I could be forgiven for thinking that the Gaga carbon copy I saw when I first walked into the MTV studio tonight for Lady Gaga's "MTV First: Lady Gaga" live appearance was Lady Gaga herself. Until I got down the long backstage hall -- which was positively electric with the rush of Gaga's glittering rarefied air -- and realized I was pretty much the only person (male or female) NOT dressed as Gaga. Oops.
MTV put out the call for her fans to attend the exclusive "MTV First: Lady Gaga" live event, including the TV premiere of her "Yoü & I" video and a live chat with Gaga herself. And Gaga's monster army heeded the call, turned out and dressed up in nothing short of Gaga's own personal hall of fame: Gaga from her "Bad Romance" single cover. Gaga in caution tape from her "Telephone" video. Gaga in a Yankees jersey from her June 2010 trip to Yankee Stadium. Gaga interpretations and remixes. Just about the only Gaga who didn't show up was the meat dress gaga (for the best, I think.)
But the question on everyone's mind was which Gaga would take the stage? Lipstick-stained disco-stick government hooker Gaga? Half-woman, half-monster Gaga? Mermaid Gaga? Jo Calderone? The answer? The Lady Gaga who brought the room to its feet and turned the decibel level in the studio to deafening was both a diminutive -- despite her gargantuan presence, Lady Gaga is teacup pocket-size in real life -- yet larger-than-life woman capable of nearly bringing Times Square to a screeching halt, traffic and tourists and all. And a girl who, not so many years ago, used to stand outside of MTV during the heyday of "TRL" and scream for Justin Timberlake's attention.
+ GET MORE BEHIND-THE-SCENES PHOTOS FROM LADY GAGA'S 'MTV FIRST' APPEARANCE AFTER THE JUMP!
"You yourself are not just one person," Gaga would tell the audience that night. She was referring to her "Yoü & I" video, but it was an statement befitting the dozens of shades, shapes and styles of Gagas seated in the audience, dressed just like the instantly iconic stops along her storied career. "You're so many different people. That person inside of you has so many stories and memories and things to draw from, and they all affect your journey profusely."
After hugging as many rapturous fans as possible, Lady Gaga, in a white cinched-waist lace Tom Ford dress with a black tie, white feather hat and spike-heeled Louboutins, told MTV's Sway Calloway, "This is such a dream come true," when it was finally revealed that she'll open the 2011 VMAs live on Sunday, Aug. 28. And while Gaga revealed almost nothing about what she has in store for her performance, she did reminisce about the days when she was just an MTV spectator instead of one of its biggest stars.
"I used to stand right down there, and I used to go JUUUUUUUUSTIN. And when I couldn't make it after school, I'd lay in bed and I'd be like speed-dialing for Britney to have the No. 1 video. I was really passionate about 'Total Request Live.' It was like the biggest event of the day. For pop culture when you're in high school and middle school, it's the biggest part of your day," Gaga reminisced.
Following her VMA announcement, MTV aired the television premiere of Lady Gaga's brand-new video, "Yoü & I." And while viewers at home watched the video, the fans in the studio were treated to an intimate performance by Lady Gaga, who busied herself by singing along to the song, strutting and posing across the stage, winking and blowing kisses as her fans sang along with her.
Gaga's "Yoü & I" video and its MTV television premiere, of course, begat a wellspring of questions, beginning with one monster who asked how she has sex as a mermaid. "Well that's actually part of what the metaphor is is that you can't and sometimes in love you just can't make it work. And no matter what you do there's a giant boundary between you and someone else," Gaga said of the video's deliberate opacity.
Another fan asked Gaga about the wedding dress she wears in her "Yoü & I" video. "That's my mom's dress," Gaga explained. "It's Norma Kamali," she revealed. "I was about 13 or 14 when I fell in love with my mother's wedding dress. I asked her if I could use it in the video because the love that my mother and father have shared for over 30 years is what i hope to have someday."
Aside from aspiring to experience the love her parents share, Lady Gaga turned the tables and her cameras to focus on the love she has for her fans, literally handing a mic to one specific fan in the audience who she said inspires her: Emily-Anne Rigal, who founded the organization We Stop Hate, which raises self-esteem in teens to combat bullying. "If you're happy with yourself you won't put others down. Everything that Lady Gaga stands for is what we believe too," she confidently asserted.
From reflecting upon her nerves during her first MTV appearance in 2008 to gasping in awe at the crowd that had amassed outside for her three years later, during tonight's MTV appearance Gaga felt equal parts rock-solid iconic superstar and dumbfounded tourist in awe of the magnitude of her own life and an entire room of people dressed like her. "I still pinch myself. There's not a day that I wake up that I really understand what's happened in my life. I'm just really happy to be here" she beamed, giving off as much reverence for her fans as they have for her.
And while Gaga herself called tonight's epic turnout and her VMA performance a dream come true, a fan named Hannah Shega -- whose front-row seat afforded her a prized hug from Mother Monster who paused to embrace her before she took the stage -- said it best: "This is the best night of my life. This is a dream." (She was dressed just like Gaga, of course.)
+ WATCH "MTV FIRST: LADY GAGA":
Hannah Shega/ @hannahshega41
Jeff Bray/ @jbray89 & Airik Henders?n/@sirgagaofficial
Watch the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards live from the Nokia Theatre L.A. in Los Angeles on Sunday, Aug. 28, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on MTV and MTV.com. Cast your votes for Best New Artist up until the show airs!