Lady Starlight

Lady Starlight (HANDOUT / February 10, 2013)

Sometimes it really does pay to have friends in high places.


For more than seven years, musician/artist Lady Starlight, born Colleen Martin, has been a close confidant of pop icon Lady Gaga. In the early days, she served as an artistic collaborator and occasional muse, helping Gaga dream up some of her more elaborate costumes. On Gaga's current tour, Starlight, 37, serves as a supporting act, warming up the audience with a high-concept set she described as "performance art." Though Gaga was forced to postpone the tour's Wednesday and Thursday shows at the United Center due to an injury, Starlight will be in town to perform at Berlin.

"It's meant to shock people and make them have an experience they didn't expect, and possibly didn't want," she said. "I want to challenge people...and encourage them that there are no boundaries to what you can do onstage."

Starlight's close relationship with Gaga--the two share travel accommodations on the road and chat on a daily basis--has given her a unique perspective on the pop star's ascent. In a recent phone interview, Starlight opened up about appearing with Gaga at Lollapalooza in 2007 and 2010, the major difference separating the two Ladies and the ongoing "Born Brave Bus" tailgate, a pre-concert party/meet-and-greet where fans will have access to counseling, volunteer opportunities and bullying and suicide prevention resources.

On moving from the Lollapalooza side stage in '07 to headliner in '10
We had a decent crowd (in 2007), but it got bigger and bigger as people said, "What is going on over there?" It's a lot of rock and guys [at Lollapalooza], and we were the opposite. It was like a big old [bleep] you. [2010] was the most incredible full circle moment. To walk out on that stage and see that crowd ... I will never forget that.

On Lady Gaga's ability to remain unchanged despite the intense media spotlight
It's very surprising how little effect it's had. Really, we were always preparing for this. This level is what we set out to achieve. She's naturally down-to-earth, and she always kept a perspective on the bigger picture. The fact that she still has me and all her old friends in her life shows you how little she has changed. We still do all the same things; it's just that now we're in really expensive hotels.

On the major difference between Lady Starlight and Lady Gaga
There's not much of one, actually. We just had a conversation today, and she could understand what I was going through because we think exactly the same. Her objective has always been bigger, though. She wants to get her message across to as many people [as] possible. I wish I had that, but for some reason I insist on doing the thing least likely to succeed. That's my mission, to destroy my career.

On the "Born Brave Bus" meet-and-greet
This is not just a show. It's creating an entire environment for her fans. On a purely selfish level, it's wonderful for me to get to meet the fans and talk to them like a normal person. I don't like the idea of being some kind of celebrity or famous or whatever. It's a chance to let them know there is a place for them in this world, and a big one. That we're all out there and we're all in it together.

On the mannequin with "puffy pink pubic hair" that appeared on Gaga's recently leaked tour rider
There is no mannequin. There are a lot of other things. Maybe they've updated it? Maybe [the mannequin] is coming? I'll check tonight. Maybe it'll be there.

On what she would include on her own tour rider
I'd have a kitchen in my dressing room so I could cook all my own food. That's the thing I miss most about being on the road. I'm very skilled at making incredibly low-calorie substitutes for comfort foods. I've thought about doing a blog on it, and that might be coming.

On helping conceive Gaga's earliest costumes
We always wanted things we couldn't afford. We wanted things to light up and fog to come out of garments. Basically everything she does now because she has a budget and an awesome creative team.

On concerns this creative costuming could someday become a crutch or a gimmick
When it really comes from that place, and it's your own extreme creativity, I feel like it will never come across as a gimmick.

On constructing a meat dress of her own
I'm going to use tempeh. I'm going to be sensitive to animal rights [laughs].

Andy Downing is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic

Lady Starlight DJs at Berlin nightclub Thursday night ($7). Doors at 10 p.m., featuring Big Dipper, Redux and BSTARR.