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In full disclosure, Lady Gaga got on our radar quite a while ago - right around the time that MTV's The Hills intro'd her as an emerging artist who Lauren Conrad had the chance to style. And we have to admit that we wouldn't have predicted this star's meteoric rise. Even moreso, we would never have anticipated that she would make the grade with kids and tweens specifically.

But Lady Gaga is nothing if not surprising. Her outfits make as much noise as her singing (and we mean noise in the nicest of ways). Her performances defy expectations - and gravity! And her androgynous look defies categorization.

But maybe we should have known. When we look at Lady Gaga, we see many of the elements that define this generation's heroes...

  1. She's different. We don't just mean unique - we mean different. And while this might be what we think of as the kiss of death for "fitting-in-conscious" kids, she seems to do "different" in an aspirational way. She knows she's different, but isn't trying too hard to be. And her brand of standing out appears to come from a genuine creative spark versus a marketing machine. She frequently speaks of "thinking like an artist," and claims glam rockers like David Bowie and Queen are kindred spirits.

    Lady Gaga doesn't discuss her sexuality, but she openly embraces the LGBT community as her own. In the past, this might have been enough of a taboo to make them stay away. But for this generation, embracing a broader definition of "normal" is part of their DNA. And for tweens and teens, in particular, seeing someone who feels comfortable in their own skin despite standing out in so many ways inspires - not intimidates - them.

  2. She cares. Perhaps what makes her so appealing is that she not only stands out, but she makes others feel like she empathizes. She supports causes that she cares about - and has teamed up with Virgin Mobil to support homeless youth (based on her knowledge that 40% of homeless youth identify as GLBT). Gaga recently paired up with another stand out songstress, Cyndi Lauper, to raise the profile of the Viva Glam line of cosmetics from M.A.C. - who gives "every cent" of the proceeds to the M.A.C. AIDS Fund. With today's kids, tweens and teens growing up under the assumption that their brands will behave when it comes to pro-social activity (from being green, to being kind to animals to donating to important causes), Lady Gaga's inclination towards altruism contributes to her appeal among the youngest set.
  3. And finally, she's grateful. How refreshing! While much of her work speaks to struggles surrounding fame, she seems to handle most of the side effects of celebrity with grace. When Christina Aguilera dismissed comparisons to Gaga by saying she didn't know who she was, Gaga told the press that she was honored to be compared to Aguilera and should "send her flowers" since Aguilera's comments raised her public profile! Amidst a sea of stars who seem to behave badly and have lost their way, Gaga (barring the occasional pantless appearance at Yankees' games) may be the most revolutionary role model to hit the scene in a long time. And kids and tweens like their stars simple and simply good. While Gaga might never be simple, she might just be the good girl that no one saw coming.