Lady Gaga‘s best friend Sonja Durham has passed away. The pop star’s longtime friend died after a long battle with stage IV breast cancer.
But to those who are well acquainted with Gaga (born Stefani Germanotta) and her career, Durham was much more than a friend. She was also Gaga’s assistant and executive director, collaborating with the singer on countless concerts, music videos, and musical concepts. Learn more about Durham and her importance in Gaga’s life with these five fast facts.
1. The Two Were Friends For Over A Decade
Watching one of my best friends in the world show unfathomable courage, strength, and positivity while battling cancer has really changed my life. Thank you Sonja for inspiring me and all of us everyday with your joy. I love you so much it brings tears to my eyes just to think of all the years we've spent together backstage running the show, taking care of each other. You are one of a kind. I'm so proud of you. And you and Andre, your unbreakable beautiful love is what life is all about. You can see it in this photo. Wanted to share this with the world and show them what true beauty looks like. ❤#grigiogirls #sonjadurham @sonjad7777 I love you girl. I love you so much.
Gaga first hired Durham on as her assistant, but as time went on, the two developed a friendship that went beyond professional roles. Durham would go on to play a key role in the singer’s life, both personally and professionally, as is evidenced by her ability to stay relevant for the better part of a decade. On May 18th, the day before Durham’s passing, Gaga took to social media to pay tribute to her friend, writing: “Watching one of my best friends in the whole world show unfathomable courage, strength, and positivity while battling cancer has really changed my life. Thank you Sonja for inspiring me and all of us everyday with your joy.”
Gaga added: “I love you so much it brings tears to my eyes just to think of all the years we’ve spent together backstage running the show, taking care of each other. You are just one of a kind. I’m so proud of you. And you and Andre, your unbreakable beautiful love is what life is all about. Read the full post above.
2. She Inspired the Song ‘Grigio Girls’
Besides being instrumental in Gaga’s professional career, Durham also served as the inspiration for the song “Grigio Girls,” off of the singer’s 2016 album Joanne. In an interview with Radio.com, Gaga spoke about how important the song was to her: “One of my best friends, Sonja, who has been with me since I was twenty-three years old, she has metastasized cancer in her lungs and in her brain. It’s stage four. And it’s really hard: it’s hard to watch, it’s hard to witness, it’s hard to know what to say. But I love her so much, and it’s so important that we continue to do research to find a cure.”
She continued: “I wrote a song about her on the album, and it’s about how me and all of our girlfriends would get together and cry without her when she’s not around. Because we love her so much and we just want to be strong with her. The lyric is, ‘Sisters never pack up, we always run back, love/Seven years ago I said you’d make it Sonja, was Joanne’s friend, tough girl’s on the mend, so when I’m feeling small, I toss that cork, and call.'”
3. She Had A Personal Blog
Durham maintained a blog during her hospitalization, A “Lump” in the Road, where she would regularly muse on various topics and provide updates as to her health. Her writing has a conversational charm to it, particularly when dealing with difficult subject matters like radiation treatments or being unable to keep food down.
“Hey everyone,” she writes in her penultimate post, “I know it’s been awhile! We’ve already established I’m not the best at keeping up with this blog… However, I know how important it is to help educate everyone on what I’m dealing with. Especially to reassure everyone I’m still staying strong and committed to kicking this cancers ass!!!” You can read all of her blog posts here.
4. Gaga Helped Plan Her Wedding
While Durham had already fallen ill when she married Andre Dubois, that didn’t stop her from having the time of her life. According to Gossip Cop, Gaga even had a hand in organizing the wedding– an ironic swapping of roles, given that Durham had previously been the singer’s assistant and planner. Durham recounted the joy she experienced that evening on her blog:
Now a quick blurb on the most amazing day of our life :) Our awesome wedding!!!! Believe it or not, it was a fight and almost didn’t happen. Literally why it was planned and pulled off in two weeks! Yes, two weeks! Now you can do that when you have amazingly talented event friends and an Angel that tell you she is going to throw you your dream wedding and there are no arguments. So I cried and cried and if you can believe it let go of total control (i know crazy right) sent them my Pinterest and just asked when they wanted me to show up!!!! Ha, ill do a Facebook post at some point soon that will honestly look like a sponsor list! So many friends stepped up and donated time, services, product, you name it. The universe literally came together to give us our dream wedding and there is no way I could truly acknowledge and thank everyone for it. So…here are the links so you can enjoy the pictures showing the amazing gift we were given from so many people!!!
5. She Had Previously Suffered From Breast Cancer
Sadly, Durham’s breast cancer eventually metabolized to her brain. To honor her friend, Gaga dedicated an acoustic version of her song “Edge of Glory” during her headlining set of Coachella this year.
Visibly emotional, Gaga explained to the crowd “My friend Sonja is very sick and I love her so much and if it’s okay with you, I’d like to sing this song for her. I’m sorry you don’t feel well.” Gaga concluded her touching mid-song, saying “We all wish you were here with us.” #RIPSonja also began a trend on Twitter, as countless fans paid their respects to Durham.