Why Lady Gaga Imagined Whitney Houston Singing ‘Born This Way’ While She Wrote It

TL;DR:

  • Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” wouldn’t be the same without Whitney Houston.
  • Gaga stressed that Madonna was not her only influence even though she was a huge fan.
  • “Born This Way” was the first of many pop culture tributes to Houston over the past several years.
Whitney Houston wearing a coat
Whitney Houston | Steve Rapport / Contributor

Lady Gaga‘s “Born This Way” was inspired by Whitney Houston. During an interview, Gaga explained why she pretended to be Houston when she wrote the song. Notably, she thanked Houston at the Grammys.

Lady Gaga revealed Madonna isn’t her only musical influence

During a 2011 interview with Billboard, Gaga discussed her feelings about Madonna. “Everyone knows how much I love and adore Madonna,” she said. “What a huge fan I am. I don’t think there is a female on the planet that is not inspired by Madonna … on so many levels.

“I was honored to hear from her — I’ve met her in the past and worked with her and … she was so supportive and loving and … I think what people are hearing, to be precise, is the spirit of the early ’90s,” she said.

Gaga discussed the influences on the music she was making during her Born This Way era. “It’s not just Madonna, it’s Whitney Houston, it’s En Vogue, it’s TLC,” she said. “It was ’90s-dance-early-gospel-fusion-with-pop-music, and that’s precisely what I intended for it to sound like.”

Why Lady Gaga thanked Whitney Houston while discussing ‘Born This Way’ at the Grammys

During her speech at the 53rd Grammy Awards in 2011, Gaga said she needed to talk about Houston’s legacy. “I need to say ‘Thank you’ tonight to Whitney Houston,” Gaga said. “I wanted to thank Whitney because when I wrote ‘Born This Way,’ I imagined she was singing it because I wasn’t secure enough in myself to imagine I was a superstar. 

“So, Whitney, I imagined you were singing ‘Born This Way’ when I wrote it,” she added. “Thank you.”

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Gaga’s empowering anthem “Born This Way” became something of a modern standard. Alice Cooper, Katy Perry, Madonna, and the cast of Glee each covered the song. One episode of Glee was even titled “Born This Way.” “Weird Al” Yankovic spoofed Gaga’s flamboyant outfits in his “Born This Way” parody “Perform This Way.”

In the years since “Born This Way” ‘s release, pop culture has produced several major tributes to Houston. For example, an episode of Glee titled “Dance with Somebody” featured several of her most famous tunes. “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” appeared in a fantasy sequence from the film Love, Simon. Later this year, a biopic about the singer’s life named I Wanna Dance with Somebody will premiere, with Naomi Ackie from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker playing Houston. 

“Born This Way” shows Houston had a major legacy on pop culture and that legacy continues to this day.