Before you hit play, Lady Gaga’s documentary is not what you think it is…

Before you hit play, Lady Gaga’s documentary is not what you think it is…

By Donna Gregory Burch.

There’s been an incredible buzz within the fibromyalgia community since pop star Lady Gaga officially announced her fibro diagnosis as part of the publicity leading up to the Sept. 22 release of her Netflix documentary, “Gaga: Five Foot Two” (FF2).

Donna Gregory Burch

My Facebook feed has been flooded with news articles about Lady Gaga’s diagnosis and what it means for those with fibromyalgia. Articles about the documentary indicated she would be sharing her life with chronic pain, leading some to assume – myself included – that her illness would be a big part of the film.

With all the hype, I was super excited to watch FF2 over the weekend, but it wasn’t what I expected.

I think a lot of us mistakenly believed fibromyalgia would figure more prominently in the film than it did. In fact, fibromyalgia was never even mentioned during the one hour, 40 minute documentary. (I’m guessing her diagnosis may have come after the filming of FF2, which explains why no one uttered the word fibromyalgia.)

About 20 minutes into FF2, as I watched Lady Gaga talk about her self-esteem issues, I started wondering, “What the heck does this have to do with fibromyalgia?” It would be another few minutes before there was any indication that Lady Gaga suffers from chronic pain.

In total, I think there were three main scenes where she shared her health issues, totaling maybe 10 minutes of the documentary. The rest of the film was focused on her life as a performer – how she writes and records music, how she prepares for shows, etc. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just not what I and so many others in the fibromyalgia community were expecting.

As I watched FF2, I tried to see it through the eyes of both a chronic pain patient and a healthy person. As someone who lives with chronic pain, it felt like FF2 sent mixed messages. In one scene, there’s Lady Gaga on the sofa, crying because she’s in pain, but in another scene, she’s rolling around in the dirt, singing and dancing while filming a music video. The two scenes just don’t mesh.

If I was a young, healthy fan, I would’ve thought chronic pain wasn’t a very big deal in Lady Gaga’s life. It seemed more like an afterthought – just something she had to deal with as a performer. I may have even assumed, “Oh, she’s just sore because of all the dancing she does!” I wonder how many viewers will think, “If fibromyalgia is so bad, how is she able to sing and dance like that night after night? She must be overdramatizing her pain!” Some critics have already accused her of faking her illness as an excuse to cancel her European tour.

Whether intentional or not, I feel like the media misrepresented the intent of FF2. If you’re a fan of Lady Gaga as a performance artist, then you will love FF2. The singing, the dancing, the costumes, the makeup – I can see where some would find that entertaining to watch – but if you were hoping FF2 was going to give an accurate representation of life with fibromyalgia, then you will be sadly disappointed. The scenes involving her chronic pain are a small fraction of the entire documentary. Still, it’s a fraction we didn’t have before, and for that I am grateful. Any increase in awareness is still a win for the fibromyalgia community – no matter how small.

Now, it’s your turn: Have you watched “Gaga: Five Foot Two” yet? What did you think? Share in the comments below! 

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog,  FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

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Authored by: Donna Gregory Burch

There are 25 comments for this article
  1. Dj at 2:11 pm

    LAdy Gaga is my favorite music artist probably forever. But as a fibro sufferer I feel this is a wrong diagnosis or bad misrepresentation. I myself who feel I don’t have it as bad as most can barely exercise and can only function at 1/100 of what Gaga is doing. Her pain is absolutely real, I just don’t know anyone with fibro that can function that highly.

  2. Tim Mason at 8:28 am

    I worked in Industry for 44 years. I have no media outlet in which to gather a following of mourners for my ailments. I don’t look for any either. Dying is part of living. Living is hard. At 31 miss Gaga is a millennial.

  3. Maureen Mollico at 6:31 pm

    I watched the documentary. I’m not quick to negatively judge it since so sure it was supposed to mainly be all about announcing her chronic pain but rather about the FACT that she lives in chronic pain while carrying on her career and simply now letting the public know this about her. Two things I noticed…they did not especially mention Fibromyalgia and I did notice her asst. giving her a pill which in my opinion may indicate that not only does she need meds to help but that it just so may have been an opioid. Also, she expresses her anxiety issues.
    She works hard and she suffers. Bottom line. Her suffering causes her to take it out on her staff though.
    She had her hip injury and has suffered since. Perhaps it is RSD/CRPS?? Time will tell where she ends up as she ages… God bless her. She’s an incredible and strong young person.

  4. Jennifer P. Cloward at 10:47 am

    I agree completely. I was very disappointed in the documentary. I fast forwarded most of it. Might not help the fibro community much as she mentions pains, uses all her resources to thwart her own pain – many of which we will never have access to – and most of it was just about her life. Not worth watching if you ask me

  5. Donna at 9:17 am

    I watched her .i cried because i know the pain all too well. The only thing im disapointed in is all the negitive comments here.shes 30. Im 51 was working 10 hr days killing myself.be in bed for a week sometimes. Maybe she feels better most days i wish i did maybe the thc really helps her. I know i am gettin my card soon for the thc cbd tincture. Maybe she didnt feel comfortable crying in pain which that showed. She has to push herself to her limit she has lots of people expecting it. Its her career .i wish and pray i could get my life back and be like her again. Maybe shes also doing some pain management we dont know yet. Im sure she would share. But we are no one to judge this young women. Have hope we can feel that good one day again and she doesnt feel good shes in pain like the rest of us .for everyone thats against the medical marijuana maybe that is what helps her get thru the say. I smoked it and honestly i was able to clean really good and had energy to go food shopping. If it doesn’t work for you doesnt mean it doesnt work for others. If your against it and never at least tried it you might be missing out on relieving your pain. Cbc doesnt get you high. Thc does but with whats out there you can adujust it. Just like painkillers except we are killing ourselfs with all this manmade chemicals we put in our bodys .why ? Because we were raised marijuana is illegal. Well the gov. Has been studying and growing it for too long keepping it a secret that it kills cancer cells and stops seizures. Now we know. Annd you know what its proven it stops pain. It’s chemical free and its natural.my god dont judge her for it. You think that was easy for her ? No i dont think so. Be positive so she will share whats shes doing dont shut her down.just be positive .it will get you throughout the day.ok my fingers are numb now so i will stop. Just had to vent.
    Donna/mother/grandmother/warrior.

  6. Caryn at 7:52 pm

    I choose to reserve comment on Ms.Gaga’s medical status. I agree with most other who commented that she physically did not seem to be in Chronic Pain that Fibromyalgia bring on.
    We see her in a car asking for a join and I have no issue if she has chosen to use that for pain mgmt.
    The diagnosis of Fibromyalgia in the context of the video was unclear to me as well as when the diagnosis was made.
    She has extreme control over her media image and content that’s released to the public and of what she wants seen or not. Nothing we see that she about her is by accident. Of course this is her career and due to her elevated status, she has many options to get care in her private home or on the road (that the average person does not) and access to top private medical care.
    I was hoping she would have spoken to what impact the pain has had on her life, on her career, how long it has been effecting her, and more important, what she was doing to manage the pain. I’m sorry but the message was unclear. I know it’s a big deal to cancel such big shows and tours, so I can’t imagine her faking it for an out. I want to believe she will come out in a more focused and sincere story regarding this diagnosis as unfortunately this did elicit any empathy from many with full blown Fibromyalgia, who cannot even function or earn a living, enjoy a vacation due its limitations.
    And I read her twitter account today and the focus on her health was not primary, it was of her award nominations for her newest album. Sorry, but very confusing, but I will wait to see where it goes.
    I hope she is being sincere and honest with the public and others with Chronic Pain Patients who were looking to her as a possible advocate.
    Nothing is more important in these hostile Pain Deniers times, than to have a face of such status as Gaga’s to advocate and speak truth to power.

  7. Cherylmarie at 2:56 pm

    I didn’t think it was that great, I was expecting more info on her chronic pain. I don’t have fibro so can only speak about my own pain issues. There are days when I can barely function but I also have great days where I can get a lot done. I never know what kind of day I will have when I wake up.

    I watched a reality show where one of the woman was diagnosed with Lyme disease . Her friends thought she was faking it because she had great days and posted pictures on social media but also had times when she couldn’t get out of bed for days. They didn’t understand this. How can she be running around on vacation and other times confined to bed. I think for those of us whose pain can be up and down all the time, our illness is not beleived or not as bad as it really is.

  8. Cathy at 12:55 pm

    I was disappointed too. It showed a few scenes where she was in pain but didn’t mention fibromyalgia at all. I kind of felt like she was promoting her music. She did mention something about smoking weed once. It could be easily missed. I watched with my husband hoping he’d understand more but all he saw was a half naked and a naked breast scene girl that was pretty darn active! Lol. Fail for me.

  9. Eileen at 11:09 am

    U better believe she uses opiates & I am not sure she shld as she has a self admiiteded hv of using several street drugs such as cocaine. Not such a great model for chronic pain.

  10. Diana at 10:32 am

    I watched the whole thing and was very disappointed. It was nothing I expected. I like her but she represented fibromyalgia in a bad way. It was like if you push yourself you can just work thru it. It’s not that easy and simple for most of us. I wish her well tho.

  11. Eugenia at 9:44 am

    I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t touch on the Topic😯. She did show though that u can survive & succeed w This Pain when u have Massage & Physical Therapists at your beckon-call. I have suffered for 23yrs. & have Pain 365/24/7 your Body Adapts & u live your LIFE the Best u can. My Life would be so much better & successful if I could have Masssage, a Hot Tub, Swimming Pool, PT Therapist etc…..whenever I needed them. But Alas I’m not Rich & my insurance is not great. So I Can’t…..so when a celebrity does come out how does that benefit me it just makes me see what could be, If Only😭

  12. Kathy Hastings at 8:54 am

    I think the two different scenes “do mesh.” Why? Because, we have good days and bad days; sometimes, the aftermath of doing too much on a good day, causes some pretty bad, “bad days.”

  13. John at 8:41 am

    A couple of other points:

    She is 31 years-old so her body could still perform well on good days when she can accomplish what she has trained it to do over the course of several years.

    Fibro is a different experience for all of us and she is just at the beginning of her diagnosis so the fact that she can still perform on a good day, to me does not indicate she was misdiagnosed.

    I will reserve judgment for now and observe her actions over the coming years. Since flareups cannot be conveniently scheduled – they happen when they happen – I believe the greatest indicator that she does in fact have Fibro will be a continuous pattern of more cancelled appearances.

  14. laurie oliver at 8:23 am

    I think the documentary was interesting to see her life, how she creates music, loves her family etc. BUT this was not a documentary on her having fibro. That was only a little part of the whole and she never mentioned the word. I wish she would have done more to shed light on this awful, invisible illness

  15. Kim at 8:22 am

    I agree with the sentiment that fibro was just a side effect and no big deal. I remember thinking to myself- shoot I wish o could run around like that! I did before fibro! Now that would just put me in bed for days with extreme pain and exhaustion that opioids wouldn’t help.

    She had the power to be a great influence on our community. I hope she uses her power in the future to advocate for us. We surely could use the help.

  16. John at 8:03 am

    One confusing facet of Fibro to the outside world is the common scenario in which we are able to perform physical activities one day and potentially be bedridden the next. I have many times dealt with “You could do it yesterday, why not today?” And I reply with “THAT’S Fibromyalgia!” It’s overwhelming to even have to explain myself as those who know me know I was never a lazy person but rather an overachiever who pushed himself too hard for too long.

    I watched the Gaga film and the part I related to most was how she too pushes herself to the brink and then suffers dire physical and emotional consequences.

    I also was surprised the term Fibromyalgia was never mentioned and arrived at the same conclusion, that she may not have received her dx until after post-production. Just prior to the films release, she canceled a big show in Brazil and now her entire European tour. That’s huge for an artist known for her love of performing. So while the film does not fully illustrate the life of a Fibro suffer, her life actions certainly do.

    As we all know here, Fibromyalgia hasn’t had and is in desperate need of a public voice. Gaga is well aware of this fact and I remain hopeful that she will be that future voice for our community.

  17. Sharna at 7:39 am

    I completely agree with the authors perspective. As a severe fibro suffer who is admitted to hospital for pain management 3 monthly along with 20 medications a day, I still could not even squat like gaga did in the first few minutes of the film! She may have chronic pain but I believe it’s probably a mild form. I watch in awe as she stood at the oven cooking, walked up stairs all things fibro suffers find difficult from what I know let alone performance & travelling. Loved her doco but was disappointed fibro was not mentioned & chronic pain glossed over.

  18. StevefromMA at 7:26 am

    I, also, was disappointed with lack of the F word as mainstream media had touted that as prominent. I watched it and noted only two scenes with pain, both suggestive of fibromyalgia to me. She also has a (a very odd) childhood trauma, the death of her aunt Joanne who she never met, found in some with FM. Her unbelievable athleticism suggests she has an odd FM, but don’t we all, of excellent health punctuated by pain flares after she crazily pushes her limits like a traumatized person. Despite her self-centeredness, I think she is an empathic person who might be able to help the fibro community. I hope so. Time will tell. As she noted, we don’t all have her resources though my own journey suggests all the resources I’ve tried haven’t impacted my pain or improved my quality of life.

  19. Jamie at 6:33 am

    Watched it last night, thought it was a great glimpse into her personal and professional life. The documentary doesn’t present itself as a “chronic pain” or “fibromyalgia” story so don’t expect it to be. What it DOES do is clearly show the debilitating effects of large-scale pain, both mentally and physically, while also demonstrating that one must live one’s life (including performing) while coping with pain. I don’t think the scene of her dancing in a video at all negates the fact that she has pain. In fact, they clearly demonstrate that she had pain throughout and after that shoot. We can’t stop living – that’s the inspirational message. And that doesn’t minimize the struggle in the least for me. Rock on, Lady Gaga! You have so much heart, soul, and passion for what you do and who you are!

  20. Linda at 6:25 am

    I also felt the same. The dialogue of the media was all about her and her chronic pain. It was minutely covered, very disappointed.

  21. Rhonda potter at 5:50 am

    I think she probably turns to other alternatives besides opiates too!
    Just saying, be prepared

  22. Jodi Marsh at 5:44 am

    I’m not sure why people assumed this documentary was about her having Fibro. It just so hapoens that the movie was released at the same time she was hospitalized. Now my question to you is Don’t you ever have times when you’re feeling good and can be active? I do and during those times it’s hard for people to grasp the I’ve got Fibro. I’d much rather see a documentary that’s true and real over one that purely focus’s on only an illness and not the good stuff. Let’s be real.

  23. Patricia Richardson at 5:41 am

    I was disappointed as well, for the fibro community. We were really counting on her help to create a greater awareness of the life challenging problems we face. I am in the midst of a flare as we speak, and a performance she as she displayed on many occasion would have put me in the hospital.

  24. Michelle at 5:34 am

    I watched the movie and I’m shocked that Lady Gaga has received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia! I can’t believe she has fibro after watching F2F. She wouldn’t be able to do the movements and if she did have fibro, she’d be bedridden for who knows how long afterwards. Fatigue is also a huge part of fibromyalgia.

    Lady Gaga mentions her emotional health issues, but fibromyalgia?

    I think that if she was indeed diagnosed, then the doctor who gave the diagnosis, needs educating about this very physical, life-altering and often devastating condition.

    Also, I think the diagnosis is loosely given to a female with pain who didn’t have, “a perfect childhood,” as a doctor once asked me (if mine was), when I questioned the diagnosis.

  25. Tim Mason at 3:45 am

    She has probable beaten herself down, on a poor diet, no quality protein. She is what…31 years old. Rheumatoid arthritis is the lest of her worries. Did she say anything about smoking weed?

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