomnia or painful little bits of sleep, headache,and more and this is just day four of this flare! This is WITH an intrathecal pump for dilaudid! I cant imagine how bad off I’d be without it!! Gentle hugs to fellow spoonies!
I recently went to a panel discussion of doctors, pbysical therapists, and psychologist on pain and care giving. They talked about pain and though THEY were sincere in what they thought and presented themselves as educated and knowledgable not one of them truely know pain. The unspoken undertone was that if you really did what they told you to do your pain would resolve. Anyone with Fibromyalgia knows that we tryed all and everything and their disregaurd for what we tell them makes for dispair. They seem to think you can resolve by mind over matter, what’s really the matter with you? I was diagnosed over 20 years ago and truely suffer all of the time. I feel hopeless and there is a stigma that even unconsiously, is held against pain patients. We are considered to be drug seekers and weak.
I also struggle with this disease along with radiculapathy, degenerative disc disease, arthritis and add a bit of Lyme disease to make it the perfect pain storm. I cannot tell you how happy I am that there is FINALLY a documentary being filmed about this! After showing symptoms since 10 years old it has been heart wrenching to try and explain to friends and family how this debilitated my life and body. Thank you for sharing
I’ve been recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia by my PCP at the beginning of the year even though I’ve been complaining of my symptoms for over a decade, several years back I ended up in a wheelchair for a month. I’ve been unable to work since 02/2019 due to the severity of my flare up, I’ve went through the wheelchair and electric cart phases between then and now. I am in constant pain from neck to toes and getting sleep is a bit difficult so I am constantly fatigued. I try to explain to others not because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. On some days I can complete certain tasks and other days I just can’t.. doesn’t mean that I’m faking it. My pain is very real but I ha e three beautiful kids I need to take care of and keep fighting for. Prayers to all of us.
I have had fibromyalgia for 20 years or longer. It’s debilitating and excruciating and frustrating, terribly misunderstood by everyone even the ones you love most. With advent of the new drug prescribing laws, even more impossible to treat.
Hello, I too have had Fibromyalgia for years. Some days are better then others but the pain never oes away. Infact new symptons develope all the time. I have recently developed a tremor on my entire right side and it scares the hell out of me. Somedays it feels ike my right hand is going to shake itself off my arm. The bad part is that I am right handed. Simple things like eating, writing, putting makeup on is becoming an off and on challenge daily. I refuse to give into old Fibro so I keep mypositive attitude and go on with my days. We are warriors…..
I’m 18 and was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I have been in a wheelchair for 6 months and going on longer, if you have any tips feel free to share. I had to withdraw from my senior year and my life has just fallen apart.
This is so sad for you. Please try and be positive. Be brave. I am thinking of you. Find a doctor you can trust, try different meds. I have great relief with codeine.
Look after yourself.
I hope Lady Gaga can do to help make awareness and raise money for research to alleviate this hell on earth disease. Elizabeth Taylor did this for HIV and raised millions. I saw the film and it is riveting. My heart goes out to her even though she has money for around the clock care.
While I appreciate Lady Gaga coming forward to share her story, why does it take her stature to bring awareness of the seriousness of this disease? We have all been fighting but don’t have the financial backing to even make a splash in the water, yet her story is so unique? Most of us work, and have very hard jobs that do not allow us to bow out when the going gets tough….I get it though at some point we all have to bow out but at a price that we feel and our families heed the burden. Life as a spoonie is hard, much more hard than the average and glamorizing all of it does not bring light to the severity to those still suffering or the fact that we will NEVER get better. It is like luggage…..you get to keep this shit FOREVER. That said, no ill will to Lady Gaga, she struggles too just on a very different level if care and comfort than the rest of us.
I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia last year .I was also reffered to Physio, occupational terapist,physicians and given all this treatments but i tell you it does not help to me.I cannot sleep without a drug. I have tried tumeric ,ginger you name them all dont work for me. Fortunately for me i had a cover for dissability so i was paid by my insurance. But i also wish that Lady Gaga can make awareness of this disease. Its so bad becoz even you partner does not believe you are sick becoz you dont look sick whereas you are dying with pain.
I am 53 and was diagnosed with fibro when I was 35. But honestly symptoms started when I was a child . My legs would ache so bad and my mom would say it was growing pains . I noticed when I was about 23 the pain in my feet began. When I would get up and stand I could barely walk . As I got older it felt like the pain kept going up my legs until I ached from head to toe . I would not wish this chronic pain on anyone . I have raised 5 kids , had farm animals to take care of ,was very involved in my children’s lives and activities. I volunteered for everything with them . I noticed a few hours at the mall would cause me to ache . I’m now to the point if I do anything “Normal” like go up and down stairs , grocery shop, spend a weekend doing activities like a normal person , I am down in bed for 3/4 days. My legs ache to the point that I can not use them . Taking showers have become a difficult task, ive fallen out of the tub a few times . I actually have fallen on a pier at the ocean where my knee got messed up bad , I have fallen in my kitchen twice once wound up with a concussion, another time fell and landed on my foot and leg then taking a trip to the ER . I used to be able to deal with the pain . I am having a hard time mentally excepting that I’m slowly losing the function of my legs . In the past 5 yrs my fibro has become pretty debilitating. I have grandkids that o can’t physically watch unless they are 4 yrs old and up .
Ive tried a list of medications that either make me more sick or don’t work . Stress is a big key in this . The only way I get back to functioning after my legs become useless, is to sleep for days .
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