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Gaga for Blood: Is AHS: Hotel’s Countess a Real Life Blood-Drinker?

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- "Chutes and Ladders" Episode 502 (Airs Wednesday, October 14, 10:00 pm/ep) Pictured: Lady Gaga as the Countess. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
Lady Gaga as the Countess in “Chutes and Ladders,” the second episode of American Horror Story: Hotel. Is there more to her role than meets the eye? (Photo: Suzanne Tenner/FX; philly.com)

Lady Gaga has been gracing our screens as The Countess, a blood-drinker, in American Horror Story: Hotel (AHS: Hotel); the fifth installment in the American Horror Story series. The Countess, a wealthy socialite absorbed with fashion and art, has much in common with Lady Gaga herself. But where do those similarities end?

I am a massive Gaga fan, a self-professed “Little Monster.” I have been since 2008 when Gaga was just starting to emerge as an artist. I am also a sanguinarian. Sanguinarians are people who perceive a need to drink blood, and experience physical discomfort if we do not. Some believe it is an undiagnosed medical condition that requires research and study. I don’t bite or sleep in a coffin, blood is always taken from consensual donors and the utmost care is taken with regards to health and safety.

Having followed Lady Gaga since early on in her career, and being a sanguinarian myself who has had my fair share of experience with vampire subculture and terminology, certain patterns begin to emerge. Things that most wouldn’t notice without knowing about sanguinarians and keeping a keen eye on Gaga. It has been my suspicion for a long time now that Lady Gaga is at least familiar with sanguinarians, or could be a sanguinarian herself.

Firstly, let’s look at AHS: Hotel and her starring role: The Countess. According to the show’s creator, Ryan Murphy, The Countess is not a vampire. “I prefer the term ‘ancient blood virus,’” Murphy told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s not vampires. It’s really a form of haemophilia in a way. There’s no capes and fangs.” Gaga also likened her character to a haemophiliac when discussing The Countess on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon:

They [the characters] are all trying to survive in their own way. Mine in particular is a haemophiliac, or a “vampire”, so I need to drink blood in order to survive. So you find yourself going what is right and what is wrong? [. . .] When is it okay to be cunning in order to survive and to keep your happiness?

Haemophilia is not accurate, however; haemophiliacs do not drink blood. Haemophilia “is a group of hereditary genetic disorders that impairs the body’s ability to control blood clotting, which is used to stop bleeding when a blood vessel is broken”. Interestingly though, both Ryan Murphy and Lady Gaga refer to their characters as having a virus, a health condition which requires them to drink blood to survive. While not true of haemophiliacs, the latter is true of sanguinarians.

Although sanguinarians do not die without consuming blood, health degradation does occur, so consumption is blood is needed in the same manner that medication for symptom management of other disorders is required. Gaga character description also highlights the struggle many sanguinarians have—being ethical about obtaining blood and the manner in which we go about obtaining it.

Of course, it must always be taken consensually, but we can’t go to the doctor for a prescription for blood. Is it alright, for example, to use sexuality as a means to obtain it? The vampire myth is potent to a lot of people, and so is a good way to get donors. Therein is the delicate balance of being ethical and moral, while making sure you are able to lead a happy life and not just survive, but thrive. Inside perspective, perhaps?

Could it be possible that the blood-drinkers on AHS: Hotel are influenced somewhat by what are sometimes referred to as “real vampires,” sanguinarians? It would be inconvenient for Ryan Murphy to shine a spotlight on the sanguinarian community as a whole with something so public as American Horror Story. It would expose the subculture as a whole with negative connotations, given how the characters act in the show—yet the “vampires” on the show have much more in common with sanguinarians than with haemophiliacs.

No biting or fangs, not having to sleep in coffins, still eating regular food, cutting or using IV equipment to obtain blood, photosensitivity but not combusting in sunlight. Some quotes from the show’s second episode, “Chutes and Ladders” (original airdate Oct. 14, 2015), sound like things I’ve said in my day to day life; such as when being asked if a stake would kill you, “bitch please, of course it can” and “We don’t bite. We cut”. So could this influence have been from Gaga, or something else?

Whilst it’s certainly possible that aspects of AHS: Hotel have been influenced by other things—comparisons have been made to films like Daughters of Darkness (1971) and The Shining (1980)—where did the inspiration for these blood-drinking non-vampire “haemophiliacs” come from? Vampire Community advocate Michelle Belanger, author of the The Psychic Vampire Codex (2004) and star of A&E’s Paranormal State, had the following to say on the Vampire Community News Facebook group in response to an MTV article covering AHS: Hotel:

The reality / fiction / lifestyle inception going on here is intriguing. Gaga, like Manson, is someone who frequented certain clubs long before they were known by a stage name. I remember conversations with Brian at the Chamber here in Cleveland (the whole NIN [Nine Inch Nails] crew used to frequent the place an Ice Age ago). When you see an artist consistently work certain themes into their creations, there is a reason – at the very least, they hold a fascination for the topic, and it’s naive in this age of the Internet, to believe that they haven’t at some point run across the reality.

Has Lady Gaga run across the reality? It is clear from the similarities between The Countess and Gaga that the character has at least some influence from Gaga herself. Both love fashion and art, lived in New York, have Italian descent. Gaga told Entertainment Weekly: “I called him [Ryan Murphy] and I said, ‘Ryan, I wanna be on Horror Story.’ And he goes, ‘Okay.’ And that was it.” And the part seems almost tailored to Gaga.

The Countess talks about her past in AHS: Hotel ‘s second episode, “Chutes and Ladders,” mentioning the late 1970s and thinking about her friends “Andy, Keith, Robert”, and “all that loss”. To give you an idea of how much of Gaga influenced The Countess, these names refer to Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe; famous, ground-breaking artists active in the 1970s/80s in New York. Gaga has consistently cited Andy Warhol as one of her biggest inspirations throughout her entire career, even saying that her album ARTPOP (2013) was “the reverse of Andy Warhol”.

As soon as her casting was announced, I told all my friends that I was certain she would be playing a vampire. After following her career for such a long time, I just knew it. She has worked with blood a lot in her performances, and it has been a recurring theme throughout her career. Not only does she play a “vampire”, but a blood drinker who Ryan Murphy has repeatedly said is not a vampire and requires blood to stay healthy with arguably much more in common with actual sanguines than has ever been on television.

The Countess also uses some Vampire Community terminology in the show, such as “shadow self”, aptly describing the balance between maintaining what is often called our “dayside” and “nightside” lives. In episode 5, “Room Service” (original airdate Nov. 4, 2015), she says: “There are two selves. The one the world needs us to be; compliant. Then there’s the shadow. Ignore it, and life is forever suffering.”

Gaga also told Variety that her role has become “dangerous” as she has started to think like The Countess. She admitted to having thoughts about killing, and wondering if someone’s blood would be clean. If she’s wondering if the blood was clean, it would be logical to assume she would also be thinking about drinking it. Why else would it matter? In the vampire subculture, this is often referred to as “twoofing.” Needing to “feed,” often manifesting by thoughts of wanting to do so, adrenaline. A manifestation of blood thirst. Gaga said:

If I’m out at a restaurant or I’m in the car and we’re driving past people, I sort of look at them and wonder, ‘Gee, I wonder if you’re clean. I wonder, if I were to kill you, if it would be worth it for me.

If one was to entertain the idea that Gaga could in fact be a sanguinarian, then starring as The Countess could be a great double bluff. She can tweet “some people just like to drink blood for fun” and no one thinks twice, thinking she’s being in character. Gaga also made an Instagram post in December discussing blood sucking and vampires; perhaps referring to her upcoming role in AHS: Hotel:

Beware Vampires: the blood you choose to suck choose wisely, it may fill your pores from the inside out with a wicked poison unknown to you. Perhaps you took a bite of flesh you can’t handle. Perhaps I am also a Vampire, or a new creature undead you have yet to meet.

For context, the tongue-in-cheek “perhaps I am a vampire” quotes are something that I can do regularly, as do some of my other sanguinarian friends. When you have to be ‘in the closet’ about an aspect of your life, double bluffing and joking about it can be a way to blow off steam. I’ve been known to say things such as “8 a.m. is far too early for a vampire like me,” with people thinking nothing of it and saying “me too.”

A reviewer from Hidden Remote remarked “The Countess gives her [Gaga] a chance to give her all into a character she can relate to” and the role “gives Lady Gaga a means of expressing her independence, individuality, and identity. Okay, this is just a role but I feel that Gaga definitely has somewhat of a personal connection to the Countess.”

That personal connection could be that this role gives her a means to express part of herself which she hasn’t been able to before. As a famous artist, she certainly doesn’t have the luxury of being fully open about herself in the public eye and is always subject to scrutiny and criticism. It certainly seems like the role is helping her express parts of her identity, and could be a defining point in Gaga’s career.

AHS: Hotel isn’t the first time Gaga has been caught in bloody antics in a hotel, however. MTV reported in early 2012 that Gaga “left large amounts of blood in the suite during a stay this summer” and that “all of the hotel’s staff are convinced she was bathing in it or, at the very least, using it as part of one of her new costumes or weird stage routines.” While the suggestion that she bathed in blood as part of a “Satanic ritual” is rather ludicrous and there is no proof, it does make you wonder why she left a hotel room covered in blood, even if it was fake blood.

Blood has been a part of Gaga’s performances for a long time. From the “Paparazzi” performance at the VMAs in 2009 where she famously bled out on stage, to her Monster Ball tour where she would often have her neck and chest covered in fake blood. The Sun ran an article in 2011 about Lady Gaga and her man, actor and Vampire Diaries star Taylor Kinney, where an insider said they “like to play vampire in the bedroom.”

lady-gaga-uk-8229-3
Lady Gaga arrives at Soho House, London, Aug. 21, 2009, sporting fangs. (Photo: SplashNewsOnline.com; Celebrity-Gossip.net)

I don’t think if Gaga was a sanguinarian that she could ever really be fully open about it without doing harm to her career; though even if she were, it by no means insinuates she is a bad person. I am a huge fan, and believe Gaga is a wonderful, intelligent woman with a very kind heart. The way that my sanguinarianism affected me, it made me learn to never judge others and that you never really know what someone is going through. It influenced my becoming an LGBT rights advocate.

It could also be that Lady Gaga is simply a vampire fan. Gaga did wear fangs earlier on in her career, though this is not indicative of anything either way. Plenty of vampire fans wear fangs for fun, and some sanguinarians wear them for different reasons. Self-expression, “marketing” to help find consensual blood donors, to name a few.

The taste of blood is clearly no issue either, as seen in Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour. In the interlude, dubbed “Puke Film”, she is seen consuming a bovine heart. She chomps away with blood gushing out of the heart, and then down her mouth and chest. Gaga told Rolling Stone that this was a way of her to cope with her father’s open heart surgery, and it was a real bovine heart. Personally, I can be squeamish so even as a sanguinarian, I don’t think I could eat a raw heart!

It could have had similar affects on her, given her passion for embracing individuality and history of empowerment and fighting for rights of minorities—Born This Way, baby! Or, she could just be a great person. Even if she were not, there are many parallels with what I’ve dealt with in my life as a sanguinarian; right down to the doing what is needed to stay healthy, people not really being interested in you as a person and thinking something of you that you’re not and the realization that everyone has their cross to bear so it not being my place to judge.

It is my personal belief that sanguinarianism is a currently undiagnosed medical condition. Regardless of one’s belief in the cause, I think sanguinarians are a misunderstood group of people and if Gaga ever were to “come out of the coffin” and trail blaze with public outreach and understanding, it could only do a world of good towards getting the research needed.

Perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part. I’ve always had a niggling feeling though, ever since her “Just Dance” music video. A bit like a “gaydar,” except it’s a “sangdar”! As time has gone on, things have cropped up which only make me wonder even more. Gaga often says that her fans are like a mirror reflecting back at her; conversely, she has sometimes seemed like a mirror reflecting back at me and in some ways, we aren’t that different.

So what do you think? Is Lady Gaga a Sanguinarian? Has she at least come across sanguinarians and/or the vampire subculture at some point? Or simply a vampire fan? In the mean time, keep your paws up, Little Monsters!

Notes:

  1. sanguinarian: AA, “Sanguinarian FAQ – Ask a Sanguinarian!” Sanguinarians, n.d. [2015], accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://sanguinarians.com/articles-2/sanguinarian-faq-ask-a-sanguinarian/. archive.is link: https://archive.is/PznXI.
  2. people who perceive a need to drink blood: David Robson, “The People Who Drink Human Blood,” BBC, Oct. 21, 2015, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151021-the-people-who-drink-human-blood. archive is. link: https://archive.is/5Xe4s.
  3. Murphy told Entertainment Weekly: Tim Stack, “Ryan Murphy on the Bloodsuckers of AHS: Hotel: ‘It’s not vampires. There’s no capes and fangs’,” Entertainment Weekly, Aug. 26, 2015, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://www.ew.com/article/2015/08/26/american-horror-story-hotel-vampires-ryan-murphy. archive.is link: https://archive.is/katKw.
  4. likened her character to a haemophiliac: “Lady Gaga Is a Blood-Drinking Narcissist in American Horror Story,” The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon video, 1:44, n.d., accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/video/lady-gaga-is-a-blooddrinking-narcissist-in-american-horror-story/2917792. archive.is link: https://archive.is/TsIRn. The episode originally broadcast on Oct. 6, 2015.
  5. Haemophilia: “Haemophilia,” Wikipedia, last modified Nov. 25, 2015 at 15:48, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemophilia. archive.is link: https://archive.is/Qauyz.
  6. inspiration for these blood-drinking non-vampire “haemophiliacs”: Stack, “Ryan Murphy on the Bloodsuckers of AHS: Hotel.”
  7. had the following to say on the Vampire Community News Facebook group: Michelle Belanger, post to Vampire Community News Facebook group, Oct. 16, 2015 at 15:17, https://www.facebook.com/groups/vampirecommunitynews/permalink/1007507289288870/?comment_id=1007540605952205&comment_tracking={“tn”:”R”}#. archive.is link: https://archive.is/7A9m7. The MTV article Belanger responded to was Kat Rosenfield, ” ‘American Horror Story’ Taught Us All How to Vampire Last Night,” MTV, Oct. 15, 2015, http://www.mtv.com/news/2350674/ahs-vampire-guide/.
  8. Gaga told Entertainment Weekly: Quoted in Arienne Thompson, “So, How Exactly Did Lady Gaga Land That ‘American Horror Story’ Acting Gig?” Entertain This! (blog), USA Today, Aug. 26, 2015, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://entertainthis.usatoday.com/2015/08/26/so-how-exactly-did-lady-gaga-land-that-american-horror-story-acting-gig/. archive.is link: https://archive.is/Tbypn. The interview was originally published in Entertainment Weekly, Sept. 4, 2015 cover story “American Horror Story Goes Gaga.”
  9. mentioning the late 1970s and thinking about her friends: Jancy Richardson, “5 Things You May Have Missed in American Horror Story: Hotel Episode 2,” Moviepilot, Oct. 16, 2015, accessed Nov. 27, 2015, http://moviepilot.com/posts/3592144?lt_source=external,manual,manual. archive.is link: https://archive.is/RcWIw.
  10. “the reverse of Andy Warhol”: Leah Simpson, “Lady Gaga: ‘ARTPOP is reverse of Andy Warhol’,” Digital Spy, Nov. 4, 2013, accessed Nov. 27, 2015, http://www.digitalspy.com/music/news/a528741/lady-gaga-artpop-is-reverse-of-andy-warhol/. archive.is link: https://archive.is/YVzAR.
  11. Gaga also told Variety: Alex Stedman, “Lady Gaga on Transforming Into the Countess for ‘AHS: Hotel’,” Variety, Nov. 12, 2015, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/lady-gaga-american-horror-story-hotel-the-countess-1201639387/?sf15353246=1. archive.is link: https://archive.is/0HB9i.
  12. “If I’m out at a restaurant”: Ibid.
  13. “some people just like to drink blood for fun”: The Countess [Lady Gaga], Twitter post, Oct. 3, 2015, 6:05 p.m., accessed Nov. 25, 2015, https://twitter.com/ladygaga/status/650476903845994497. archive.is link: https://archive.is/N9UxS.
  14. Gaga also made an Instagram post in December: ladygaga [Lady Gaga], Instagram post, Dec. 21, 2014, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, https://www.instagram.com/p/w14-XGJFK1/. archive.is link: https://archive.is/FEnbB.
  15. A reviewer from Hidden Remote remarked: Michael Wilson, “What ‘AHS: Hotel’ Means to Lady Gaga,” Hidden Remote, Nov. 5, 2015, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://hiddenremote.com/2015/11/05/ahs-hotel-means-lady-gaga/. archive.is link: https://archive.is/855Db.
  16. MTV reported in early 2012: “Lady Gaga ‘Left Bathtub Filled with Blood in Hotel’,” MTV, Jan. 3, 2012, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://www.mtv.co.uk/lady-gaga/news/lady-gaga-left-bathtub-filled-with-blood-in-hotel. archive.is link: https://archive.is/qdSGg.
  17. The Sun ran an article in 2011: Quoted in Amy Andrews, “Lady Gaga Likes Her Boyfriend Vampire Diaries’ Actor Taylor Kinney to Dress Up as a Vampire in the Bedroom,” Irish Central, Oct. 21, 2011, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/amyandrews/lady-gaga-likes-her-boyfriend-vampire-diaries-actor-taylor-kinney-to-dress-up-as-a-vampire-in-the-bedroom-132307398-238107761.html. archive.is link: https://archive.is/xEZyK.
  18. dubbed “Puke Film”: “Puke Film,” Gagapedia, n.d., accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://ladygaga.wikia.com/wiki/Puke_Film. archive.is link: https://archive.is/IMUCh.
  19. Gaga told Rolling Stone: Neil Strauss, “The Broken Heart and Violent Fantasies of Lady Gaga,” Rolling Stone, July 8, 2010, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-broken-heart-and-violent-fantasies-of-lady-gaga-20100708?page=7. archive.is link: https://archive.is/kNHmk.
  20. thinking something of you that you’re not: Kristin Dos Santos, “Lady Gaga Gets Deeply Personal About the ‘Isolation’ of Fame—and How American Horror Story Has Saved Her,” E! Online, Oct. 7, 2015, accessed Nov. 25, 2015, http://www.eonline.com/news/703394/lady-gaga-gets-deeply-personal-about-the-isolation-of-fame-and-how-american-horror-story-has-saved-her. archive.is link: https://archive.is/wHhpu.

Further Reading:

AHS: Hotel’s eighth episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer,” premieres tonight at 10 p.m. EST. Check local listings for screening in your region.

Written by Alexia Ashford

Alexia is the webmaster of Sanguinarians.com. She has a particular interest in the medical and sociological aspects of sanguinarianism. She lives in South Carolina, USA.

One Comment

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  1. Incredibly insightful. I love that you can find a connection with Gaga/Countess on such a personal level. I think, if you’re right, and she is sang, it isn’t so much the public scrutiny that will get her, but the influence she will have on those who have no need to feed, and the parental outcry from that. Regardless, I think it’s amazing you found these similarities between your life and hers/her character. Amazing article!!

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