Elle Magazine held the 25th edition of their Women In Hollywood event this month in Los Angeles. At the event, various high-profile women were honoured with awards, including Sarah Paulson, Shonda Rhimes, Keira Knightley, Angela Bassett, and Lady Gaga.
Gaga, who has recently stunned audiences in the critically-acclaimed A Star Is Born alongside Bradley Cooper, surprised the world with her choice of attire on the red carpet that night.
The musician isn't afraid to wear something outlandish at public events such as this, but her choice of an oversized Marc Jacobs suit wasn't there for the shock value.
In her acceptance speech later that night, she spoke about her reasoning for choosing the suit, and how it ties into her own personal feelings about being a woman in the spotlight. "How does one rise to such an occasion when maybe you don't feel that inside?" she asked. "How does one accept where life has brought them and what it all means?"
She detailed how she tried on various dresses for the event, with "one tight corset after another, one heel after another," but felt "sick to my stomach". That's what got her thinking about what it really means to be a woman in Hollywood:
"We are not just objects to entertain the world. We are not simply images to bring smiles or grimaces to people's faces. We are not members of a giant beauty pageant meant to be pit against one another for the pleasure of the public.
"We women in Hollywood, we have voices. We have deep thoughts and ideas and beliefs and values about the world and we have the power to speak and be heard and fight back when we are silenced."
Before she arrived, she tried on several gowns before she spotted the suit, and chose it despite those around her who suggested otherwise. However, in this suit, she felt like herself, and it gave her the inspiration to speak about her own past traumas:
"They were all dresses. This was an oversized men's suit made for a woman. Not a gown. And then I began to cry. In this suit, I felt like me today. In this suit, I felt the truth of who I am well up in my gut. And then, wondering what I wanted to say tonight became very clear to me.
"As a sexual assault survivor by someone in the entertainment industry, as a woman who is still not brave enough to say his name, as a woman who lives with chronic pain, as a woman who was conditioned at a very young age to listen to what men told me to do, I decided today I wanted to take the power back. Today, I wear the pants.
"In an age where I can barely watch the news, I gasped at the unjust men, and some women quite frankly, that I see running this country. I had a revelation that I had to be empowered to be myself today more than ever. To resist the standards of Hollywood, whatever that means. To resist the standards of dressing to impress. To use what really matters: my voice."
Speaking specifically about the assault, which happened to her at age 19, she said that part of her "shut down for many years," and noted that even after sharing her story with powerful men in the industry, she found that no one offered her guidance or justice, when she really needed mental health assistance.
After experiencing some physical pain, she was diagnosed with Fibroymyalgia and PTSD. According to Gaga, she is fortunate enough to have the resources to help her through her issues with mental illness and stress-induced pain, but for others it's not so easy.
"For many, the resources either don't exist or people don't have the ability to pay for or access them. I want to see mental health become a global priority. We’re not able to control all of the challenges and tragedies that life throws our way. But we can work together.
"This room can work together to heal each other. And we can also try to find the strength in the best way that we can to ask for help if we need it."
She then concluded her speech with a call for unity and equality, across gender and different sexual identities:
"It is my personal dream that there would be a mental health expert teacher or therapist in every school in this nation and hopefully one day around the world. Let’s lift our voices. I know we are, but let’s get louder. And not just as women. But as humans. And see that there are great men in the world. And ask them to hold our hands. For justice. That our voices be heard. Whatever our story may be. For an equal standing. We will fight for justice for women and men and those with other sexual identities.
"For me, this is what it means to be a woman in Hollywood. It means, I have a platform. I have a chance to make a change. I pray we listen and believe and pay closer attention to those around us to those in need.... Be a helping hand. Be a force for change."
Full credit is due to her for speaking about such difficult, personal issues, making herself vulnerable in order to inspire bravery in other sexual assault survivors and help enforce some positive change in the world.