Commentary

Lady Gaga's Migraine Saga

Last spring, Pfizer released a Nurtec ODT commercial called “Lady Gaga’s Journey.”  It featured the “Bad Romance” singer on stage at the piano, in her element, with screaming fans. She’s wearing the kind of costume and stage makeup tailor-made for her little monsters: a futuristic body suit with face paint that seemed to mix the essence of a fictional sea creature, David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, and a Kabuki mask.

Visually, it was mighty memorable. But it took my entire brain to register and process the face and costume as she peered into camera, so I missed the migraine maintenance message.

Still, the combo of her wild performance within the bounds of a pharma spot struck me as dissonant, like dragging something private into the limelight, although obviously Gaga makes her own limelight for millions of fans worldwide.

A second spot is called, “Lady Gaga’s Journey, The Next Chapter,” as if it’s a second album of hers coming out. The second spot works better than the first.

In this one, she’s looking good in a glittery pinstriped pantsuit, with her platinum hair down. It opens with the star surrounded by her glam team of makeup people and fluffers, and we assume she’s backstage waiting to appear in concert. But then she leaves the space to go outside and walk a few steps to a studio, where she picks up a camera.

The reveal is that the shoot isn’t for her, but rather for a group of young-ish people already assembled. With her camera, she directs them and steps back and snaps away, From a pop-up label, we learn that all the diverse subjects are “actual Nurtec ODT patients,” and their shots come out great.

In a studio filled with flashing light, Gaga says “Nothing dims my light like a migraine” in a low, gravelly voice. “With Nurtec ODT, I found relief.” Then a male voiceover does the selling work and “significant risks” portion, and she comes back with “To those with migraine, I see you,” a statement within the Gaga canon of caring about wellness with her philanthropic initiatives.

She’s always been open about her own health struggles, battling several inflammatory diseases when she was in her 20s, which set off migraines. In a casual video she posted on her social media, she said she has long suffered with debilitating migraines, and that Nurtec ODT has helped. I believe her.

Gaga’s always been a polarizing figure, but some fans as well as haters seem to be  disappointed that she participated in these pharma ads, and are aren’t shy about telling her on the webs.

“What a downgrade from what values you used to have and display," one said.

"Less lady pharma more lady gaga," another user wrote.

Another fan said, "Girl I love you but please stop."

"Bought and paid for by the pharmaceutical companies just like everyone else," a commenter added.

But as always with social media, some of the complaints come from critics with their own conspiratorial axes to grind.

In this case, it was not just that the “Pokerface” artist has partnered with “Big Pharma.”  Pfizer makes Nurtec ODT, and three years ago Pfizer co-created a COVID-19 vaccine with German biotech company BioNTech. It was known here as the Pfizer vaccine.

Thus, the anti-vaxxers are on her case.  This also happened to Travis Kelce when he promoted the Pfizer vaccine.

On the Pfizer web site, she’s quoted describing her migraines. “I would be in bed for days with tremendous pain in my head, behind my eyes, and all throughout my face…I couldn’t have the lights on…”

I’m sure that sounds familiar to other sufferers.

That last commenter accused her of being “bought and paid for just like everyone else.”

But Gaga is not like everyone else.  And maybe she’ll later write songs about negotiating the biz side of fame and the light and dark bargains it brings.

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