Lady Gaga may be the next superstar to appropriate Chola culture. Lyrics to her new single “Born This Way” are out and it seems to be about empowerment and owning who you are, whether you’re a drag queen, a Chola, Lebanese or just gay.

Don’t be drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, Chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby, you were Born This Way

No matter gay, straight or bi
Lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to be brave

At Arturo Garcia takes a closer look at Gaga’s use of the word “Chola”:

What sets Gaga’s use of the term apart, for now — there’s been no

video released for “Born This Way,” though she will perform it at the

Grammy Awards on Feb. 13 — is the direct use of the word Chola in the lyrics, as opposed to visual shorthand. And that’s where the controversy comes in: the word it’s derived from, Cholo, originated in the 16th century as a slur, similar to “mutt,”

in both Perú and Mexico. But in the U.S., some would argue that they’re

tied in with the Chicano identity and culture, following the lineage of

the Chicano Movement of the 1960s.


the examples she uses in the stanza are questionable at best -

“Orient”? Really? And is “beige” supposed to stand in for mixed-race

people? — the use of Chola, besides serving as an awkward short-hand for

Latinas, might be an attempt to play on the image of the Chola as a

street-smart, empowered woman And Gaga is far from alone in using this


Gaga’s not the only celebrity to recently try to appropriate the word. Miley Cyrus performed at the Much Music Video Awards in Toronto last year wearing a bandana wrapped around her head while “cholos” on low-rider bikes circled her. In Fergie’s “Glamorous” music video she partied with cholos and cholas at a “kegger” party. But Gwen Stefani is perhaps the poser Chola-in-chief. In her music video for “Luxurious” she wore chanclas and shirts with old English lettering. Even La Virgen de Guadalupe makes an appearance.

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Miley Cyrus — Party In The U.S.A. MuchMusic
Fergie — Glamorous